Voice of America (Washington, DC)

1 April 2014

Chad: Cameroon, Chad Tighten Their Borders to Stem Flow of Conflict Diamonds

Photo: Ministère de la Défense Française
The French army on patrol in Central African Republic

Yaounde — Cameroon and Chad are tightening border security to halt the illegal flow of diamonds -- known as "blood diamonds" -- said to be sponsoring armed groups in neighboring Central African Republic, the governments of the two countries said in a strategist meeting in Yaounde.

In an interview with VOA, Cameroon's mining minister Emmanuel Mbonde said the government has taken measures to address the growing problem, including deploying more border staff to identify all diamonds and assure their traceability. Only certified diamonds are authorized to be exported.

CAR was officially suspended from global diamond trade last November by the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, KPCS, an international government, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds. Jaff Napoleon, a member of the civil society, says if Cameroon's admittance in the KPCS last year allows the conflict diamonds to transit through its territory, it may also be suspended.

"If it is established that diamonds are actually leaving Central Africa [Republic], entering the commercial circuit through Cameroon, Cameroon will be suspended just like Central African Republic. That is why there is need for sub-regional consultations. How do we make sure that diamonds do not really contribute to fuel conflicts," said Napoleon.

Napoleon also told VOA that so-called conflict - or blood - diamonds are rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. He said Chad is already aware that the international community will impose sanctions if precious stones are allowed to pass through its territory.

"If you go down memory lane, you know the conflicts in Sierra Leone, you know the conflict in Liberia, in Angola, basically diamonds were used to fuel these conflicts and you know it led to untold human suffering," Napoleon stated. "And now with the situation in Central Africa, how do we make sure that what happened in Sierra Leone, in Liberia, in Angola does not also happened in Central Africa?"

The Central African Republic descended into a bloody conflict 15 months ago, with Muslim fighters and Christian groups attacking each other. The United Nations and humanitarian agencies report that more than 1,000 people have been killed and one million others have been displaced by the violence.

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