Testimony on Conflict Diamonds
September 13, 2000
Let me begin by thanking the leadership of the Ways and Means Trade
Subcommittee for scheduling this important hearing on the role diamonds
play in the conflicts of sub-Saharan Africa.
I am pleased to give testimony today with this distinguished bipartisan
panel who are imploring you to take decisive action to stem the
entry into this country of illicit or "blood diamonds."
I would also like to thank Congressman Hall for his leadership
in introducing the Consumer Access to a Responsible Accounting of
Trade Act, or as many know it, the CARAT Act; or the "Blood Diamonds"
I fully support his intentions to implement a coding system the
would stop the illicit diamond trade. With this legislation, a diamond's
origin can be certified in order to sever the funding link that
has allowed mercenary groups and so-called rebel groups in Sierra
Leone, Angola, and elsewhere to enrich themselves and commit gross
abuses against governments and unarmed people.
The illicit diamond trade has assisted a few bad men to create
anarchy and chaos on the African Continent. But it has made all
of us who fail to act complicit in the crimes against humanity and
the suffering that these men create. In order to break that complicity
we need a prompt review of US Africa policy, we need to pass Tony
Hall's bill, and we need to implement sanctions against countries
and individuals who have already been named as diamond traffickers.
I would also like to ask the Committee to seriously consider action
against diamonds that are certificated as having come from Liberia
as well. While Liberia has not been the subject of any UN Security
Council Resolutions or reports, it is physically impossible for
Liberia to produce the diamonds that it says it does: it is clear
that Sierra Leone's diamonds are being laundered through Liberia
and onto the legal market and then to our jewelry. Most likely,
right here to the United States since the US consumes two-thirds
of all the diamonds produced for jewelry.
In Angola, sanctions-busting led to a report released by a United
Nations panel on March 15th of this year carefully documenting the
ways in which UNITA has been able to circumvent the U.N. sanctions
against its trade of diamonds extracted from UNITA-controlled areas
in Angola. We all know the objectives of UNITA: to foment chaos
in Angola and render it ungovernable. They pretty much were able
to do that due to their trade in illicit diamonds. They even went
so far as to shoot down UN planes carrying individuals committed
to making peace.
The resultant Fowler Report of the United Nations Security Council,
named after Robert Fowler of Canada who led the investigation team,
took the bold step of naming names of individuals and countries
that were sanctions busters.
We should lead the effort to implement the Fowler recommendations,
not just to study them.
People are losing their homes and their lives while this Administration
U. N. Secretary Robert Fowler's report recommends that anyone trading
in illicit diamonds be expelled from the industry and that any country
knowingly involved in smuggling lose its export accreditation.
Under the proposals, all rough diamonds are to be exported in sealed
packages certified by the authorities in the exporting nations and
verified by a new international diamond council, made up of governments,
industry, and non-governmental organizations.
Some of the sanctions-busters named by Ambassador Fowler are our
allies. If we were really serious about the diamond trade our leadership
could make a difference.
The U. S. must show leadership and act more swiftly against all
the countries mentioned in the Fowler Report including Burkina Faso,
Togo, and Rwanda who were named in Fowler's Report as being involved
in illegal trading operations with UNITA's Jonas Savimbi.
In the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have occupied nearly half of that
nation including the Congo River City of Kisangani, a major trading
center for the diamonds pulled from the surrounding jungles. The
battle now rages for Mbuji-Mayi, the capital of the southeastern
province of East Kasai and the center for Congo's diamond mining.
Rwanda is "running" diamonds looted from Congo and Angola and wreaking
havoc on the people of Eastern Congo in reckless pursuit of its
own policies, encouraged by the United States and the international
community, as we all stand and do nothing.
At the World Diamond Congress, which took place in Antwerp, Belgium
in July, the International Diamond Manufacturers' Association and
the World Federation of Diamond Bourses agreed to establish a system
of certificates of origin to identify the provenance of diamonds.
I would encourage them to move swiftly or a boycott of all diamonds
I note that DeBeers is already running ads to encourage Christmas
The United States and Europe must also begin bilateral and multilateral
discussions with Israel a leading destination for the illicit diamonds.
The sad fact is that diamonds from Africa have helped to build
and enrich the cities of Antwerp, Brussels, Tel Aviv, and New York.
Yet Africans remain hopelessly impoverished and are even going backward.
Something is terribly wrong with this industry. And that should
be addressed too.
Africans should control their precious resources. But the West
actively thwarts such efforts. For example, an important move in
the right direction was recently halted when the British refused
to list on their stock exchange a joint venture between Zimbabwe
and Democratic Republic of Congo so that Congo could market its
diamonds independent of anyone else's control.
I view this blockage as a direct effort to further entrench the
current state and non-state actors and to deny African governments
the right to control their own diamonds.
I would like to commend Namibia, a nation that is doing things
right. The first thing they did right was to deny the mercenary
companies a foothold in their diamond industry. And, as Congressman
hall has pointed out, we owe passage of this bill to those who depend
on the legitimate trade in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and
who will be hurt by a consumer backlash against the entire diamond
Why should we care that Africa is being ravaged by war as we speak?
Because we bear a good deal of the responsibility for what is happening
The diamonds that we wear to adorn our bodies and the oil that
we pump into our SUV's has a direct bearing on the quality of life
that someone has in another part of the world in a some far away
place. We don't need to hurt people or to allow our allies to hurt
people to have diamonds or oil. But too often we do.
I know we can do better and we must.
Finally, I would like to call attention to a very important book
that details our Africa policy during the Clinton administration.
It is explosive in its content and its accuracy, from my point of
view. I would commend it to all of you and hope that you purchase
it and read it.
The book is Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa: 1993-1999,
by Wayne Madsen. Please read it personally.
And then move to change that which is wrong in our policy and save
that which is right.
Diamond certification is an important step in the right direction.
To stem the tide, so innocent Africans won't continue to die.