Saturday, March 11, 2006

bloody diamonds

because the story of the bushmen's struggle for survival and protection of their ancestral land should be heard, remembered and repeated to as many people as possible.

a hearing organised by the united nations on july 31st and 1st august 2000 conducted by the security council committee officially acknowledged the link between the trade of illicit stones in sierra leone, and the trade in arms and ammunition. in december 2000, the un general assembly passed a resolution whereby (hopefully) the sale of these stones would be curbed, and a system of certification of origin would be established so that only clean diamonds would be traded and no more lives would be lost.

but even before the sale of the stones, this is the account of how some of them were obtained in botswana - what follows is a condensed version from the meticulous documentation of a group that does outstanding work in standing up for the rights of tribal people - survival international.

to start with.... what does the government of botswana have to do with the de beers mining corporation?

  • Diamond mining in Botswana is controlled by a company called Debswana (ie. De Beers Botswana), which is owned on a 50/50 basis by the government and by De Beers.
  • Many of the directors of Debswana are senior political figures in Botswana. For instance, the deputy chairman of Debswana, Dr. A.R. Tombale, is the permanent secretary in the Botswana Ministry of Minerals, Energy & Water. Another director, M.L. Selepeng, is permanent secretary to the president of Botswana. Another director, TC Moremi, is permanent secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • Diamond industry sources call this "interdependence" and a "mutual beneficially [sic] relationship model". [...]
  • [..]As the Financial Times says, "Anonymity is paramount in the diamond trade. The industry is secretive to the point of paranoia... Contracts and written codes are virtually unheard of." Discussing its plans to explore for diamonds near Debswana's Orapa mine, the mining company African Diamonds stated, "Ground geophysical surveys suggest that some of the kimberlites [diamond-bearing rock] may be bigger than reported by De Beers."
  • De Beers keeps the price of gem diamonds high by severely restricting supply. As The Times has reported, "The company has vast diamond stockpiles, but keeps prices high with a tight control on the supply line." [...]
(From their report dated 16 June 2005)

a timeline of what has been happening so far -

early 1980s -
a diamond deposit was discovered in Gope (a bushmen community)

1982 -
de beers entered into a joint venture with falconbridge to evaluate the potential and worth of the deposit.

1986 -
the minister of commerce and industry announced that the bushmen would be relocated from their rightful land in the central kalahari game reserve, but did not initiate any action as of then.

1996 -
the formal evaluation of the mine was completed.

1997 -
enforced evictions started. the xade bushman community, which was prospering with a school, clinic, airstrip, hospital and water well, was completely removed. it was called a "coincidence".

within another two months, another "coincidence" : anglo american (which partly owning de beers) sub-contracted a company nepcal to ferry mining and drilling equipment to Xade and other destinations in the reserve. when asked about this, anglo american first denied any knowledge of its activities within the reserve. in 2002, they admitted to drilling two exploratory holes in the reserve in 1997 - one near Xade - but said they had had no contact with bushmen (who had already been "moved" away). concerning the contract with nepcal, the company said they had "not been able to verify beyond doubt the existence of such a contract". (?!)

june 2003 -
the ghanzi district commissioner claimed that "some prospecting companies had discovered diamonds in the area [of Xade]", and that anglo-american had been granted a concession for exploration in 1997 near Xade.

1999 -
mineral exploration camps were set up within a few miles of Molapo, a major Bushman community within the CKGR.

2002 -
more enforced evictions of bushman communities, including Molapo, removed in their entirety. government officials destroyed another water borehole in a bushman community, forbade all hunting and gathering, and emptied all the bushmen's stocks of water.

in 2005, Surivival stated that almost the entire CKGR was being explored for both diamonds and precious metals, with the prospect of further encroachment into the CKGR by mining activities being highly likely.

the sale of illicit diamonds bankrolls several corporations and rogue military factions. the money they make from these stones funds gun-running and related trade in ammunitions. there has been horrifying violence, torture and suffering because of the stones the UN politely calls "conflict diamonds" and others more frankly call "blood diamonds". the killings for these stones went on for several years, until the international community was forced to take notice of survival's refusal to be silenced as they persevered for justice, campaigning

" a diamond is forever. bushmen are not."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

good stuff. thanks. minor suggestion: work on form. if you feel strongly about stg, you don't want to just quote facts from a website.

9:55 am  
Blogger m. said...

any time. i refrained from personal commentary deliberately - ive often seen talk about such issues casually dismissed as emotional rhetoric "without foundation". and since this is important to me,i didnt want to give space for that to happen.
plus this documentation is unique for the reason that very few people have had the guts to name de beers and take them on. survival faced terrific pressure and withstood it - more than can be said even for the un. nowhere on any un document about blood diamonds will you see the de beers name. if money talks, it silences even better.

5:21 pm  
Blogger Wrong number said...

I've called your posts "emotional rhetoric" but I've not dismissed them in any manner (and never 'casually'). I've only asked you to support you views with facts or to specify what your position is. I apologise if I have disturbed you. The intention was there, I'm sure, but I wasn't planning to antagonise you. I just like to disagree. It causes greater achievement even if it does slow down activity.

6:16 am  
Blogger m. said...

lol.. it wasnt a dig at you,ive had these discussions a few times by now. to be fair, youve actually listened when you did demand an explanation - many folks dismiss "rhetoric" and "mere numbers"!
i merely write about a few ideas running in my head. (really, i would classify a lot of it as simple horse sense!) as i dislike missionary zeal, i take up challenges and baits only when it pleases me to - so no, im not perturbed in the least. my triggers are different :)
i do find your sentence intriguing though: the intention was there but you werent planning to act on it? hmm!

9:59 am  
Blogger Wrong number said...

The intention to disturb was there. The intention to antagonise you, wasnt!

12:00 pm  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

Nice post, although this time I won't comment (no reason) :-)
You have been tagged!check out my post about 8 points for the perfect partner and maybe I might get to see your list if you choose to partake in this silliness. :-)

12:09 pm  
Blogger m. said...

karmic jay: yipes, tagged for this again?! im sorry, but this is one tag im wriggling out of :)) *diving underground*

3:52 am  
Blogger karmic_jay said...

No problem :-)

5:58 am  
Blogger littlecow said...

So, are the diamonds mined by De Beers Botswana illegal? Or the illegal diamonds have another source? (Yes, this question stands despite my understading that illegal or not, what De Beers does is unethical)

You have unearthed a small portion of what happens in the business world these days. Most of these deals are utterly repulsive. A friend of mine works for a top-notch consultancy company and I keep hearing stories about how lowly the managers of these companies could stoop to get clients, or about the hog-wash that goes on there to usurp as much money out of the clients as possible. And it is not that people do not recognize this: the company settled out of court recently to the tune of twenty million$ after a client sued them and was fined more than a hundred million$ by the US government... despite all these, the company flourishes.

Anyways, upon putting things into perspective, it appears that we humans are fighting and willing to kill each other over a piece of sparkling stone which cannot inherently be eaten, be used to build a shelter or to produce progenies. Quite pathetic, wouldn't you agree?

7:46 pm  
Blogger m. said...

littlecow: i would. whole heartedly. humane is very far removed from human at times.

btw, hi and thanks for stopping by :)

8:26 am  

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