U.N.-backed body recommends country be allowed to export diamonds

JOHANNESBURG — A monitor for the United Nations-backed body charged with halting the illegal trade in diamonds that finance conflict has recommended that Zimbabwe be allowed to export the stones, prompting condemnations from human rights groups that say the country's military is still deeply involved in smuggling and violence against local miners.

In an internal report provided to The New York Times on Tuesday, the monitor, Abbey Chikane, a South African businessman and management consultant, said that the government of Zimbabwe had met the minimum required standards to trade in rough diamonds and that he was "ready to supervise export arrangements."

He advocated that the army continue guarding the vast diamond fields in the eastern part of the country to prevent an influx of illegal miners, until the police could be trained for the task. Investigators for the same body sponsoring Chikane — known as the Kimberley Process — found last year that the military had raped, assaulted and unleashed dogs on illegal miners.

Beyond challenging Chikane's recent findings, campaigners against so-called blood diamonds or conflict diamonds contend that he endangered the leader of a Zimbabwean civic group investigating human rights abuses in the diamond fields, effectively causing his arrest. The civic group leader, Farai Maguwu, has been detained since Thursday, days after meeting Chikane at a Holiday Inn in Zimbabwe, Maguwu's lawyers said.

Chikane, however, contends that it was Maguwu who put him at risk of imprisonment by handing over a top-secret document in the presence of government intelligence agents. Whatever the merits of Chikane's findings, his handling of the meeting with Maguwu could become a major issue when the Kimberley Process meets later this month and considers the monitor's recommendations.


In his report, Chikane said Maguwu had given him a top-secret, "fraudulently acquired" document meant for the Joint Operations Command, putting Chikane himself at risk of arrest. The Joint Operations Command is a council of the inner circle of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

He said Maguwu knew at the time that Chikane was accompanied by Zimbabwean intelligence agents. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, in power for 30 years, control the intelligence service, as well as the police, the military and the mining ministry.

''A man dressed in black and claiming to be from the "presidency' was seated less than a meter away," Chikane wrote in his report.

Chikane said he had subsequently consulted with Zimbabwean officials about the authenticity of the document, concerned that possessing it could be criminal. In an interview Tuesday, Chikane said he had arranged for a private room for his meeting with Maguwu, but that Maguwu was so late that they had to meet in the hotel lobby.

Maguwu denied that he had given Chikane a secret document, according to a transcript of an interview he gave SW Radio Africa a day before turning himself in to the police.

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