Central African Republic

Exports from CAR have been suspended since May 23rd, 2013, when the Kimberley Process intervened following the overthrow of the government in March which saw an opposition coalition led by the Seleka rebel group take control of all diamond trade and production. This suspension was upheld at the KP Intersessional meeting in June in Kimberley, South Africa, and will remain effective pending a review mission by the KP.

The CAR has been a concern for the KP since June 2010 when Seleka fighters established control over mining areas around the north-eastern towns of N'Délé and Bria. Subsequent reports from those areas suggested the presence of Janjaweed militia members, notorious for their activities in the Darfur region of Sudan, and the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army. The presence of the former gave rise to concerns that illicit diamonds are being smuggled between the two countries. Sudan is not a participant in the Kimberley Process which only adds to the complication of stemming this trade.[i] Months after the overthrow a general sense of lawlessness and impunity remains in all parts of CAR, according to media[ii] and humanitarian agencies[iii].

Even prior to the 2013 seizure of power, the country faced chronic mismanagement in its diamond resources. A 2010 report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) identified a history of extremely personalized rule of the diamond industry. Ousted President François Bozizé represented a slight departure from this model, however “his regime maintain[ed] tight control of mining revenues by means of a strict legal and fiscal framework and centralized, opaque management”.[iv]

The CAR’s total annual diamond production, estimated at slightly over US$62 million, is derived from a handful of mine sites along two veins of alluvial diamond deposits in eastern and western portions of the country. While Seleka rebels have been in control of mining areas in the east since 2010, analysts have noted that the fall of the government has led to instability in mining zones in the West as well, indicating continued contestation of diamond resources by armed groups including Seleka.

Diamonds are CAR’s second largest export, and its economy remains one of the poorest in the world according to the UNDP.[v] Despite significant reserves of almost 40 million carats, industrial-scale diamond extraction is limited, with the majority of deposits being alluvial in nature. The majority of the CAR’s diamond production is driven by 80,000–100,000 artisanal and small scale miners who sell their stones to West African middlemen. Even before the 2013 political crisis, expensive licensing fees and a 12% export tax on diamonds both contributed to a lucrative, illicit trade of diamonds.[vi]

Because of these factors, PAC gives the CAR a High risk rating.

Recommendations 

  • Review Mission

PAC supports the decision of the KP to suspend the CAR, including the recommended establishment of a KP review mission. The primary goal of this mission will be to ensure that all diamond production utilizes legitimate channels to market, and that revenues are not being used to further the aims of armed groups. In order to adequately and accurately assess CAR’s compliance, the review team must be given full, unfettered and secure access to all diamond producing zones, something that was not possible during a KP review visit in 2011.

  • Political Legitimacy

The forcible seizure of Bangui in March 2013 by a rebel group amounts to a coup d’état. As such CAR is at odds with the Kimberley Process and its efforts to break the link between civil war funded through the illicit trade of rough diamonds. The new government of Michel Djotodia has yet to be recognized by the African Union or the wider international community. Before it can be accepted back into the KP, the Djotodia government must demonstrate its legitimacy by securing broad international recognition, including but not limited to conducting free and fair elections.

  • Increased Vigilance

In light of the KP suspension, neighboring countries and trading centers are advised to use increased vigilance regarding the possible smuggling of diamonds from the CAR. This is particularly the case for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon, both of which have weak internal controls; and Belgium and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai) through which most of CAR’s trade previously passed and which could be used to launder illicit shipments from third countries.

  • Transparent Ministry

When an internationally recognized government assumes power in the CAR, the power to award licenses and mining contracts must be transferred away from the presidency to the mines ministry. The ministry must further publicly disclose all mining contracts and licenses, and open said contracts to democratic debate and public scrutiny.

  • Encouraging demobilization

The CAR should establish incentives to encourage members of rebel movement to voluntarily disarm. This should involve the creation of a model for reintegration into civilian life while providing alternative livelihoods to the participation in the illegal diamond trade.

  • External monitoring

PAC encourages the government of the CAR to request external assistance for peacekeeping purposes from regional and international bodies such as the African Union and UN, to ensure that the diamond fields cease to be under the direct control of any armed faction.

Should a future KP review mission determine that CAR meet minimum KP standards, the authorities should demonstrate a commitment to good mineral governance by disclosing all shipping data, including shipment value, destination and names of exporters, on a monthly basis to the Kimberley Process for review.

What people are saying

“The developments in the Central African Republic inform us that there are still situations where conflict diamonds continue to fuel rebel activities to remove elected official governments.

  • KP Chair Welile Nhlapo, May 6th, 2013[vii]

The World Diamond Council supports the KP’s decision to temporarily suspend the CAR “without reservation”.

  • WDC Annual General Meeting, May 6th, 2013

“"We totally reject the act that has been taken by Seleka, that of course, includes the illegal decision by the head of Seleka to proclaim himself as president of the republic, to remain in power and to usher in a so-called transitional period."

  • El-Ghassim Wane, spokesman for the African Union Peace and Security Commission, April 1st, 2013[viii]

The AU Peace and Security Council announced on 19 July that some 2,600 troops are to be deployed to the region to augment the existing 1,100 already in the country in order to move to “a different kind of engagement on the part of the international community.”

  • Ramtane Lamamra, Commissioner, Peace and Security Council, July 19th, 2013[ix]

 

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[i] Huffington Post, In Central African Republic, Diamonds are Seleka Rebels’ Best Friend, 6 May, 2013 - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/06/central-african-republic-diamonds-rebels_n_3225410.html

[ii] “RCA: flambée de violence dans plusieurs localités du pays,” Radio France Internationale, August 15, 2013,  http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20130815-rca-flambee-violence-pays-seleka-onu-Bangui

[iii] Central African Republic: Abanoned to its Fate? MSF, July 2013 -  http://www.msf.org.uk/sites/uk/files/car_july_2013.pdf

[iv] The International Crisis Group published their report Dangerous Little Stones: Diamonds in the Central African Republic in 2010 outlining a number of broader reforms for the diamond industry in the CAR. While the political landscape of the country has changed since the report was released, many recommendations are still relevant. The report can be found here - http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/central-africa/central-african-republic/167-dangerous-little-stones-diamonds-in-the-central-african-republic.aspx

[vii] Huffington Post, In Central African Republic, Diamonds are Seleka Rebels’ Best Friend, 6 May, 2013 - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/06/central-african-republic-diamonds-rebels_n_3225410.html

[viii] Voice of America, African Union Rejects New Central African Republic Leader, 01 April, 2013 - http://www.voanews.com/content/african-union-rejects-new-central-african-republic-leader/1632857.html

[ix] Reuters, African Union Plans Bigger Peacekeeping Force for Central African Republic, July 19, 2013 - http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/19/us-centralafrica-au-idUSBRE96I0VA20130719