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'Blood diamonds' team in Angola

Aug 24 2009 18:07

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Luanda - Angola's diamond industry comes under scrutiny this week as a team of inspectors begins on Monday a review of the country's compliance with the Kimberley Process, set up to stop conflict diamonds.

The mission, the first to Angola since 2005, will check if the country is following Kimberley Process rules, confirm that diamonds are registered and not not smuggled out, and that all gems have a clear paper trail.

A timetable by the mines ministry, seen by AFP, said the team would begin its meetings at the ministry before heading northeast to the diamond-rich Lundas, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The team will meet with representatives from the Angolan National Police, private diamond companies and the state-owned diamond firm Endiama.

During the latter stages of Angola's three-decade civil war, the main opposition party UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola) used diamonds to bankroll its fight against the ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola).

Since the war ended in 2002, the industry has been regulated and Angola is now the world's fifth-biggest diamond exporter.

But international organisations remain critical of how Angola treats the artisanal miners, who work casually in alluvial river deposits and whose gems account for around one-tenth of output and a quarter of overall revenue.

Many of these miners, known as "garimpeiros" in Portuguese, enter Angola illegally from DR Congo but they are hunted down by Angolan police and border guards and regularly expelled.

In a recent report the United Nations estimated as many as 115 000 people had been deported to DR Congo in the previous seven months and there are allegations of brutal treatment and mass rapes.

Civil society observers have been invited to accompany the Kimberly Process delegation during their visit.

- AFP

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