Zimbabwe Delegation in US for KPCS Meeting
A high-powered Zimbabwean delegation led by Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu is here for the intersessional meeting of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme that starts today.
The United States has been ratcheting up pressure to redefine conflict gems - in a bid to tarnish Zimbabwean gems - amid stiff opposition from African producers.
Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic, the first woman to chair the KPCS, has made it clear that the US government's priority at this meeting will be to convince the KPCS grouping to broaden the definition of "conflict diamonds".
However, Minister Mpofu, who arrived alongside Attorney-General Mr Johannes Tomana yesterday to join the rest of the team already here, said Zimbabwe was ready to defend itself if put on the agenda.
"The Zimbabwean delegation has arrived and we have a full complement of stakeholders. We are currently going through the programme and we have noticed that quite a number of issues are going to be addressed. However, this time around there doesn't seem to be any specific issues on Zimbabwe as such. But, all the same, we are confident that if any serious issues pertaining to Zimbabwe are raised, they are going to be tackled appropriately.
"If there is a surprise introduction of issues that may have an impact on Zimbabwe, we will deal with that appropriately," he said.
Dr Mpofu said Zimbabwe, for the first time in the history of its KPCS membership, had indicated willingness to be represented in all the grouping's standing committees.
"We want to fully participate in the working groups, to be a member of the working groups that are part of the KPCS administration.
"We would want to be part and parcel of those groups, like the Working Group on Monitoring, the Working Group on Statistics and other groups which we feel need our participation," he said.
The Minister said Zimbabwe would resist all efforts by some Western governments to politicise the KPCS.
"They want to bring, for instance, so-called human rights issues that are totally alien to the objectives of the KPCS. Those will be resisted."
He said all members of the KPCS were recently asked to complete a questionaire as to whether they approved plans by some countries to re-define conflict diamonds.
"The majority of the members who responded actually rejected the issues that were suggested in those questionairres," he said.
A fortnight ago, Ambassador Milovanovic told the World Diamond Council congress that the definition of conflict diamonds must be changed to encompass human rights violations by governments and not just rebel movements.
Currently, the KPCS charter defines conflict diamonds as "rough diamonds used by rebel movements or their allies to finance conflict aimed at undermining legitimate governments."