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Diamonds, gold fuel CAR religious violence - report

01 august 2014

The religious violence that has ravaged the Central African country is allegedly being fuelled by the illegal trading in diamonds and gold.
The Kimberley Process (KP) ordered the temporary suspension of trading in diamonds from the troubled nation last year.
Reuters reports that diamond fields around Bria and Sam Ouandja was providing revenue for rebels, who extract protection money and sell gems to dealers in Sudan and Chad.
The diamonds were allegedly trafficked to Antwerp, Dubai or India from these African states.
"Commanders on both sides are profiteering from this conflict. Both the anti-balaka militia and Seleka are involved in gold and diamonds," Kasper Agger, a field researcher for the Enough Project was quoted as saying.
"If we are going to make peace, we need to offer them an economic alternative."
The transitional government of President Catherine Samba Panza was said to have put measures in place to enforce a "traceability" scheme to show diamonds are not mined in rebel territory, but lack of human resources was scuttling the process.
“Everyone is still buying. Some people take it to Chad, then it goes to Dubai," said Saliou Issoufa, whose family works in the trade in Bambari.
The World Diamond Council (WDC) recently said production of diamonds in the CAR was continuing and there was also evidence of diamonds from the country reaching the markets despite the KP ban.
The council said until the temporary suspension was lifted, trade in rough diamonds from the CAR was considered illicit, and members of the industry found to be involved in such activities would be subject to sanctions.
It said KP was instituting measures to monitor illicit trafficking in diamonds from the CAR. The suspension of trade in diamonds from CAR would continue until a KP review mission was carried out to ascertain compliance with diamond watchdog’s minimum standards.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that a gold mine, owned by Canada's Axmin was overrun by the mainly Muslim Seleka rebels more than year ago and now forms part of an illicit economy driving sectarian conflict.
“We control the mine. If there is a problem there, we intervene," Seleka's local commander Colonel Oumar Garba was quoted as saying.
"People don't want the French peacekeepers here because they know they'll chase them away from the mine."
Axmin, which suspended activity at the mine in late 2012 after rebels occupied its camp, said it was monitoring the situation.

Mathew Nyaungwa, Editor in Chief of the African Bureau, Rough&Polished