Global Policy Forum

Angola Hails De Beers Diamond Embargo,

Ageance France Press
October 7, 1999


Luanda - The Angolan government on Thursday welcomed an announcement by the world's biggest diamond producer that it has placed an embargo on the purchase of diamonds from Angola by all its offices. De Beers on Tuesday said the move was taken to help prevent the rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) from financing its war against the Angolan government with the proceeds of diamond sales.

"The words are there. They're fine. But is there already any action? The question hangs in the air. We are waiting for a follow-up," Angolan Mining Minister Manuel Bunjo told AFP.

De Beers said it also planned to shut down its buying offices in Angola and was reviewing its buying operations in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and in Guinea. De Beers managing director Gary Ralfe had announced the decision in London, saying the company shared "the world's deep concern over the continued suffering of the people of Angola" as a result of civil war.

The company was perturbed that "some of the funds which had fuelled the war had been derived from the illegal sale of diamonds by the UNITA rebel movement," he said. The South African-based diamond giant, which has repeatedly been accused of involvement with Jonas Savimbi's movement, stated that it had "never bought diamonds from UNITA".

De Beers, which controls the international diamond market through its Central Selling Organisation in London, said it also withdrew its buyers from Angola a year ago. The company said that as a result of these steps, its purchase of Angolan diamonds on the open market had dropped to "negligible levels."

The sole exception to the embargo would be diamonds that De Beers are contractually obliged to purchase from SDM, a joint venture mining operation controlled by the Angolan government and Australian mining company Ashton.

The Angolan government diamond body ENDIAMA estimated in August that illegal trafficking had amounted to 140 million dollars since January, whereas the government made less than 130 million dollars from sales between January and last July.

Luanda's troops have been fighting UNITA off and on since independence from Portugal in 1975. The country plunged back into full-scale civil war in November 1998 after the last collapse of the 1994 Lusaka peace protocol. The government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, which in September launched an all-out offensive to crush the rebellion on several fronts, derives income from substantial oil production operations to finance its war effort.


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