Cynthia McKinney – Testimony Before the Trade Subcommittee

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Statement of the Honorable Cynthia McKinney, M.C., Georgia

Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Trade

of the House Committee on Ways and Means

Hearing on Trade in African Diamonds

September 13, 2000

Mr. Chairman:

Let me begin by thanking the leadership of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee for scheduling this important hearing on the role diamonds play in the conflicts of sub-Saharan Africa.

I am pleased to give testimony today with this distinguished bipartisan panel who are imploring you to take decisive action to stem the entry into this country of illicit or “blood diamonds.”

I would also like to thank Congressman Hall for his leadership in introducing the Consumer Access to a Responsible Accounting of Trade Act, or as many know it, the CARAT Act; or the “Blood Diamonds” Bill.

I fully support his intentions to implement a coding system the would stop the illicit diamond trade. With this legislation, a diamond’s origin can be certified in order to sever the funding link that has allowed mercenary groups and so-called rebel groups in Sierra Leone, Angola, and elsewhere to enrich themselves and commit gross abuses against governments and unarmed people.

The illicit diamond trade has assisted a few bad men to create anarchy and chaos on the African Continent. But it has made all of us who fail to act complicit in the crimes against humanity and the suffering that these men create. In order to break that complicity we need a prompt review of US Africa policy, we need to pass Tony Hall’s bill, and we need to implement sanctions against countries and individuals who have already been named as diamond traffickers.

I would also like to ask the Committee to seriously consider action against diamonds that are certificated as having come from Liberia as well. While Liberia has not been the subject of any UN Security Council Resolutions or reports, it is physically impossible for Liberia to produce the diamonds that it says it does: it is clear that Sierra Leone’s diamonds are being laundered through Liberia and onto the legal market and then to our jewelry. Most likely, right here to the United States since the US consumes two-thirds of all the diamonds produced for jewelry.

In Angola, sanctions-busting led to a report released by a United Nations panel on March 15th of this year carefully documenting the ways in which UNITA has been able to circumvent the U.N. sanctions against its trade of diamonds extracted from UNITA-controlled areas in Angola. We all know the objectives of UNITA: to foment chaos in Angola and render it ungovernable. They pretty much were able to do that due to their trade in illicit diamonds. They even went so far as to shoot down UN planes carrying individuals committed to making peace.

The resultant Fowler Report of the United Nations Security Council, named after Robert Fowler of Canada who led the investigation team, took the bold step of naming names of individuals and countries that were sanctions busters.

We should lead the effort to implement the Fowler recommendations, not just to study them.

People are losing their homes and their lives while this Administration studies.

U. N. Secretary Robert Fowler’s report recommends that anyone trading in illicit diamonds be expelled from the industry and that any country knowingly involved in smuggling lose its export accreditation.

Under the proposals, all rough diamonds are to be exported in sealed packages certified by the authorities in the exporting nations and verified by a new international diamond council, made up of governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations.

Some of the sanctions-busters named by Ambassador Fowler are our allies. If we were really serious about the diamond trade our leadership could make a difference.

The U. S. must show leadership and act more swiftly against all the countries mentioned in the Fowler Report including Burkina Faso, Togo, and Rwanda who were named in Fowler’s Report as being involved in illegal trading operations with UNITA’s Jonas Savimbi.

In the Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have occupied nearly half of that nation including the Congo River City of Kisangani, a major trading center for the diamonds pulled from the surrounding jungles. The battle now rages for Mbuji-Mayi, the capital of the southeastern province of East Kasai and the center for Congo’s diamond mining.

Rwanda is “running” diamonds looted from Congo and Angola and wreaking havoc on the people of Eastern Congo in reckless pursuit of its own policies, encouraged by the United States and the international community, as we all stand and do nothing.

At the World Diamond Congress, which took place in Antwerp, Belgium in July, the International Diamond Manufacturers’ Association and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses agreed to establish a system of certificates of origin to identify the provenance of diamonds.

I would encourage them to move swiftly or a boycott of all diamonds might occur.

I note that DeBeers is already running ads to encourage Christmas diamond purchases.

The United States and Europe must also begin bilateral and multilateral discussions with Israel a leading destination for the illicit diamonds.

The sad fact is that diamonds from Africa have helped to build and enrich the cities of Antwerp, Brussels, Tel Aviv, and New York. Yet Africans remain hopelessly impoverished and are even going backward. Something is terribly wrong with this industry. And that should be addressed too.

Africans should control their precious resources. But the West actively thwarts such efforts. For example, an important move in the right direction was recently halted when the British refused to list on their stock exchange a joint venture between Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo so that Congo could market its diamonds independent of anyone else’s control. I view this blockage as a direct effort to further entrench the current state and non-state actors and to deny African governments the right to control their own diamonds.

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