Ghana to Investigate Smuggling Charges, Cote d’Ivoire Tension Grows

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RAPAPORT…Ghana’s newspapers added new depth to continued coverage of conflict diamond smuggling (from Cote d’Ivoire into Ghana) on October 12, 2006.

The Accra Daily quotes Dominic Fobih, Ghana’s minister of lands, forestry and mines, on his plans to investigate allegations that diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire were smuggled into Ghana and then issued Kimberley Process certificates. The United Nations claims those diamonds then made their way to world diamond trading centers.

He told the state-run newspaper that an investigation would focus upon the Precious Minerals Marketing Company [PMMC] and other licensed diamond buying agencies rather than the government. The minister said that anyone found to have violated procedures would be “dealt with.”

The PMMC has already denied the company issued Kimberly Process certificates to diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire.

In late 2005 the United Nations reported rough diamonds from Cote d’Ivoire were funding arms in the country’s rebel controlled north. A follow-up report submitted to the Security Council this week suggested up to $23 million per year in conflict rough from Cote d’Ivoire had been smuggled into Ghana where the diamonds were given Kimberley Process certificates for export.

Ghana’s privately owned The Statesman newspaper editors wrote that rather than focusing upon Ghana’s Kimberley Process practices — the United Nations Security Council should instead force Cote d’Ivoire’s President Laurent Gbagbo out of office. The newspaper concludes that President Gbagbo’s leadership has been ineffective in resolving conflict between rebels and government rule.

“Gbagbo may choose to attack France and the United Nations for being the cause of his current predicament, but his resentment toward UN Resolution 1633 diluting his powers, does not make the document a bad one for his country,” the front-page editorial read. “We urge the UN Security Council not to allow Gbagbo to remain in office beyond the stipulated one year, which ends this month.”

The 15 members of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met earlier in the week to address growing instability in Cote d’Ivoire. Member states recommended President Gbagbo’s tenure be extended another year.

Elections in Cote d’Ivoire were originally planned for October 2005, but Resolution 1633 extended President Gbagbo’s term through October 2006 at which time elections would be held. The resolution called for mediation (with intent to disarm rebels) between the north and government controlled south. President Gbagbo ended negotiations in September and refused to attend the United Nations world summit in New York calling the annual meeting a masquerade.

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