Sleeping Like a Hare Millions Billions Trillions    
African Tears Beyond Tears Innocent Victims Imire Can you hear the drums, by Cathy Buckle

August 15, 2010, 10:36 am

Dear Family and Friends,

While international supermodel Naomi Campbell was testifying about a pouch of "dirty little stones" at the war crimes trial of ex Liberian President, Charles Taylor, Zimbabwe's own controversial, dirty little stones, began making headlines.

Everything about Zimbabwe's Marange diamonds is highly contentious including:

- The legal ownership of the mines;

- Supreme Court orders that have been ignored;

- Parliamentary portfolio teams repeatedly barred from visiting Marange;

- At least 30 million dollars from previous sales that never made it to government offers;

- The detention for a month of Farai Maguwu, who publicized abuses at the diamond fields.

Most damning of all is the 61 page report by Human Rights Watch issued in June

2009 which details a litany of abuses perpetrated by the military at the Marange diamond fields. Abuses that include forced labour, beating, torture, sexual abuse and mass killing.

Despite it all, however, Zimbabwe managed to get Kimberley Process approval and started selling diamonds this week. 893 thousand carats, apparently mined during the past two months only, were certified to be "conflict free" by Kimberley Process Monitor Abbey Chikane. Chikane said the soldiers had gone from the two fenced off mines that had yielded the stones and that  "minimum international standards" had been met. The diamonds were sold for 71 million US dollars - a figure from which the government apparently gets around 10% from the sales in royalties, taxes and dividends.

Diamonds from the rest of the Marange mines were not sold this week and are still banned from auction because of ongoing abuses.

A friend asked me this week what I would do if I was given a pouch of dirty little stones from Marange. I didn't hesitate, a brief glance at pages 34 -38 of the Human Rights Watch report  said it all for me. Called:  "Diamonds in the Rough,"  the report described military helicopters with mounted automatic weapons; indiscriminate firing of live ammunition and tear gas; mass graves and piles of decomposing bodies. One extract, given by medical staff in Mutare in November 2008 is horror beyond belief, it reads:

 "..soldiers had brought in 107 bodies from Marange, of which 29 bodies were identified and collected by relatives. 78 bodies we marked 'Brought in Dead"

(B.I.D.) from Marange, identity unknown. We entered cause of death as unknown although many of the bodies had visible bullet wounds. The soldiers who brought them informed us that the bodies were of unknown illegal diamond miners..."

Surely, I thought, if I had a Marange diamond, everytime I wore it I would have blood on my hands and see the letters B.I.D. engraved on the stone. Surely, surely we have lost our way when stones are more valuable than human life. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy.

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