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Local Zimbabwe Leader Evicted after Cooperating with Illegal Diamond Probe


A tribal leader who cooperated with an international investigation into eastern Zimbabwe's disputed diamond area last month says he has been evicted from his traditional home. The Kimberley Process group's interim report says Zimbabwe security forces attacked miners in the area last October.

Newman Chiadzwa said the police and members of the Zimbabwe National Army forced him to leave his home on Monday.

The tribal leader said army members told him the government of Zimbabwe had authorized his eviction. Chiadzwa says the troops told him he had to go because he cooperated with the Kimberley Process group in its visits to the diamond fields.

The Kimberley Process is an international initiative to stem the flow of so-called conflict diamonds that are sold to finance illegitimate activities in Africa. The Kimberley Process requires its 75 member countries to certify shipments of rough diamonds as 'conflict-free'. Zimbabwe is a process member.

A draft interim report of the Kimberley Group's visit to Zimbabwe's diamond fields has been made available. It says its investigators heard credible evidence from 25 victims and witnesses, who said the government sent in two helicopters to back the army and police in a violent campaign to remove, what the government called, illegal miners from the area last October.

The report says the security services denied any violence had taken place in the diamond fields or in a nearby town, Mutare.

The report says the "violence undertaken by "the police and army" in removing panners and then attempting to maintain control of the area is unacceptable within" the Kimberley process framework."

The report recommended a suspension of export of diamonds from the area until effective security, internal control measures and resources are in place. It also said there should be a "demilitarization" of the area.

The report said the group had free access to the area during its visit and had been allowed to meet with whomever they wanted.

The Kimberley Process report also said in accordance with Zimbabwean law ownership of mining claims should be respected. A British company, African Consolidated Resources says it owns the lease on the diamond fields, which it bought after the previous lessor's claim lapsed in 2006.

Police in Harare were not available for comment about the charges and Mining Minister Obert Mpofu did not return a reporter's phone calls Wednesday.

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