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UN:  Enforcing Ban on Liberian Diamond Exports Can Prove Difficult

The United Nations mission in Liberia says it is difficult to enforce a ban on diamonds and timber exports, which the Security Council extended this week. A U.N. spokesman says the United Nations is concerned violence in the region once again is being fueled by the illegal diamond trade.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia approved the Security Council action which extended the ban on timber and diamond exports for another six months.

Speaking from the Liberian capital, Monrovia, the U.N. spokesperson, Paul Risley, said the implementation of the ban would not be easy, and further work needs to be done for the government to effectively police illegal mining and logging.

"I think that is one of the toughest challenges is how to implement sanctions such as sanctions on the export of diamonds from Liberia," he said. "A diamond is a very small object of incredibly high value and it is quite easy to smuggle diamonds from a country such as Liberia."

The U.N. Liberian mission has not been given any extended capacity to police logging and mining. Instead, a U.N. report encouraged internationally reputable private companies to do the job instead.

A local journalist, Samuel Pergaud, says the Liberian government announced over the radio and in newspapers it was disappointed because it says the extension will hurt the Liberian economy and people.

But many Liberians approve of the extended ban. A human rights activist, Pearl Brown Boole, says the ban should stay until the whole country can benefit from the sale of the precious gems and wood.

"Those who were in the timer and diamond business were mostly foreigners who connived with [a] few unpatriotic Liberians to get money that the Liberians did not benefit from," she said.

A West Africa analyst with the International Crisis Group, Mike McGovern, says there is a danger that if not regulated, money from diamonds and timber will fuel violence after the election.

Mr. McGovern criticized what he called a shady diamond deal, canceled due to international outcry, which was struck between the London-based West Africa Mining Cooperation and some members of the transitional government.

"Some of the members of the transitional government have links to some of the former armed groups," he said. "If they benefited from the sale of diamonds and they were not happy with the outcome of the elections or even the run-up to the elections, there is certainly a possibility that they could have used that money to destabilize the situation."

Countries interested in the rehabilitation of Liberia after its 14-year civil war, are concerned by the lack of transparency in the economic affairs of the transitional government. An international proposal to limit corruption puts forward the idea of an international committee that could veto future business deals.