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Rights Group: Diamonds May Fuel Zimbabwe Electoral Violence

Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, Zimbabwe in this November 1, 2006 file photo.

Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, Zimbabwe in this November 1, 2006 file photo.

A human rights group has warned profits from Zimbabwe's diamond fields could be used to fund violence in the country's future elections.

Global Witness reports that several directors of Anjin, a mining firm operating in the fields, are members of Zimbabwe's military and police, which are loyal to longtime President Robert Mugabe.

It says the setup could enable "off-budget funding" of the security sector, and raises the risk that diamond money will be used to finance violence whenever Zimbabwe holds its next polls.

Witnesses reported widespread beatings, killings and intimidation of Mugabe opponents during Zimbabwe's last elections in 2008. The president's ZANU-PF party later formed a unity government with the opposition MDC, after intense international pressure.

That same year, Zimbabwe's military seized control of the Marange diamond fields, killing and wounding many small-scale miners in the process.

Last year, the international organization set up to stop the sale of so-called "blood diamonds," the Kimberley Process, authorized sales from the fields. The move led Global Witness to withdraw from the Kimberley Process in December.

ZANU-PF is pushing for elections to be held this year. The MDC has said elections must wait until passage of a new constitution, as called for in the 2008 Global Political Agreement that led to formation of the current government.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.