News / Africa

    UN Experts: Ivory Coast Ex-rebel Profiting from Banned Diamond Trade

    FILE- Issiaka Wattao, Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces, is seen at the Felix Houphouet Boigny airport for the return of exiled Ivorian officers in Abidjan, July 29, 2011.
    FILE- Issiaka Wattao, Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces, is seen at the Felix Houphouet Boigny airport for the return of exiled Ivorian officers in Abidjan, July 29, 2011.
    Reuters
    A senior Ivory Coast army officer is breaking a diamond embargo and may be using profits to buy arms, U.N. experts have found, dealing a potentially embarrassing blow to government efforts to have the ban lifted.
     
    Ivory Coast is the only country in the world still subject to a U.N.-imposed ban on diamond exports but it received a clean bill of health in November from the Kimberley Process - the body tasked with preventing the sale of so called “blood diamonds” from fuelling armed conflicts.
     
    The West African country, emerging from a decade-long crisis that culminated in a brief 2011 war, is pressing the U.N. Security Council to end the embargo, which was put in place nine years ago in the wake of an initial 2002-2003 civil war.
     
    But U.N. experts, charged with monitoring compliance with a sanctions regime including an arms embargo, said diamonds are being exported from Ivory Coast in breach of the ban.
     
    “The measures and restrictions imposed by the [Security] Council ... still do not prevent the illicit trafficking of Ivorian rough diamonds,” read the report released on Tuesday.
     
    An Ivorian government spokesman declined to comment, saying he was unaware of the content of the report.
     
    The group identified the principal diamond buyer in Seguela - one of the country's two main diamond mining areas - as a Malian national named Sekou Niangadou.
     
    Niangadou described to the U.N. experts how he circumvented the Kimberley Process -- an international certification scheme created by governments, civil society groups and the diamond industry -- by sending rough diamonds to offices in Guinea and Liberia to obtain certificates of origin there.
     
    A previous report by the experts published in October estimated the annual value of the country's illicit diamond trade to be between $12 million and $23 million.
     
    Money for Arms?
     
    In order to operate in diamond areas, the experts said,  Niangadou's network made cash payments to two army officers loyal to Colonel Issiaka Ouattara, better known as Wattao - the deputy commander of Ivory Coast's elite Republican Guard.
     
    Wattao was a senior commander in the New Forces, which launched a rebellion in 2002 and backed President Alassane Ouattara during the 2011 war sparked by incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo's refusal to accept defeat in a run-off election.
     
    Gbagbo was captured by the French and U.N.-backed rebels and is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
     
    The group said there was “strong evidence” indicating money from diamond trafficking was being used to support elements within the army loyal to Wattao.
     
    “The Group is concerned that the funds may be used for the purchase of arms and related materiel in violation of the sanctions regime,” it said.
     
    A communications officer for Wattao said the colonel declined to comment on the allegations.
     
    Before the embargo, Ivory Coast produced about 300,000 carats of diamond a year, worth around $25 million, according to industry experts. Ivorian authorities have said they would like to relaunch the sector to fund post-war reconstruction.
     
    Blood diamonds were thrust into the global spotlight in the 1990s during a succession of African conflicts where their trade financed arms purchases and resulted in human rights abuses.
     
    At the height of wars in Sierra Leone and Angola, about a fifth of all rough stones worldwide were believed to be conflict diamonds.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.