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

Australia Knights Prince Philip, Sparking National Outrage

Abbott's surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the country's honors system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment More

SAG Award Boosts 'Birdman' Oscar Hopes

Individual acting Oscars appear to be sewn up: SAG awards went to artists who won Golden Globes: Julianne Moore, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons More

Katy Perry Lights Way for Super Bowl's Girl Power Moment

Pop star's selection to headline US football championship's halftime show extends NFL's trend of selecting artists who appeal to younger viewers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sidesi
X
June Soh
January 23, 2015 10:03 PM
The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid