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Liberia Opens Diamond Certification Houses

A few days after the United Nations Security Council lifted sanctions on Liberia’s diamond export, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Tuesday opened the diamond certification office in Monrovia. Trade in rough diamonds in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone was a major factor in civil wars that killed a quarter of a million people during the 1990s. Speaking at the ceremony, President Sirleaf vowed that her government would never allow Liberian diamonds to be used to fuel wars in other countries.

Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. From Monrovia, he told VOA the purpose of the diamond certification houses is to ensure Liberia’s compliance with the Security Council requirements for lifting the sanctions.

“Liberia has to be Kimberley compliant, and that means that there has to be a process, a mechanism in place by which from the creek all the way to selling the diamond, we are able to make sure that Liberia’s diamonds can be authenticated. In the past, that process was not there. And so Liberia’s diamonds ended up being sold to fuel wars and conflicts in Africa. We do not want that to happen again,” he said.

Bropleh cautiously said the new diamond houses would enable Liberia to soon begin exporting diamonds again.

"Of course, I must say that we have to do this carefully because there is a review process within four months to see how Liberia is faring with this new process. But we are grateful because this will open up jobs for our people, and this is one aspect of helping to revitalize our economy,” Bropleh said.

Unlike the past when Liberia’s diamonds were used to support conflicts, Bropleh said this time around President Sirleaf’s government would make sure that the diamonds are used in the reconstruction of the country.

“We are going to demand from companies that will be mining in the area to first of all make sure that fair labor practices are in place for the workers. We will make sure also that there is a communal benefit where there is basic health care and education for the people in the mining community. We do not want for Liberians to be working in these mining areas and not be cared for by those who come and open up big concession areas,” he said.

Bropleh said Liberia’s labor and lands and mines ministries would make sure that diamond mining companies serve the communities in which they operate.