HARARE - Western ambassadors are expected to tour controversial diamond fields in Zimbabwe, following an invitation by the government, which is trying to move past reports security forces beat, tortured and killed miners. President Robert Mugabe and his allies are pushing to have Western travel and financial sanctions lifted.
Announcing the visit last week, Zimbabwe’s minister of mines, Obert Mpofu, said he hoped the visit by Western diplomats would put to rest claims of human-rights abuses by security forces in the diamond-mining fields.
“The EU ambassadors and Western country ambassadors are going to Marange [diamond fields] next week. We said come. In fact, they asked for that permission a long time ago ... We are open to scrutiny,”
In an interview, European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Arricia confirmed Western diplomats will visit the Marange diamond fields next week. He said contrary to what Mpofu told business delegates, it was actually the Zimbabwean government that invited diplomats to visit the fields, which are about 400 kilometers east of Harare.
"There is an issue related to the fact [that] one of the companies, which is listed by the European Union, is the Zimbabwe Mining Development (ZMDC). Reflection about the measures is something which is taking place independent of this visit," Dell’Arricia said.
The United States, Britain and other countries imposed sanctions on companies it deemed to be helping Mugabe and his party oppress political opponents and suppress human rights.
The ZMDC is a government-owned company that controls minerals in Zimbabwe and has several board members who are on the EU sanctions list. It is involved in mining diamonds in Marange, and linked to human-rights abuses.
Until recently, the Marange diamond fields were off-limits, except to Mugabe’s allies. Many have seen this softening stance as a way to convince the West to lift the sanctions imposed in 2002. Mugabe has on several occasions argued that he respects human rights and is warming up to the West.