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Liberia relaunches trade of diamonds

Liberia relaunches trade of diamonds

Liberia relaunched its diamond trade on Tuesday after the United Nations lifted an embargo, hoping the revival of the industry will fund reconstruction rather than lead to more bloodshed.
Trade in rough diamonds from river beds and mud pits in Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone was a major factor in intertwined civil wars that killed a quarter of a million people in this corner of West Africa during the 1990s.
A network of 10 government offices is being set up to ensure diamonds are certified under the "Kimberley Process," an industry-led monitoring scheme designed to prevent the illicit sale of gems from conflict areas, known as "blood diamonds."
"This process means a lot for this country and we want for our diamonds to be used for development and not to support conflict," President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told Reuters after opening the first two offices on Tuesday.
"The process means job creation for our people," added Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-trained former World Bank economist who faces the task of rebuilding a country where officials say 85 percent of people have no job, including many ex-fighters.
She was elected in 2005 more than two years after the departure to exile of President Charles Taylor, who is now in a cell in The Hague awaiting trial for war crimes over his alleged role in fomenting war in Sierra Leone.
The U.N. Security Council lifted a 6-year ban on Liberian diamond exports last Friday, saying the government had acted to meet the Kimberley requirements. It said it would review the decision in 90 days in the light of Liberia's compliance.
"We have to ensure that we comply with all the conditions set by the U.N.," Johnson-Sirleaf said at a ceremony to open the first of the diamond offices - a simple white-painted shipping container in the former diamond trading center of Tubmanburg, 75 kilometers north of the capital Monrovia.
Conflict diamonds are blamed for fuelling and financing wars in countries across Africa, including Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo, and inspired the 2006 film set in Sierra Leone and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Blood Diamond.
Johnson-Sirleaf had argued hard for the ban to be lifted so diamond revenues could help pay to rebuild her country.
In Tubmanburg, she acted out selling a diamond with representatives of the United Nations and longstanding ally Washington, a U.N. spokesman said, though there was no room in the cramped container for journalists to watch.
The end of the U.N. diamond embargo marks another step towards rebuilding Liberia, founded in 1847 by freed slaves from America, after years of fighting and looting.
The Senate approved a US$1 billion iron ore mining contract on Monday with leading steel producer Arcelor Mittal to revive what was once the world's fifth-biggest iron ore export industry.


Updated : 2020-12-03 02:58 GMT+08:00