|PRELIMINARY REPORT ON AUF DIAMOND PROTEST
GIVING VOICE TO VICTIMS OF THE DIAMOND INDUSTRY
Hotel Vancouver, venue of 2001 World Diamond Summit
On the 22 & 23 of August 2001, the AUF organized and held a demonstration against the diamond industry at the 2nd Annual World Diamond Conference. The peaceful and dignified demonstration took place in front of the Hotel Vancouver, in Canada, over the duration of the 2 day conference.
The action by the AUF members resulted in the publicising of concerns about the industry's conduct in Africa since the late 1800s. If the AUF protest had not taken place, the industry would have presented the rosy and misleading picture of its responsibility. Moreover, the AUF made sure that there was a voice at the highest level, that represented the people of Africa and the victims of the diamond industry. Several of the protestors were refugees from the diamond conflict zones including Congo and Sierra Leone.
The AUF international diamond protest was coordinated from this house in British Columbia, Canada
During and after the protests, the AUF was approached by diamond industry executives, and in these and in subsequent meetings, the AUF obtained primary information. Since the protest we have had ample opportunity to interact with and to judge attitudes in the industry, as well as to understand the concerns of representatives of diamond and gem producing regions in Africa.
Protest organizers Samuel Adu Poku, Mustafa Lansana, Paul Mulangu, and Dan Kashagama gave media interviews during which they explained concerns about the conduct of the industry, including the inadequacy of recent reforms by DeBeers and other diamond corporations, and the flaws in the policies being advocated by NGOs involved in the Kimberly Process. In coming weeks, several other press events are scheduled as follow up to the protest in Vancouver.
Of particular concern to the AUF is the continuing potential of the diamond industry to undermine African unity efforts (the AUF insists that any future reforms must factor in this concern). Several of the executives with whom we debated this matter had views varying from calls to recolonise Africa, to ignorance about the relevance of reforms in southern Africa to the rest of Africa, to lack of awareness of the value of including the concerns of artisanal miners and itenerant dealers in any reforms.
It was revealing that many of the diamond executives and including some of the African delegates were unaware of the history of the diamond industry, or the extent and effect of the diamond trade on African communities. It was particularly distressing that the vast majority of the industry executives had a very narrow agenda that completely ignored the recent efforts to integrate Africa. Some also derided the ability of Africans to govern themselves, and didn't think it was necessary to take history into account in judging the diamond industry (apartheid and recent violence in Angola, Namibia, Sierra Leone and Congo notwithstanding).
In order to address concerns by governments of Southern Africa, Dan Kashagama, General Secretary of the AUF, and Albert Sharangabo, AUF Director in charge of Conflict Resolution Policy, met with various delegates including Josaya Nyamu, Namibia's Minister of Mines and Energy, and Abbey Chikane, Chair of the South Africa Diamond Board and Chair of the Kimberly Process.
With regards to follow-up on the issues raised during the protest, the AUF has been invited to talk with De Beers executives, and has scheduled meetings with executives from other corporations within the industry, as well as discussions over the course of the coming months, with government leaders, aid relief agencies and NGOs involved in the Kimberely Process and other reform efforts.
In a separate development, the AUF has spoken to executives of companies that are mining and processing gems in Madagascar. The problems of the gem industry have received far less attention from the media even though they present concerns similar to those the diamond industry still needs to address.
A full and updated analysis of the AUF position on the diamond trade will be available in due course. We are now incorprating into our position all of the findings and developments since we declared the International Diamond Boycott in October 1999. The AUF International Diamond Boycott remains in effect. More protests and media events are planned to highlight issues that the industry has failed to address.
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