End of the 'blood diamond' syndrome? Liberia has now resumed the diamond trade and licences are being issued. However, the government must entrench policies to prevent a recurrence of the 'blood diamonds' syndrome. Report by Neil Ford.

Author:Ford, Neil
Position:LIBERIA
 
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The Liberian government has quickly responded to the decision of the UN to lift the blanket ban on the export of diamonds from the country by ending its own moratorium on 'the mining, sale and export of diamonds'.

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The ban was introduced in 2001 after the government of President Charles Taylor was accused of using diamond revenues to finance armed conflict in several parts of the region. Some progress has finally been made on seizing Taylor's assets but recent problems in the armed forces indicate that the country's security worries are far from over.

UN sanctions were lifted in April, after an investigation concluded that the diamond industry was once again under government control.

The international community appears convinced that the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is succeeding in re-establishing its authority over parts of the country that were previously in rebel hands.

It is now hoped that the government can use diamond revenues to complement the money made available by foreign donors to help fund national reconstruction.

After the UN Security Council voted to lift the ban, the government decided to take several months to inject more order into the industry before ending its own ban on production.

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In May, Johnson-Sirleaf attended a ceremony to mark the opening of an official government diamond certification office, which will ensure that all production is properly certified in accordance with the Kimberley Process, which seeks to end the trade in blood diamonds. The government plans to open nine further certification offices around Liberia.

The deputy minister of lands, mines and energy, Kpandeh Fayia, said that as of late July "people can start applying for mining, selling and broker licences". However, it may take several years before diamond production resumes its pre-war level. An assessment of all diamond resources in the country is required, while the government must evaluate the various claims to mining concessions that have been awarded to domestic and foreign interests over many years.

Regional stability essential

The successful re-launch of the Liberian diamond industry will rely as much on continued stability in neighbouring Sierra Leone as in Liberia itself.

Diamond mining and export is believed to have funded and indeed fuelled armed conflict in both countries. The lack of border controls across the Mano River region as a whole and the interconnected nature of the...

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