CAR’S diamonds come in blood and sweat
BODA — Barefoot, with sweat pouring down their naked chests, 50 men slave in the depths of the Central African forest digging for diamonds in a sandy pit half the size of a football pitch.
They all share the same desperate hope — that one day they will find a diamond that will change their miserable lives forever.
The mine at Banengbele, near Boda in the south of the strife-torn Central African Republic, is one of many in the region where groups of diggers — or “Nagbata” as they are called — toil like ants with shovels and spades for the equivalent of three dollars a day.
The owner of the mine takes a cut of that for food, with many of the miners supplementing their meagre rations with bush meat like snake caught in the surrounding jungle.
Conditions in the camp are grim. Four men sleep in a makeshift shelter no more than 1.5 metres wide (five feet) made of sticks, plastic sheeting and a mosquito net.
After long days of back-breaking labour in terrible heat, many numb themselves with cannabis and palm wine.
“We work hard. I ache all over,” said Jean Bruno Sembia.
Widow Huguette Zonki had no choice but to follow the miners into the bush to feed her four children.
“I have to survive somehow,” she said holding her baby, whose head was covered in pustules. “My husband was killed in the war. I earn three euros (dollars) a day cooking for the men and I spend between five days and a month at a time out here in the camp.”
Smuggling and sacrifices be partly lifted at the next Kimberley Process meeting in Luanda in Angola later this month.
Francois Ngbokoto, of the ministry of mines, said the export ban may now actually be encouraging smuggling.
Sectarian violence Since the sectarian violence that erupted as the Seleka rebels were driven out, the town of Boda has been divided in two, with Muslims — who used to control the diamond mines in the area — forced to take refuge in their own enclave.
The mines are now held by the country’s Christian majority having passed through the hands of both of the Seleka and the antibalaka militias during the fighting.
“It is better to work for someone from here,” one of the Nagbata said, referring to Christian owners.
One official told AFP that jealousy at the relative wealth of Muslims had been one of the “underlying problems” which aggravated sectarian violence in the region.
That resentment has not gone away. At Boda’s mining police office a sign shows a miner selling a diamond to a bearded Muslim middleman with the warning: “Nagbata do not sell your diamonds to illegal buyers.”
Moussa Traore, a Muslim dealer who set up in the town two months ago after getting a licence from the ministry of mines, insisted he sells his diamonds legally to the government’s central office in the capital Bangui.
However, miners and the authorities claim a huge amount of smuggling is going on, with Central African diamonds being channelled through neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo and Sudan.
All agree that without the boost in the economy that lifting the export ban would give, there will be no peace in the country.
“With the embargo the price of diamonds has dropped,” said Traore. “They need to lift the embargo so proper business can start again.”
unless human intervention stops it or controls it.”
The stakes are too high for bee keepers to ignore, said Mr Allsopp. “We cannot afford to lose our bee population, not because of the losses of honey, but because we have 20 billion rands ($1.6 billion) worth of commercial agriculture that requires bee pollination.”
Faced with the realisation that the bees can’t adapt to the foulbrood threat fast enough to sustain agricultural pollination, South African officials say that they are in talks to introduce stiffer regulations to tackle foulbrood.
“There is a team that is currently working on an action programme that will be between industry and the department that will be announced in the next few weeks,” said director of agriculture Mooketsa Ramasodi.
The government plans to clamp down on the registration of beekeepers, heighten awareness of the issue, and enforce beekeeping management measures — such as checking the larvae regularly — which are aimed at identifying the disease before it kills the colony, he said.
South Africa would use antibiotics to treat hives — a controversial method — only as a “last option”, Mr Ramasodi said.
Mr Ashley-cooper worries that the government action may be too little too late for an industry that has a laissez-faire approach to beekeeping.
In general, South African bee keepers leave the bees to fend for themselves, confident that they will eventually recover, as they have always done in the past.
“It’s really a beekeeper issue, it’s about beekeeper education and becoming modern beekeepers,” said Ashley-cooper. “We are keeping bees like our grandparents did 150 years ago, there’s huge room for improvement.” — AFP
A beekeeper holds a brood frame with a nest that has been infected with the foulbrood bacterial disease on a farm near Durbanville, South Africa.
Miners work at a diamond mine of banengbele, on 22 May in the Central African republic.