Di­a­monds are for­ever… a prob­lem

Africa Renewal - - Africa Watch -

“Na­turescat­tered di­a­monds lib­er­ally over the CAR, but since colo­nial times for­eign en­trepreneurs and grasp­ing regimes have ben­e­fited from the pre­cious stone more than the Cen­tral African peo­ple,” writes the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group (ICG) in a 2010 re­port, adding that “The French ran­sacked their colony of its nat­u­ral re­sources, and suc­ces­sive rulers have treated power as li­cence to loot.”

In­deed, over the years be­fore the cur­rent CAR cri­sis, il­le­gal ex­ploita­tion of nat­u­ral re­sources fu­elled cor­rup­tion and de­prived the state of much-needed re­sources. In 1983 for ex­am­ple, notes the ICG, “records showed that im­port­ing coun­tries had re­ceived from the CAR 495,000 carats more than the to­tal of­fi­cial ex­ports.” In 1993, the of­fi­cial di­a­mond ex­ports from the CAR stood at some 494,000 carats.

Some 100,000 peo­ple are ac­tive in the min­ing sec­tor but the most in­volved have al­ways been the coun­try’s pres­i­dents them­selves, start­ing with Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the for­mer self­anointed em­peror. Pres­i­dent Ange-Felix Patasse even ran his own di­a­mond min­ing com­pany from the pres­i­den­tial palace, while François Boz­izé, de­posed in March 2013, kept a tight per­sonal con­trol over the sec­tor.

“In our coun­try,” laments Julien Bela, the edi­tor of Cen­trafrique Matin, a daily news­pa­per, “our lead­ers have their minds only on the busi­ness of di­a­monds and noth­ing else. No one has a plan on how to de­velop agri­cul­ture or what to do with our youth.” Jean-Paul Ngoupande, a for­mer prime min­is­ter, con­curred: “In the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, heads of state are first and fore­most di­a­mond mer­chants.”

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