Zimbabwe's Literal Blood Diamonds

The Zimbabwean government (ZANU-PF) recently began mining diamonds from the country’s Marange region, but questions have arisen about how these diamonds were found and how they are being mined. Until now, the Kimberly Process — the UN body founded to ensure diamonds do not enter the market if they are acquired through human rights abuses — has been inconsistent in allowing Zimbabwean diamonds to enter the market. Given Zimbabwe’s poor human rights track record, there should be no indecision and these diamonds should be banned from the world market.

The ZANU-PF and its leadership have a long, sustained history of violating human rights and failing to allocate resources to the country's starving poor. Zimbabwe is not a country lacking in natural resources. Aside from diamonds in the Marange region, the country has access to water through Victoria Falls, as well as coal, gold, and other mineral deposits. Despite having such accessibility to resources, the ZANU-PF abuses its power to maintain a lifestyle that is opulent for the elite and allows the rest of its citizens to suffer in silence. An estimated 75% of Zimbabweans live in desperate poverty while the leaders of the country live in extravagance. President Robert Mugabe’s 85th birthday party, celebrated in 2009, was reported to have cost $250,000.  

This is not an issue of race or political inequalities in the international system; it is a well-documented fact that Mugabe’s rule has destroyed the Zimbabwean economy. Many “post-colonial” societies are struggling to find a stronghold in the global economic system, but it seems the Zimbabwean people have suffered an exorbitant amount since Mugabe became president in 1980. Moreover, the suffering is not limited to the poor economy; throughout the country, people report beatings, rape, torture, and disappearances.

The Kimberley Process was founded to prevent exploitation of human beings in the extraction of diamonds. Zimbabwe seems like an obvious case where humans have been and continue to be exploited, mistreated, and denied dignity. Despite the power-sharing agreement that made Morgan Tsvangirai the prime minister of Zimbabwe in 2009, Mugabe and his party retain power over the military and continue to dictate policy. The Kimberly Process should deny Zimbabwe’s entry into the global diamond market for as long as ZANU-PF and its leader are in power.

Zimbabwe occupies a special place in my heart. In 2009, rope-tied to a harness, I jumped off a wooden plank over Victoria Falls and had one of the most spectacular 30 seconds of my life. Like a crane shot from a 3D camera, I swooped over the gorge seeing every detail in the rocks and water below. The country’s beauty is unmatched. Some of my greatest friends are from this country, many of whom work with Zimbabwean civil society in attempts to stop the daily violence. The international community must open its ears to these civic voices and begin closing its ears to a government that has been abusing its citizens for nearly three decades.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Anupama Selvam

I am 25, from Chicago and graduated from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. My expertise is in international human rights law-- specifically surrounding genocide studies and gender equality. Currently I work as a Research Assistant at Northwestern University School of Law where I assist with international human rights cases that focus on genocide litigation. I also work as a Medical Advocate for Rape Victim Advocates where I advocate for survivors of sexual assault.

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