Session 2 - The Kimberley Process: What is working and what is not? How to make it more responsive to African needs and realities?


The panellists were all adamant that it was important to identify the KP’s successes and challenges within the context of Africa’s political economy since its inception before trying to discuss how to make it more relevant now and in the future.

Claude Kabemba's picture

Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW)

October 30th, 2013


The panellists were all adamant that it was important to identify the KP’s successes and challenges within the context of Africa’s political economy since its inception before trying to discuss how to make it more relevant now and in the future.

In terms of successes, it was argued that the KP has managed to bring together actors from civil society, government and the diamond industry – and maintain a close working relationship between them – and that this has helped to curb the illicit trade in conflict diamonds. The KP has also been successful in coming up with minimum requirements, which have been adopted by member states across the globe, while the certification process has made it more difficult for illegal diamonds to be traded within the legitimate diamond supply chain. The scheme is also credited with playing a part in ending the wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, the DRC and Angola.

The influence of the KP is demonstrated each time country review missions are announced as the relevant member states work hard to put everything in order before the reviews begin. The KP peer review mechanism was also praised for encouraging some of the progress seen in some member states. Meanwhile, the KP has worked fairly well with civil society – as witnessed in Zimbabwe, where a local focal point was established due to the efforts of civil society. The KP’s ability to hold annual plenary sessions also demonstrates consistency and its commitment towards achieving its objectives.

Furthermore, the KP has managed to persuade member states to adopt and implement its diamond regulations – and domesticate them into national legislation. For example, the government in Sierra Leone came up with justifiable natural resource legislation, which aims to improve natural resource governance and borrowed some concepts from the KP.

In terms of challenges, it was argued that the KP has failed to address the contentious issue of human rights abuses – for example, in both Zimbabwe and the CAR. These failures saw a number of influential players from civil society abandoning the scheme, which has often been described by critics as ‘clinically dead’ or just a façade. The KP has also failed to change and adapt to the new realities in the global diamond system, particularly the changing nature of conflict – and it has failed to deal with issues around diamond smuggling, money laundering, and non-compliance.

It was also suggested that the KP does not convincingly address Africa’s development needs and that it should be involved in the internal distribution of diamonds revenues so that local people benefit. This view was motivated by the fact that diamond-rich governments fail to provide essential services to local communities, such as health and education, as well as other socio-economic necessities despite earning millions of dollars in diamond revenue. However, foreign diamond companies were also blamed for failing to honour their corporate social responsibility obligations. Local communities, particularly those living close to diamond mining areas, also expect the KP to help defend their interests in relation to environmental justice, relocation, and water and air pollution caused by large-scale diamond mining.

Panellists seemed to agree that the KP’s definition of conflict diamonds is outdated and needs to be changed. It was noted that the current definition fails to acknowledge the link between diamonds and various human rights abuses. The term ‘conflict diamond’ should encompass issues of internal strife, and social and economic crises caused by diamond mining and perpetuated by legitimate governments. It was suggested that the responsibility of governments and companies in relation to the loss of livelihoods, environmental destruction and the displacement of local people should be viewed in the same manner as the impact of armed conflicts on society. The example of Botswana – where the government unconstitutionally relocated the local San people from their homesteads and began mining activities – was highlighted. In some countries, mercenaries have been hired by mining companies to restore order in diamond mining areas and massive human rights violations have subsequently been committed.

It was also noted that the KP has done very little to influence member states to become transparent in the allocation of mining contracts and the use of diamond revenues.

The role of civil society in the KP was also discussed. It was observed that civil society is reactive and not proactive. It simply react to abuses when they take place instead of taking a proactive approach and engaging other stakeholders – such as diamond companies, parliaments and executives – on how to improve the industry so that it serves and benefits the people. Civil society should also demand information about diamond revenues in order to have a clear picture of how diamond revenues are being utilised. For this reason, some panellists called for the KP to include economic security within its mandate.

There was also a suggestion that a tripartite alliance of civil society, industry and government should be established at national level. The duty of such an alliance, it was argued, would be to closely monitor internal diamond control systems. Since the effectiveness of the KP is judged by people on the ground, there was also a call for local KP structures to incorporate civilians. And there was also a call for the KP review missions to be strengthened by inviting independent actors from outside the KP to inspect a country’s internal diamond control systems and revenue transparency.

Other panellists took a grassroots approach to assessing the KP’s effectiveness and asserted that the key weakness of the KP is the gap that exists between its ideal standards and the realities on the ground. It was suggested that diamond production is characterised by four features: high level of informality (most diamonds come from informal sectors especially in most central African countries, apart from Angola); opacity of the diamond chain (in the DRC it is difficult to know where legitimate diamond trading offices are located); insecurity and permanent conflict in diamond mining areas (especially in Central Africa where conflict is usually between migrant workers and local miners, and between mining communities and the security forces); and diamond smuggling. If these problems are to be resolved, national governments must take the lead role, including establishing effective diamond regulations and control systems. It was argued that the KP’s requirements were proving to be inadequate. However, if they were effectively adopted and implemented at national level, they would promote better governance. The panellists also looked at whether the KP should incentivise the scheme so that member states see benefits in adhering to the requirements of the scheme. It was also suggested that the KP could learn from other initiatives such as Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) since the two mechanisms share common objectives.

Finally, it was argued that the KP is failing to deal with issues of member states non-compliance. Although sanctions and suspensions might appear the most suitable way to respond when member states are non-compliant, there is a danger of promoting the illegal diamond trade since non-compliant countries will likely continue to trade their diamonds on the illegal market. And so the KP was urged to consider the political conditions in any diamond producing country before taking punitive measures.




A robust intervention was that there is too much emphasis placed on the relationship between governments and companies. If a state is left to perform a number of duties by itself it will invariably end up giving preference to the interests of the corporate world at the expense of its citizens. It was argued that corporate actors should not be trusted, as these actors do not have the interests of the state – or its citizens – at heart. African governments were urged to protect their national interests by adhering to their constitutions before any global governance mechanisms.

Some participants warned that the EITI was not necessarily the best example of a functional governance mechanism since it has its own flaws. However, others – while acknowledging its challenges – commended the EITI for its willingness to adopt reforms and remain relevant in a changing global political economy. It was argued that the reluctance of KP members to be similarly flexible and introduce reforms to keep it relevant would kill the scheme.

Participants also argued that the KP – just like the EITI – has an ideological foundation that needs to be understood. Equally, it is important to understand the ideological and political nature of African states in order to correctly interpret actions taken by these states in terms of KP compliance. There is a need to analyse what constitutes the African state and how different social forces and power dynamics operate on the ground. Without understanding the nature of African states, the KP will not be in a position to fruitfully engage with them.

Participants questioned the extent to which the KP is able to protect people living in diamond mining areas from illegal displacement by governments and mining companies. It was stated that that the KP seems to overlook – and even undermine – artisanal miners, who in some parts of Africa have developed sustainable livelihoods through their so-called informal diamond mining practices. There was an insistence that local communities be recognised as critical stakeholders rather than treated as third class citizens with no direct participation.

About the author(s)

Claude Kabemba is the Director of the Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW). In 2006, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) asked him to spearhead the formation of SARW. He holds a PhD in International Relations (Political economy) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Thesis: Democratisation and the Political Economy of a Dysfunctional State: The Case of the Democratic Republic of Congo). Before joining SARW, he worked at the Human Sciences Research Council and the Electoral institute of Southern Africa as a Chief Research Manager and Research Manager respectively. He has also worked at the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Centre for Policy Studies as Policy Analyst. Dr. Kabemba’s main areas of research interest include: Political economy of Sub Saharan Africa with focus on Southern and Central Africa looking specifically on issues of democratization and governance, natural resources governance, election politics, citizen participation, conflicts, media, political parties, civil society and social policies. He has consulted for international organizations such Oxfam, UNHCR, The Norwegian People’s Aid, Electoral Commissions and the African Union. He has undertaken various evaluations related to the work of Electoral Commissions and civil society groups interventions in the electoral process in many African countries. He is regularly approached by both local and international media for comments on political and social issues on the continent. His publication record spans from books (as editor), book chapters, journal articles, monographs, research reports, and newspaper articles.


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