Aug 31, 2009
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Angola denies mistreating diamond prospectors

Aug 31, 2009

LUANDA (AFP) — Angola on Friday 28 August denied reports of rape and brutality against illegal foreign miners in its diamond fields, as a team of international experts wrapped up a fact-finding visit.

Photo: AFP

The United Nations recently estimated that 115,000 people were deported from the north in seven months, amid allegations of mass rape and brutal treatment.

"This is not true, any complainer can say whatever he wants to say. We should be asking them why they came to our country without a visa," Mining Minister Mankenda Ambroise told AFP.

"If you were in your house and you see someone entering and trying to destroy it, what do you do? Keep quiet? What we are doing is deporting those who are not authorised to be here."

Kimberley Process chairman Bernhard Esau did not comment on the allegations following the week-long visit to check if Angola is following the rules of the body set up to stamp out conflict diamonds.

"The Kimberley Process is not a human rights organisation," he said, adding that the trip, the first to Angola since 2005, had been successful.

The mission included a visit to the diamond-rich north where the government has been accused of acting harshly against prospectors from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

During the latter stages of Angola's nearly three-decade-long civil war, the main opposition party UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola) used diamonds to bankroll its fight against the ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola).

Since the war ended in 2002, the industry has been regulated and Angola is now the world's fifth-biggest diamond exporter.

But international organisations remain critical of how Angola treats the artisanal miners, who work casually in alluvial river deposits and whose gems account for around one-tenth of output and a quarter of overall revenue.

Shawn Blore, a researcher with lobby group Partnership Africa Canada, expressed disappointment at the Kimberley Process (KP) chair's decision not to comment on the allegations.

"This is an organisation created expressly to put an end to blood diamonds," he told AFP. "Whether it's a rebel movement abusing diamond miners or a government, it's wrong, and the KP should say so."

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