Zimbabwe to pull troops from mines
HARARE, Zimbabwe - The country has promised to withdraw its soldiers from diamond fields in the east, an official newspaper reported yesterday - a week after a rights group alleged the military was committing killings and abuses in the area.
The move appeared to be an attempt to diffuse criticism over the military’s takeover of the Marange diamond fields and ensure that Zimbabwe’s precious stones will not be tainted with the “blood diamond’’ label by activists, which would reduce their value.
The Ministry of Mines denied last month’s report by Human Rights Watch that said troops had killed more than 200 people at the Marange diamond fields while forcing children to search for diamonds and beating villagers who got in the way.
Instead, Zimbabwe’s coalition government said the military was there to secure the area, about 150 miles east of Harare.
The 140,000-acre Marange diamond fields were discovered in 2006 - at the height of Zimbabwe’s political, economic, and humanitarian crisis. Villagers rushed to the area and began finding diamonds near the surface.
The army took over the Marange diamond fields in late October. Before that, the police were in control and Human Rights Watch said fewer abuses occurred.
Officials of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme - the world’s diamond-control body - recently visited the fields after allegations that security chiefs and loyalists of President Robert Mugabe were either perpetrating or tolerating rights abuses and illegal diamond exports.
Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told Kimberley inspectors on Saturday that the troops would be withdrawn from the diamond fields and the country would meet international mining standards, the Sunday Mail reported.