By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone - Botswana is competing with Russia for the vice-chairmanship of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the world’s premier watchdog against conflict diamonds and their trade, a report contained in the weekly Mmegi newspaper has revealed.
It has emerged that Botswana and Russia are the only two countries so far which have shown an interest in the coveted post.
Botswana is the largest producer of rough diamonds by value while Russia is the largest producer by volume. According to the report in Mmegi, Botswana last chaired the KPCS in 2006, after Russia’s own term ended in 2005.
The paper reported that under KPCS rules, the annual battle to lead the organisation is focused on the vice chair, as the vice automatically becomes chair the following year. The vice is chosen by other member states at the organisation’s annual plenary meeting, which this year is set for November 12 to 16 in Brussels, Belgium.
The KPCS, which has 81 countries and observers who include the World Diamond Council, is dedicated to cleaning up the diamond industry and preventing production and trading of conflict diamonds.
Mmegi quoted authoritative sources as saying that while both countries had gathered support from other members for the Brussels battle, there were also discussions towards a compromise ahead of the November election.
“Both countries are wary of pushing too hard ahead of the plenary and are also wary of the fallout from such campaigns. They would rather discuss among themselves what to do and reach a compromise. All indications are that the talks are at an advanced stage,” a diamond industry analyst was quoted as saying.
In a brief response to written enquiries, the Ministry of Mineral Resources, Green Technology and Energy Security, confirmed that Botswana was in the running for the KPCS’ vice chair position and that a compromise had been discussed. “We are aware that Russia has also submitted a bid for the same position. Botswana continues to lobby other members to support us. The process of consultation is in place and the two countries have begun negotiations to reach a consensus for a single candidate,” Ministry spokesperson, Moreri Moesi was quoted as saying.
Officials at the Russian Embassy in Gaborone confirmed that a proposal had been sent to the government outlining what Moscow was willing to offer and concede.
Russian Embassy attaché, Nikita Eroshov told Mmegi that no compromise had been reached yet.
“We have not finished discussions and there is no compromise position yet. We continue to talk and we will share information when we have results,” he said.
The KPCS chairmanship is viewed as a powerful position from which countries enhance their influence in the diamond industry.