Mugabe strengthening power base from Chiadzwa diamond auctions

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Harare, Jan 30 (ANI): Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe is strengthening his power base from Chiadzwa diamond auctions, campaigners have said.

Earlier this month, the Kimberley Process (KP) industry watchdog moved to legalise sales from the 150,000-acre Chiadzwa fields in eastern Zimbabwe, which are controlled by the military and have been described by Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti as "the biggest find of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind".

The Guardian quoted campaigners as saying that diamond sales from Chiadzwa could lessen the impact of European and American sanctions, and rather strengthen the 86-year-old leader's military, rebuild his power base and even stage elections this year.

"The agreement would allow a huge amount of diamonds from Chiadzwa to enter the international market, despite the human rights abuses that have been reported from the fields," Elly Harrowell, who monitors KP for the Global Witness lobby group, said.

In 2006, a massive diamond wealth of Chiadzwa was discovered in the Manicaland province when a Zimbabwean company, backed by the military, moved on to the site.

Amnesty International has claimed that soldiers deployed to guard the fields have forced slaves to mine diamonds at gunpoint. Some reports have indicated security forces may have killed miners working illegally on the site, the paper said.

Mugabe, who after disputed elections in 2008 entered an uneasy coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai, has called on his party, Zanu-PF, to prepare for elections this year.

However, Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says a fair and violence-free poll cannot be held until a new constitution is agreed. (ANI)

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