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In line with the goal of promoting economic and social justice and improving mining governance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Kasai region, more specifically, the Regional Council of Development NGO’s le Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement (CRONGD) with the support of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), arranged a roundtable discussion on diamond mining in the Kasai region.

The roundtable discussion took place from 13 to 14 June 2014 in the city of Mbujimayi located in the East Kasai Province. The discussions sought to assess the impact of the 30 year liberation of artisanal mining of precious stones in the DRC and the centenary anniversary of industrial diamond mining. More than fifty participants representing different stakeholders involved in the artisanal and industrial diamond mining convened for the rondtable discussions which included: the civil society and private sector, academics, government departments (Mining Division, provincial mining and Economic Ministries) from the two Kasai provinces along with extractive industries and artisanal diamond miners. During the two-day discussions, stakeholders reflected on various issues relating to diamond mining and its impact on the development of the greater Kasai. Themes which were deliberated on included: a future without diamonds, alternative activities for generating income, diamond mining, child labour in the mines, prostitution of minors, mass migrations, and the flocking of affected populations to other provinces.

The participants provided a critical, yet objective and constructive analysis of the current situation in the greater Kasai: nearly a century of diamond mining. This reasoning led to an emphasis on one of the focal points being formulated during the roundtable discussion, namely: alternative solutions to the problems experienced by the people of the greater Kasai region and populations dependant on diamond mining for their subsistence. It is manifest that these issues require a firm commitment from both national and provincial authorities notwithstanding development partners in formulating and implementing joint sectorial programmes and policies to fight poverty through responsible and transparent management of natural resources.

The following six themes were developed on during the roundtable discussion: (1) industrial exploitation of diamonds in Kasai, (2) the liberalisation of artisanal diamond mining in Kasai, (3) opportunities and perspectives surrounding the “diamond phenomenon”, (4) after nearly a century of diamond mining in the Eastern Kasai region: situation and perspectives, (5) the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and diamond mining in the Kasai region: realities and perspectives; women and children in the mines in the Kasai region: observations and perspectives, and (6) government strategy for the development of alternative resources and its implementation: future challenges and implications.

The analysis of these different interventions, testimonials and sharing of experiences during the discussions unveiled a sobering reality: the result of nearly a century of industrial exploitation of diamonds in the greater Kasai region has led to more disillusionment than hope, more destruction than development. This observation prompted reflections among participants and encouraged them to formulate alternative solutions. In addition, a monitoring and evaluation committee was set-up along with recommendations to be addressed to: the national government (10), to provincial governments (3), to the National Assembly (2), to provincial assemblies (4), to the civil society (10), to CRONGD (2), to specialist services (29), to artisanal miners (4), to local chiefs (2), to funders (4), along with 9 others.

In conclusion, the work of the roundtable on nearly a century of diamond mining in the greater Kasai region enabled participants to assess the contribution of diamond mining to the development of mining companies, their population and their environment. The findings of the reports are, sadly, negative and the above recommendations should be carried out by each stakeholder to help improve the current situation. Through equitable commerce, diamond mining may, hopefully, become a source of sustainable development for the populations which are at the heart of diamond mining.

- Dieudonné TSHIMPIDIMBUA, Executive Secretary of CRONGD, Eastern Kasai, DRC

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