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Diamond trade is not all about greed

October 14, 2006

PITTING the diamond industry against a Hollywood film may make for a good story ["Crystallizing Opinion," by Elizabeth Snead," Oct. 10]. Unfortunately, it is not supported by the facts.

Contrary to what your story suggested, the De Beers Group has no issue with the forthcoming movie "Blood Diamond." For one thing, we have not seen it.

For another, to the extent that it increases public awareness of the historical events in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, we believe this movie could help us achieve one of our primary goals -- full industry compliance with what is called the Kimberley Process.

This is the United Nations-mandated and legally binding system, supported by the diamond industry, non-governmental organizations and 69 governments worldwide, designed to keep conflict diamonds out of the marketplace.

Today, as a result of the Kimberley Process, 99.8% of all diamonds traded throughout the world are conflict-free. There is still room for improvement, but the Kimberley Process clearly works.

It is important to understand that the overwhelming majority of African diamonds have never had any association with conflict. Quite the opposite: The legitimate diamond trade has played a crucial role in improving the lives of Africans -- particularly in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, the major producers.

Because of the diamond industry, hundreds of thousands of Africans enjoy better schools, livelihoods and healthcare. For example, in the battle against HIV/AIDS, De Beers was one of the first companies in Africa to provide free critical antiretroviral medicine to all its employees and their spouses.

De Beers is an African company whose success is deeply linked to Africa's success. As an African and a De Beers employee, I work each day to make diamonds an African success story, and articles like yours only make this task more difficult.

If Ed Zwick, Leonardo DiCaprio and the power of Hollywood can help in this effort, I welcome their support.


Washington, D.C.

Kainyah is director of corporate and public affairs for the De Beers Group.

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