A horrifying new video shows private security guards viciously beating diamond miners in northern Angola. Our Observer managed to have this video smuggled out of a heavily guarded diamond concession.
On September 8, according to our Observer, an employee of the private security firm K & P Mineira secretly filmed his colleagues brutalising two Congolese men caught illegally mining diamonds in a concession owned by the company Luminas. The security guards beat the men with the flat side of machetes. At the end of the video, one of the guard forces the men to dance.
WARNING: THIS VIDEO MAY SHOCK VIEWERS
With the proof of this appalling violence on his phone, the employee contacted Rafael Marques de Morais, an Angolan journalist who was one of the first people to report the trade in illegal “blood diamonds” in his country years ago. Together, they arranged to smuggle the condemning footage from the remote northern Angolan province of Lunda Norte to the capital Luanda. Marques de Morais published the footage on his blog, Maka Angola, which is devoted to fighting corruption.
Marques de Morais' reporting on human rights and corruption has won him numerous international awards and the fury of the Angolan government. In 2011, Marques de Morais published the book “Diamantes de Sangue: Tortura e Corrupção em Angola” (“Blood Diamonds: Torture and Corruption in Angola”). It documents more than 500 cases of torture and 100 killings carried out in two provinces over 18 months by the Angolan army and private security firms. Later that year, protests against private security firms swept the region. Marques de Morais says this new video shows that security companies continue this behavior today.
Marques de Morais has also accused several high-profile generals who own private security firms of being responsible for these abuses. These military officials have accused de Morais of criminal libel. His trial begins Monday, December 15.
“The owners of these private security firms are in the top ranks of the army and the police”
This video came directly from personnel working for the private security firm K&P Mineira who don’t believe this is right. Unfortunately, in this case, there is no information about what happened to the men afterwards.
The kind of beating shown in the video is routine. There are also killings. By law, private security firms are supposed to hand over any illegal miners they catch to the police, but they don’t. Why? Because the owners of these private security firms are high-ranking police and army officials.
Moreover, many of the guards employed by these firms are taken from elite squads in the army and the police. They have better training than the local police and they are better equipped. The soldiers in this area are ineffective in comparison.
Moreover, sometimes the companies will allow illegal miners to start digging. But then as soon as the miners find something, the guards beat them or kill them to claim the diamonds.
“Diamond diggers are more likely to be killed than to get rich”In over 20 years of reporting on human rights abuses in diamond mining areas, I have seen it all. I have taken people to the hospital, I have seen people die. I even saw police digging for diamonds themselves. In 2010, I was ambushed by the police in an operation that was meant to make me disappear. I was very lucky; I survived. [Editor’s Note: The police denied this.]
The diamond areas are some of the poorest in the country. The poverty there is just inconceivable. When the government awards concessions to mining companies, they give away land with villages in it. The companies are supposed to relocate the villages to a safe space outside the concession but they never do that. They use violence to control the local population
There are no jobs, no investment, nothing for these people. If they go and farm, they get attacked for farming on mine land. The perimeters of the concession are not clearly signposted and people have no way of knowing what is owned by the company. Moreover, much of the arable land in the region of Cuango has been destroyed by mining. So these people become diamond diggers as a question of basic subsistence [Editor’s note: There are also many illegal miners who cross over from Congo, like the men in the video.]
However, if you become a diamond digger, you are more likely to lose your life than make money. As soon as a big diamond is found, people fight over it. The man who digs it up will most likely be killed. For the companies, these people are expendable.
I think the authorities get away with this because Angola still has legitimacy with the international community. Despite abuses in its mines, Angola today chairs the Kimberley Process.
The Kimberley Process, which Angola joined in 2003, is a scheme used to trace and certify the origins of diamonds, making sure that they did not come from conflict situations. Member states must notably enforce checks on imports and exports, and can only trade diamonds with other member states. However, many of the original founding states have since left the project, saying that it is corrupt and ineffective.
Luminas has not reacted to the video, nor has the company yet responded to FRANCE 24’s questions. However, back in 2008, the group that controls Luminas – the Lev Leviev Group of Companies, named after the Israeli billionaire of the same name – had denied similar accusations, according to witch guards at one of their mines had brutally cracked down on a miners’ protest.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Brenna Daldorph (@brennad87).