Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to the bill. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
Actually this is the second time I have spoken on this issue. I spoke when it was first brought to the House. On many occasions I have alluded in the House to the fact that I come from Africa. I was born in Africa and grew up and worked there. My colleague discussed the issues of Sierra Leone and the Congo of today, where the conflict is ongoing and where diamonds are a major force and one of the major culprits in fuelling this war.
I grew up in Tanzania, a diamond producing country. It has been one of the major diamond producing countries for a while. At the present time I would like to give due credit to the people of Tanzania, to the Government of Tanzania, and to President Nyerere, as a matter of fact, who brought unity to that country. As such, because of his vision, his desire and the nature of the people of Tanzania, diamonds did not become one of the major points on which there was conflict in that nation. We are all thankful, especially people like me who grew up there. We never witnessed the war and, as my colleague from Nepean—Carleton mentioned, the horrible tragedies that have taken place in Sierra Leone. On that aspect I would like to once more express appreciation to the people of Tanzania, to the Government of Tanzania and to late President Nyerere for creating a peaceful atmosphere so that diamonds did not become a major situation there like elsewhere on the continent.
I have seen diamonds being mined. I have seen how easy it is to smuggle diamonds. A small piece of the illegal diamond activity also went on in Tanzania. Diamonds are small and can be hidden or taken away in a small bag. Hence they are very attractive and one of the easiest things to smuggle. Once there was a market it became an easier commodity to smuggle, which in turn fuelled these wars. However, as my colleague asked, where were these arms coming from? There were big arms brought into the country. They had to be brought in.
I will ask my colleague about one of the biggest concerns about the Kimberley process. We still have on that continent governments that are not accountable, governments that do not follow even their own rules of law. Zimbabwe is an example. There are other countries as well. Let us look at the Ivory Coast. I was in Ivory Coast with the Governor General on a state visit in 1999. Then it was a peaceful land, touted as one of the model African states. We must look what is happening there today, where such a rapid deterioration has taken place. It is quite shocking to see the civil war that is going on there.
Because of the lack of accountability, because nobody holds the countries accountable, the conditions for the rule of law seem to dissipate very quickly on that continent. That gives rise to these kinds of wars of smuggling. Countries that have diamonds will smuggle them because it is a very easy process, but on the other side we have someone providing a market for them.
The Kimberley process is an excellent attempt to stop it. The international committee is making an attempt to try to stop it through the process. I think it will have a success. There is no question in my mind. This is not one of those processes that will fail. My colleagues before me have indicated some of their concerns about the bill. They intend to take them to the committee to see that those concerns are addressed and tightened.
However, let us go back one step to the Kimberley process. While we have confidence in the process, for the sake of the people in third world countries and in Africa at this stage--and this disease can spread even to Latin America where there are diamonds or commodities that are easy to smuggle--there is a question that we also need to address in Ottawa so that we take this scourge of civil war out of the countries. We need to hold the governments accountable as well. We need to orchestrate that. If they do not fulfill the rule of law as is required by civilized countries through United Nations or whatever, then there must be a mechanism to bring them to accountability.
I am glad to hear from my colleague across the way that in Sierra Leone people identified as being responsible for the atrocities committed over there eventually will be brought to trial. I hope they do that, and also in the Rwanda and the Burundi processes as well. We need to do that. If we do not do that, we can have as many Kimberley processes as we want, but at the end of the day they are not going to solve this. It will put a dent into this, but will it at the end of the day be sufficient to stop this misery on this continent and anywhere else? In a bigger ratio diamonds are a natural resource that has been utilized for this because they are easy to smuggle, but if they find some other natural resource for which this can be done, the issue will come up again.
Let us talk for a moment about Nigeria before democracy and the new government came in. As we know, the famous poet was hanged in Nigeria by the former dictator because he was demanding for his people the rights to the natural resources, the oil in those people's lands. Those people were not benefiting. The natural resource was not being used for the benefit of the people. When that happens, there is a deficit. When that deficit happens, if there is a way somebody will exploit it. In these cases, many of the rebel leaders have exploited it. They may have a genuine concern. Who knows?
However, we need to create conditions where there is a rule of law, where somebody held accountable, so that we never give rise to situations where the local people feel that their natural resource is being utilized not for their advantage but against them. The responsibility also lies with the governments in power, the Government of Sierra Leone, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They also all are responsible to ensure that they take care of their own people so that these grievances do not arise where people are forced to take up arms. That is also one of the root causes.
Let us talk for a second about Angola, which is rich in diamonds and which is responsible for this. UNITA for a long time has been at war there, during the cold war because it did not feel part of the nation that picked up arms. Of course it easily could have easily given up when the peace treaty was signed. This conflict of course was exploited by the major part.
The Kimberley process is an excellent process. I will personally support the bill because I know we need to address this issue right now, but there are also bigger issues that we must not brush off the table by just saying that the Kimberley process is the answer to these things.