President Festus Mogae will this week move from boardroom to boardroom in America in a bid to present the Botswana side of the story ahead of the planned Christmas launch of the “conflict diamond” movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Survival International has already hitched its campaign on the excitement surrounding the movie, which is expected to reignite the whole debate around “conflict diamonds”, the issue that, in 2000, gave rise to the Kimberly Process, and to its subsequent diamond certification scheme.
President Mogae, however, has changed his strategy in the fight against the conflict diamond debate and will steer clear of talking about either Survival International or the DiCaprio movie.
“We do not want to feed on to the hype of the movie,” Presidential spokesperson, Jeff Ramsay told the Sunday Standard this week. During his US tour, Mogae will talk about how diamonds are helping Botswana and will next month present recommendations of the Gaborone Kimberly Process meeting to the United Nations.
It is hoped the Kimberly process meeting, slated for Gaborone next month, will focus the international media on how diamonds have helped develop Botswana and efforts made by diamond mining countries in Africa to be clean of blood diamonds.
The film makes no attempt at differentiation with reference to diamonds (conflict, conflict-free, blood diamonds, good diamonds, ethical diamonds, rough, polished, rounds, fancies, etc.) and individual companies, family businesses, corporations, trading centers, dealers, traders, diamond exchanges, producers, mines, countries, cutting centers, etc. It treats them all in the same way as part and parcel of the same subject. The movie tells the story of a diamond trader involved in Sierra Leone’s horrific civil war in the late 1990s. But industry executives worry it could tarnish the industry in the minds of consumers who think the war is still going on.
“The story that is going to be told is a true story, and we all applaud that it is going to be told,” said World Diamond Council chairman, Eli Izhakoff, at a meeting devoted to the issue at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel. “What we need to ensure is that we tell the truth too, and that consumers know what the trade has done to stop this problem.”
Richard Lennox, director in charge of the Diamond Trading Company account at JWT, says the movie “presents a very real danger to our industry,” as the film could leave viewers thinking “a diamond purchase makes you morally responsible for murder and mayhem in Africa.” He noted that its survey showed that 90 percent of consumers would be less willing to buy a product if it was shown to be involved with terrorism or a “blood diamond.” Lennox noted the problem isn’t just the film itself, but the publicity surrounding it. “It’s a big-budget film with a $40 million marketing budget,” he noted. “As we are seeing with The Da Vinci Code, it’s possible that the media may pick up the story and we may be facing a broad front of media attention.” He also noted that the director, Edward Zwick, has serious credentials in Hollywood and could be nominated for an Oscar. “If that happens, this film will be with us to the end of the Academy Awards,” he said.