Latest Developments, March 22

In the latest news and analysis…

Teetering regime
Le Figaro reports on growing international concern, particularly in former colonial ruler France, over the rapid advance of rebels toward the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui:

“The situation appeared serious enough for France, which has a contingent of about 250 troops on the ground, to ask for a UN Security Council meeting on Friday night. Paris had placed its troops based in Libreville, Gabon on standby. But most of its forces are currently waging war in Mali. ‘If we are involved in CAR,’ said French President François Hollande late last year, ‘it isn’t to protect a regime. It’s to protect our citizens and interests and in no way to intervene in the internal affairs of a country.’ ” [Translated from the French.]

RIP Chinua Achebe
To mark the passing of “the grandfather of African literature,” the Africa Report reprints a Chinua Achebe interview conducted by fellow Nigerian novelist Helon Habila in 2007:

“I for one always resisted the idea that this is ‘The Achebe School’. Personally, I didn’t want a school at all, and looking back at that generation and you not being aware what it was like to grow up in a situation in which you have no literature, in which you do not belong to the stories that are told, a period in which you went to school and passed through school, and you did not hear anything about yourself throughout that period — unless you went through that, it will be difficult to understand why there was all this to-do about writing our own stories, crafting our own style and so on.

There are many people walking around in Britain today who do not accept that the colonial period adventure was not fair to the people on whom it was unleashed.”

End of CIDA
The Center for Global Development’s Owen Barder and Addis Ababa University’s Lucas Robinson argue that the Canadian government’s decision to merge its international development agency into the ministry of foreign affairs is an opportunity “to move the debate ‘beyond aid’ ”:

“But people from developing countries are clear that development policy must mean more than giving aid. They want to benefit more from the resources and services they supply to the world. They do not want aid as compensation for unfair global trade rules; they want the rules changed. They do not want compensation for the damage done to the environment by industrialized countries; they want the destruction of our planet to stop.
We need to look beyond the management of aid, for which their organizations are designed, to a much broader agenda and new ways of working if we are to deal with the growing array of challenges that require global solutions, including climate change, macroeconomic imbalances, inadequate financial regulation, tax avoidance, inequality, environmental degradation, dislocation, insecurity and corruption.”

Mining murder
Oxfam has condemned the kidnapping of four Guatemalan men, one of whom was subsequently found dead, who opposed a mining project owned by Canada’s Tahoe Resources:

“Local groups had organized a community consultation in which citizens cast votes in favor or against the mining project known as ‘The Escobal.’ The project is located 2.5 kilometers east of the San Jose, municipal head of San Rafael Las Flores. Its operations would impact more than 3,000 people living in the area.
After the consultation, the four leaders, known for defending the rights of local citizens, were kidnapped.”

Sweetheart deal
The Guardian reports that Shell is being accused of paying a mere $20 in annual rent for each of a pair of South African filling stations built on land obtained during apartheid:

“The Shell anomaly is being investigated by South Africa’s parliamentary oversight committee on rural development and land reform. Stone Sizani, its chairman, said: ‘It’s a huge unfairness on the part of Shell to the community there. They’re making huge sums of money from those filling stations and what they’re paying is the equivalent of an indigent family for a piece of land.’
He added: ‘Nobody can explain how Shell got such a piece of land. Even if it was done during apartheid, Shell should be feeling ashamed.’
Shell obtained permission to occupy (PTO) during the apartheid era, when black people were not permitted to obtain title deeds to land.”

Bad paint
The Cameroon Tribune reports on a study suggesting that two-thirds of new paint being sold in the central African nation contains hazardous levels of lead:

“The study, in the May issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, revealed lead concentrations are as high as 50 percent by weight in household paint being sold by Cameroon’s largest paint company, Seigneurie – a subsidiary of the U.S. Company PPG. This concentration is more than 5,000 times the allowable limit in the U.S.

The new study is the first one which provides the names of paint companies and the lead concentrations for all 61 paints tested.”

Drone expansion
The Washington Post reports that Niamey, the capital of Niger, is “the newest outpost in the U.S. government’s empire of drone bases”:

“Like other U.S. drone bases, the Predator operations in Niger are shrouded in secrecy. The White House announced Feb. 22 that Obama had deployed about 100 military personnel to Niger on an “intelligence collection” mission, but it did not make any explicit reference to drones.
Since then, the Defense Department has publicly acknowledged the presence of drones here but has revealed little else. The Africa Command, which oversees U.S. military missions on the continent, denied requests from a Washington Post reporter to interview American troops in Niger or to tour the military airfield where the drones are based, near Niamey’s international airport.”

Less tolerance
Le Monde reports that a new study shows that intolerance is on the rise in France and racist acts and threats increased by 23% last year:

“In all, 55 percent of people surveyed said Muslims are ‘a group on the fringes of society’ (up four points since the 2011 report) and 69 percent believe ‘there are too many immigrants in France today,’ a 10 point increase since 2011. ‘We are seeing a dangerous desensitization to racist comments,’ according to the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights.

If ‘racism’ is ‘relatively stable’ (up two percent), anti-Muslim ‘racism’ (up 30 percent) and particularly ‘antisemitism’ (up 58 percent) have shown the biggest increases.” [Translated from the French.]

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