Latest Developments, March 26

In the latest news and analysis…

UN peacemaking
Reuters reports that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended a peacekeeping force for Mali as well as the creation of a parallel combat force:

“In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police – once major combat ends.
To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.
Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.
‘Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the U.N. mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,’ Ban wrote.
The parallel force would not have a formal U.N. mandate, though it would be operating with the informal blessing of the Security Council. The report did not specify a time limit for the mission.”

Cataract of weaponry
The New York Times reports that the CIA is helping arm Syria’s rebels:

“From offices at secret locations, American intelligence officers have helped the Arab governments shop for weapons, including a large procurement from Croatia, and have vetted rebel commanders and groups to determine who should receive the weapons as they arrive, according to American officials speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The scale of shipments was very large, according to officials familiar with the pipeline and to an arms-trafficking investigator who assembled data on the cargo planes involved.

These multiple logistics streams throughout the winter formed what one former American official who was briefed on the program called ‘a cataract of weaponry.’ ”

Old habits
Agence France-Presse reports that France sent an additional 300 troops “to ensure the protection of French and foreign citizens” in the Central African Republic as rebels toppled President François Bozizé over the weekend:

“A tactical command post has been set up in the capital Bangui.
There were already 250 French troops stationed in the Central African Republic.
France has a military base in Gabon, home to a reserve of prepositioned forces regularly deployed during regional crises. Reinforcements had already been sent to Bangui in December during the first rebel offensive.” [Translated from the French.]

Big mistake
Agence France-Presse also reports that France has offered “sincere condolences” after a fatal incident in the Central African Republic’s capital where French troops guarding the airport opened fire:

“Two Indian citizens were killed. The injured Indians and Chadians received immediate assistance from French troops who took them to a medical unit, a defense ministry statement said.
In all, five Indians and four Chadians were injured, according to military spokesman Thierry Burkhard. The Indians are civilians who were working for foreign companies in the Central African Republic and the Chadians are police officers, members of the Central African Multinational Force (FOMAC), he said.” [Translated from the French.]

Investing in Africa
Reuters reports that new UN data reveals a surprising picture of foreign direct investment in Africa:

“Malaysia was the third biggest investor in Africa in 2011, the latest year for which data is available, behind France and the United States, pushing China and India into fourth and fifth positions.
France and the United States also have the largest historical stock of investments in Africa, with Britain in third place and Malaysia in fourth, followed by South Africa, China and India.”

Unintended consequences
The New York Times reports that back in 2011, the European Union “planted a time bomb” in Cyprus’s banking system that led to this week’s bailout/austerity agreement:

“[Former Cyprus finance minister Kikis Kazamias] was in Brussels as European leaders and the International Monetary Fund engineered a 50 percent write-down of Greek government bonds. This meant that anyone holding these bonds — notably the then-cash-rich banks of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus — would lose at least half the money they thought they had. Eventual losses came close to 75 percent of the bonds’ face value.

‘We Europeans showed tonight that we reached the right conclusions,’ Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany announced at the time.
For Cypriot banks, particularly Laiki Bank, at the center of the current storm, however, these conclusions foretold a disaster: Altogether, they lost more than four billion euros, a huge amount in a country with a gross domestic product of just 18 billion euros. Laiki, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank, alone took a hit of 2.3 billion euros, according to its 2011 annual report.”

Sovereignty delayed
Jeune Afrique reports that France, which tested chemical weapons in the Algerian Sahara well into the 1970s, has signed a secret agreement to clean up the contaminated area:

“The existence of this facility for testing chemical and biological weapons was first revealed by the French press in October 1997. But, at the time, information highways were less efficient. The news had no effect on Algerian public opinion. In France, it led only to a superficial discussion on the use of chemical weapons. Fifteen years later, the return of B2-Namous in the news is having a far greater impact, stoking interest in an old state secret that neither Paris nor Algiers want to declassify. Algeria, whose ‘restored sovereignty’ long served to legitimize those in power, only recovered all of its territory 16 years after independence. Until 1978, about 6,000 sq km of its Saharan land, in the Beni Ounif region, on the border with Morocco, remained under French military control.”
[Translated from the French.]

Orphan MDG
The Guardian reports on new hope for the “global partnership” of the neglected eighth Millennium Development Goal:

“Devoid of clear targets, MDG8 talks in general terms about an open, rule-based trading and financial system, dealing with debt burdens, providing access to affordable essential medicines, and increasing access to new technologies. Goal eight also mentions fostering links between the public and private sector to drive better development.

Taxation has emerged as a key issue in terms of global partnerships as rich countries have failed to deliver on trade – the Doha trade round that was supposed to have benefited developing countries remains moribund – and development assistance is shrinking because of austerity in the west. The sums at stake are enormous.”

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