Latest Developments, April 26

In the latest news and analysis…

Into Africa
Stars and Stripes reports that the US is sending 550 marines to Spain to serve as an Africa-focused “crisis reaction force”:

“[Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos] said the unit, which will serve the needs of U.S. Africa Command boss Gen. David Rodriguez, also could eventually be repositioned on the African continent if U.S. diplomatic officials make such an arrangement.
‘Right now, they’re temporarily going to Morón, Spain, as a placeholder,’ Amos said during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee. ‘I think they are going to move sometime. It wouldn’t surprise me to find them moving around the African continent.’ ”

Calling a spade a spade
The CBC reports that former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin has said that the country’s residential schools made “use of education for cultural genocide”:

“The residential school system existed from the 1870s until the 1990s and saw about 150,000 native youth taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of ‘civilizing’ First Nations.
Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide or died fleeing their schools. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.”

Phantom companies
Global Financial Integrity’s Clark Gascoigne welcomes the German, French and UK governments’ calls for the disclosure of the “true owners of companies and trusts”:

“GFI studies estimate that anonymous shell companies and tax haven secrecy facilitate the illegal outflow of roughly $1 trillion from developing countries every year, exacerbating poverty and instability.

‘It’s fantastic to see the three largest economies in Europe endorse eliminating anonymous shell companies,’ [GFI Director Raymond] Baker remarked. ‘France, Germany, and the UK are demonstrating real leadership. The rest of Europe should join them to put an end to these terrible phantom firms.’ ”

New mission
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has approved the establishment of a peacekeeping mission for Mali called MINUSMA, comprising a force of 12,600 with backup from the French military:

“French forces would be able to intervene to support MINUSMA when peacekeepers are ‘under imminent and serious threat and upon the request of the secretary-general,’ according to the resolution.
Russia said on Thursday it was alarmed that there was a growing shift towards a ‘force aspect’ within U.N. peacekeeping operations after the council last month created a special combat force within its peacekeeping mission in Congo to carry out ‘targeted offensive operations’ to neutralize armed groups.
‘There must be a clear division between peacekeeping and peace enforcement. This is why we believe that the mandate of MINUSMA does not provide for offensive operations,’ Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council after the vote.”

Old mission
The Associated Press reports that the UN security council voted to maintain MINURSO, the 22 year-old peacekeeping force in Western Sahara, after the US dropped its proposal that a new mandate include human rights monitoring:

“In a report to the Security Council last month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “independent, impartial, comprehensive and sustained monitoring of the human rights situations in both Western Sahara and the camps” for Saharan refugees because of continuing reports of rights violations.
The United States, following up on the report, proposed having the UN monitor human rights in the resolution it drafted to extend the mandate of UN peacekeepers.

Diplomats said that when the U.S. presented its draft resolution to the Friends of Western Sahara group, which includes Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Spain and Switzerland, there were strong objections from France so the U.S. dropped the human rights monitoring provision.”

American stain
A New York Times editorial calls Guantanamo Bay “essentially a political prison” that should never have been opened:

“It was nothing more than Mr. Bush’s attempt to evade accountability by placing prisoners in another country. The courts rejected that ploy, but Mr. Bush never bothered to fix the problem. Now, shockingly, the Pentagon is actually considering spending $200 million for improvements and expansions clearly aimed at a permanent operation.

Just as hunger strikes at the infamous Maze Prison in Northern Ireland indelibly stained Britain’s human rights record, so Guantánamo stains America’s.”

Plundering Africa
EurActiv reports on a new study revealing the complicity of European Banks and tax havens in the “plundering” of Angola in the 1990s:

“Millions of dollars were transferred through banks based in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Cyprus, the Netherlands, the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man to the benefit of powerful Angolan and Russian figures, the report shows.

[Corruption Watch UK’s Andrew Feinstein] added that it was because of the facilitating role of banks, tax havens and the veil provided by front companies that national resources were stolen from the poorest citizens with impunity.
Feinstein’s report makes several recommendations to Angola, Switzerland, the EU and its member states, and the financial sector to initiate investigations and take legal measures to prevent wrongdoing. In particular, he recommends that the EU’s accounting directive, which will require reporting of payments to governments in the extractive and forestry sector, be extended to include the banking sector.”

Fair trade fashion
In the wake of the building collapse that killed hundreds of workers making clothes for Western brands in Bangladesh, the Guardian’s Susanna Rustin expresses frustration that “applying even the most modest ethical criteria is ridiculously hard” for consumers:

“The Rana Plaza collapse is all the more distressing because it seems to have been avoidable. Consumers can’t prevent such tragedies. Governments and NGOs must apply pressure, both to the retailers responsible for the people who make their clothes, and to those in charge of regulating them. But until we can be more confident that workers’ lives are not being endangered, we must start to be more curious about where our clothes come from. Some of us are wearing clothes sewn by those killed this week in Dhaka.”

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