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Did the Saudis Murder Jamal Khashoggi? @NewYorker
Law & Politics
The last time I spoke with Jamal Khashoggi, in August, he was worried
about his life. The Saudi dissident, a fifty-nine-year-old former
editor and government adviser, was convinced that the kingdom’s new
leadership wanted to kill him. “Of course, they’d like to see me out
of the picture,” he said. He’d said it to me before, but by then he
had been in exile, in Washington, for more than a year, so I thought
he was exaggerating the dangers. Maybe not. Khashoggi hasn’t been seen
since he went into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, on Tuesday, to get
papers verifying his divorce so that he could remarry. His fiancée,
who waited outside for eleven hours, said he never emerged.
Five days have passed, with no proof of life, and international
human-rights groups now allege that Khashoggi has been abducted. On
Sunday, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Tayyip Recep
Erdoğan, told Reuters that Turkey believes Khashoggi was murdered in
the Saudi consulate, adding that fifteen Saudis were allegedly
involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance. Erdoğan told reporters that his
government is investigating the event. “Entries and exits into the
embassy, airport transits, and all camera records are being looked at
and followed,” he told reporters. “We want to swiftly get results.”
The U.S. State Department also said it is closely following the case.
A Turkish colleague of Khashoggi’s told journalists, on Sunday, that
the Turkish government advised him to “make your funeral preparation.”
Khashoggi had been killed “in a barbaric way” and then dismembered,
Turan Kışlakçı, who heads the Turkish-Arab Media Association, told the
Associated Press. Another report claimed that his body had been taken
back to Saudi Arabia.
Khashoggi has long been an important voice in the kingdom. I’ve known
him for decades. He had been loyal to the royals, and, for many
foreign journalists and experts, he was always a good place to start
to understand the monarchy’s thinking. Khashoggi served as the editor
of the Saudi daily newspaper Al Watan and headed a television station.
But he became increasingly critical of the government and, in June,
2017, decided to leave. Even in exile, he still influenced the debate
about the kingdom’s future, with almost 1.7 million followers on
Twitter, a Global Opinions column in the Washington Post, and regular
appearances on international television.
The bizarre mystery surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance is part of a
broader trend since the appointment, in June of last year, of the
young Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is more commonly
known by his initials, M.B.S. The thirty-three-year-old has pledged
sweeping reforms, but his rule has been increasingly ruthless, with
mass arrests of businessmen, and even other princes, and death
sentences meted out, this year, to a women’s-rights activist and also
to moderate clerics who have preached against extremism. “Above and
beyond the persecution of activists, writers, clerics, scholars, and
businessmen inside Saudi, where the Saudis could claim some kind of
‘process,’ the apparent kidnapping of Khashoggi is now a pattern of
attacks where the Saudis don’t even make a pretense of legality,”
Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch’s
Middle East division, told me on Sunday.
The growing campaign of intimidation, she noted, includes the arrest,
in May, of Loujain al-Hathloul, a women’s-rights activist who once
ranked third among the Arab world’s hundred most powerful women—even
as the kingdom said that it was opening up opportunities for women by
allowing them to drive, an issue that Hathloul had championed. Another
is what Whitson called the “goonish assault” on Ghanem al-Dosari, who
is famed for his satirical YouTube videos criticizing the Saudi royal
family, by Saudi agents in London. Three Saudi princes have been
abducted since King Salman, M.B.S.’s father, became king, in 2015, the
BBC reported. Taken together, Whitson said, all of these acts “reflect
the brazen, crude, Qaddafi-like nature of the Saudi crown prince, and,
above all, his message to Saudis inside and outside the country: you
better shut up. You are not safe. There is no law that can protect
But experts on Saudi Arabia suspect a more ominous pattern. “The
crocodile tears of the crown prince and other Saudi officials are
probably for deception and prevarication,” Bruce Riedel, a former
C.I.A., Pentagon, and National Security Council staffer who is now at
the Brookings Institution, told me. “The disappearance of Jamal fits
with a pattern of crude intimidation and the silencing of criticism
In words that now haunt his own case, Khashoggi told me, in August,
that the crown prince has “no tolerance or willingness to accommodate
critics.” Although he is technically next in line to the throne,
M.B.S. acts as the country’s de-facto leader, Khashoggi said, and has
already become more autocratic than any of the previous six kings who
have ruled since the death of Ibn Saud, the founder of modern Saudi
Arabia, in 1953.
When we spoke last November, Khashoggi compared the Saudi monarchy to
the Iranian theocracy. “M.B.S. is now becoming the supreme leader,” he
said, a reference to Iran’s top authority, who has veto power over
every branch of the government. Since his father became king, in 2015,
M.B.S. has consolidated his hold on the five major sectors of power,
serving as minister of defense, head of a new economic council, and
chief of the royal court. “He is very autocratic and totally
illiberal,” Khashoggi told me in August. “I worked for the government
for four or five years. I never thought I’d be arrested, but then I
thought I might. That’s why I left.” Khashoggi’s status became ever
more precarious as his critiques of the monarchy sharpened in recent
Amnesty International called reports of Khashoggi’s assassination “an
abysmal new low. Such an assassination within the grounds of the
consulate, which is territory under Saudi Arabian jurisdiction, would
amount to an extrajudicial execution. This case sends a shockwave
among Saudi Arabian human rights defenders and dissidents everywhere,
eroding any notion of seeking safe haven abroad.”
Saudi economic problems are serious, but not necessarily disastrous.
Law & Politics
More destabilising for the Kingdom is the extent to which Saudi Arabia
is now demonstrably operating beyond its real strength in the region
as its its more adventurous foreign policy over the last three years
The list of failures is impressive: Saudi-led bombing in Yemen since
2015 has not defeated the Houthis, but it has produced the greatest
manmade famine on earth; increased help for the Syrian armed
opposition the same year provoked Russian military intervention and
has brought President Bashar al-Assad close to victory; the quarrel
with Qatar has weakened all the Gulf monarchies; confrontation with
Iran is a conflict that can never be won.
03-SEP-2018 :: Belle at the ball
Law & Politics
I remember a time my then 11 Year old daughter Layla attended the
school disco and when I picked her up, her eyes glittered and she
could scarcely stand still. I asked, ‘’Darling, how was it?’’ She
said, “Daddy, I danced and I danced and I didn’t stop!’’ I wanted to
pick her up, spin her as Jean Rhys wrote in her Novel ‘’Wide sargasso
sea’’: Only the magic and the dream are true - all the rest’s a lie.
And, “I must remember about chandeliers and dancing, about swans and
roses and snow.”
Here Are Some of Brazil Front-Runner Jair Bolsonaro's Most Incendiary Statements
Jair Bolsonaro, a former Army captain and seven-term lawmaker with a
penchant for courting controversy, has become the embodiment of
Brazil’s divided society. He posted a huge victory Sunday in the first
round of presidential elections, setting him up to win the decisive
second round in three weeks despite the fact 44 percent of Brazilians
say there’s no way they’d ever vote for him. If you’re new to Brazil
politics and trying to understand why Bolsonaro’s such a polarizing
figure, here’s a sampling of some of the most controversial comments
he’s made in recent years:
June 2011 -- “I would be incapable of loving a homosexual son,”
Bolsonaro said in an interview with Playboy magazine. “I won’t be a
hypocrite: I prefer a son to die in an accident than show up with a
mustachioed guy. He’d be dead to me anyway.”
October 2014 -- "She doesn’t deserve to be raped, because she’s very
ugly,” Bolsonaro said in an interview with local media, referring to a
fellow congresswoman. “She’s not my type. I would never rape her. I’m
not a rapist, but if I were, I wouldn’t rape her because she doesn’t
April 2016 -- “For the memory of Colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante
Ustra, the terror of Dilma Rousseff [...] my vote is yes!” In Brazil’s
Lower House of Congress, Bolsonaro dedicated his vote in favor of
President Rousseff’s impeachment to the Army officer who oversaw
torture for the dictatorship when she was imprisoned.
April 2017 -- In describing his visit to a quilombo, as communities
descended from escaped slaves are known, Bolsonaro characterized
residents as fat, citing a unit of measurement reserved for livestock.
“They don’t do anything!” he continued. “I don’t think they even serve
for procreation anymore.”
September 2018 -- “We’re going to execute the Workers’ Party members
here!” Bolsonaro told a cheering crowd in Acre state, on the
Venezuelan border, after pretending to fire a machine gun. “Let’s run
those crooks out of Acre! Since they like Venezuela so much, they’ll
need to go there!”
Were there any doubt, Bolsonaro said in a radio interview Monday that,
while he’s stopped using curse words, Brazilians shouldn’t expect him
to become a “peace and love’’ candidate in the second round of the
African nations' borrowing costs hit post write-off high @FinancialTimes
African countries are paying the highest average borrowing costs since
a mass debt relief campaign wiped out a large chunk of what they owed,
as a result of a surge of fresh capital-raising in recent years.
Payments on external debt — borrowings owed to lenders outside the
country — hit an average of 12 per cent of African governments’
revenues in 2017, according to research by financial pressure group
the Jubilee Debt Campaign, the highest level since 2001. Increases in
borrowings, falling commodity prices from mid-2014 and the
strengthening dollar have all fuelled the increase, according to the
researchers. By contrast, developed nations’ external debt cost
averages 9.6 per cent of their government revenues, the campaign
Tim Jones, a policy officer at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: “Debt
problems are worsening on the African continent.”
He called for greater transparency in African nations’ financing
deals, saying that “we need new rules to make all lenders publicly
disclose loans to governments at the time they are given”.
“The IMF needs to stop responding to debt crises by giving loans which
bail out other lenders, from China to western companies, incentivising
them to continue lending recklessly,” he added. “Instead, lenders need
to be made to restructure and reduce debts.”
Since 2013, the median ratio of public debt to gross domestic product
in low-income countries has risen 13 percentage points to hit 47 per
cent in 2017, IMF researchers found.
The heaviest cost for African countries comes from private lenders,
the Jubilee Debt Campaign found. Nearly a third of African
governments’ debt is owed to private creditors, but they account for
55 per cent of interest payments.
One Domino that has suddenly tipped over is Zimbabwe.
Reuters reported that People again formed long queues to fill up their
cars in the capital, with others panic-buying basic goods like cooking
oil and sugar.
There are $9.3 billion of Zollars in banks compared to $200 million in
reserves, official data showed, a mis- match that creates a premium
for the U.S. dollar and fans the black market.
It now takes 2.8 bond notes to buy one U.S. dollar, which is the weakest exchange rate on record, according to the Zim Bollar Index, a local website
It now takes 2.8 bond notes to buy one U.S. dollar, which is the
weakest exchange rate on record, according to the Zim Bollar Index, a
local website. In early September the rate was 1.75. Bond notes
represented the value of one greenback when they were first printed.
The stock market is also signaling increased stress in the southern
African nation’s financial system. The main equities index rose 8.7
percent last week to its highest since November, when the military
ousted long-serving ruler Robert Mugabe, who oversaw the economy’s
In Zimbabwe’s skewed markets, rising stock prices are a sign that
foreign-currency shortages are worsening. Local traders pile into
equities when bond notes depreciate and they fear inflation will
accelerate. It’s a phenomenon that’s forced foreign investors
including Franklin Templeton, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Allan Gray --
who can’t repatriate their money because of strict capital controls --
to write down the value of their assets.
Zimbabweans have stocked up on goods after the authorities increased a
tax on money transfers to 2 cents per dollar transacted, from a flat
rate of 5 cents per transaction, at the beginning of the month.
Vehicles formed long lines at fuel stations over the weekend,
prompting the head of the national oil company to say there’s enough
gasoline to last six months and the hoarding “is uncalled for.”
On Sunday, the central bank said it was drawing down part of a $500
million credit line from the African Development Bank to pay for
imports of fuel, electricity and wheat.
The weakening of bond notes “is being caused by some people bent to
dupe the public of their hard-earned income,” said John Mangudya,
governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. “The opportunists are
manipulating foreign-currency parallel-market rates to cause
unnecessary panic and despondency.”
TV tax stirs Zambian fears over Chinese 'debt-trap' diplomacy @FT
Michael Muntemba says there is something odd about the levy he has to
pay to watch state television in Zambia. “I’ve heard the rumours,” the
clothes seller said in hushed tones.
He pays less than a dollar a month in tax meant to support the Zambia
National Broadcasting Corporation. But the payment lies at the heart
of accusations that Zambia has given up its sovereignty in return for
$9.4bn of debt, up to one-third of it owed to China.
Mr Muntemba’s suspicion, widely shared in Zambia, is that part of his
K10 ($0.86) TV levy, which has more than doubled in a year, is being
used to service a $273m loan taken by ZNBC, the state broadcaster,
from China’s Exim Bank.
The loan’s terms are opaque, but as alarm grows in Africa over Chinese
“debt trap” diplomacy, the lack of transparency has put the Zambian
government on the defensive amid rumours that public assets have been
placed in hock to Beijing.
“Borrowing is OK if you know where the money goes,” said Mr Muntemba.
“But the government is not borrowing safely.”
China has been ratcheting up its involvement in Africa for the past
two decades and, more recently, has become a crucial lender to several
African countries, including Angola, Ethiopia, Kenya — and copper-rich
While many African leaders have welcomed Beijing’s help, particularly
in building infrastructure, there has been growing disquiet among
civil society groups, which say Chinese loans come with strings
attached, and finance corruption by local political leaders.
Trade ties that involve China sending equipment and manufactured goods
in return for African raw materials have also been compared with
patterns prevalent during colonialism.
In Zambia, the Exim Bank loan is backing a joint venture called
TopStar between ZNBC and StarTimes, a private Beijing-based media
group that owns 60 per cent of the new business and wants to use it to
roll out a digital TV service. Activists say TopStar is ringfencing
public revenue for its own purposes.
Fumba Chama, a popular rapper who goes by the name Pilato and has
criticised public borrowing in his lyrics, said: “ZNBC does not have a
voice any more. They know it’s embarrassing. They know that they did a
Zengeni Simuchembu, an officer of the Alliance for Community Action, a
local anti-corruption NGO, said: “It is effectively a takeover.”
He added: “When I invest in a company, and I have 60 per cent, and
then I actually control the revenue . . . I control how the company
Zambia’s auditor-general echoed these concerns last year. He noted in
a report that the loan backing TopStar had failed to specify what
revenue was earmarked for ZNBC as opposed to paying off the debt.
The report added that ZNBC failed to develop its own plan to repay the
loan, the first interest instalment of which was missed when it came
due last July.
The controversy over the loan has left President Edgar Lungu and his
ruling Patriotic Front facing pointed questions. Zambia’s debt has
doubled in about half a decade and doubts are growing over its ability
to pay it back.
Mr Lungu has called concern over Chinese borrowing “reckless
propaganda”. Beijing, he said, has funded much-needed infrastructure,
including the digital switchover financed by the ZNBC loan.
Critics of the ruling party counter that much infrastructure spending
is laden with kickbacks used to dispense political patronage. Mr
Lungu’s government denies the claims.
Addressing parliament last month, Margaret Mwanakatwe, Zambia’s
finance minister, said the government had not “pledged any public
asset as collateral”.
But investors have taken fright. Zambia’s US dollar sovereign bonds
have plunged more this year than even Turkey’s or Argentina’s during
the recent sell-off in emerging markets.
Investors are also nervous about a further $5bn debt in the pipeline
for Chinese infrastructure loans. While the finance ministry is
indicating it will seek to slow down new borrowing, bondholders say
they also want delays on repaying many Chinese loans.
“We should be worried about Zambia’s complacency rather than a
conspiracy,” said Gregory Smith, an analyst at Renaissance Capital.
An Exim Bank loan is backing a joint venture called TopStar between
ZNBC and StarTimes, a private Beijing-based media group © Joseph
StarTimes’s ambitions extend far in Africa. Pang Xinxing, StarTimes’s
founder, hosted leaders from Ghana, Lesotho, Sierra Leone and other
countries during a China-Africa summit in Beijing last month. Mr Lungu
was also there and his ministers praise StarTimes for bringing digital
TV to remote villages.
Commercial rivals to TopStar have also previously accused it of
blocking the free-to-air digital TV signal in parts of the country.
StarTimes did not respond to the FT’s request for comment on
controversy over the TopStar loan.
Mr Simuchembu said the rising TV levy makes it “difficult for citizens
to survive” in a country where most get by on less than two dollars a
But Mr Lungu’s government is less than tolerant of domestic dissent on
the matter. While Chinese money might be welcome at the Zambian state
broadcaster, Mr Chama, the rapper, is not.
He was arrested earlier this year after ruling-party cadres deemed one
song to be disrespectful of Mr Lungu. State agents still harass him,
he said. “My stand on social issues inconveniences them. It’s not
something they like to hear.”
Mr Chama said frank disclosure and debate about the Chinese loans must
be allowed in order for Zambia to resolve its debt. “China is not
Father Christmas,” he said. “We should be brave enough to say that it
is not free money.”
A billion youths in Africa will be unemployable @mailandguardian's @AlikoDangote
If current trends continue, by 2050 about a third of Africa’s one
billion youths will lack basic proficiency in maths, reading and other
skills and subjects. Millions will be unemployable and unproductive.
It costs about $400 a year to educate a school-age child in Africa.
That is a fortune for a poor family struggling to make ends meet. But
for governments in Africa and around the world, it is a small price to
pay to train the creators of future prosperity. After all, as Nelson
Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use
to change the world.”
Sudan Devalues Pound by 39% Amid Foreign-Currency Shortage
Sudan devalued its currency for the third time this year amid an acute
shortage of foreign exchange.
The announcement adds to a raft of measures the government is taking
to tackle an economic crisis that’s triggered sporadic protests as the
cost of living has surged. The central bank last week relinquished its
role in setting the pound’s exchange rate, which is now being
determined by an independent committee.
The new rate was set at 47.5 pounds per dollar, compared with 29,
according to a statement emailed Sunday by the Khartoum-based Sudan
Union of Banks. The currency was devalued to 18 per dollar in January,
from 6.70 previously, and then to a band of 28.50-31.50 the following
January’s devaluation was part of budget measures enacted by the
government to comply with International Monetary Fund recommendations
aimed at reviving an economy still reeling from the loss of most of
its oil when South Sudan seceded in 2011. Inflation in the North
African nation accelerated to 67 percent in August.
Five new Ebola cases confirmed in eastern Congo - health ministry
The current epidemic in Congo’s North Kivu and Ituri provinces has
seen 140 confirmed cases since July, 108 of whom have died, according
to the ministry’s daily bulletin, which has been reporting an average
of one to two new confirmed cases per day in recent weeks.
“The town of Beni has become the new focus point of the disease,
registering the highest percentage of cases reported in recent weeks
following community resistance of certain families,” it said in a
A New Chinese-Funded Railway In Kenya Sparks Debt-Trap Fears @NPR
The Standard Gauge Railway station in Nairobi is easily the most
impressive public building in Kenya.
While a lot of Kenyan government buildings are drab and functional and
date back to colonial days, this station is adventurous. It's all gray
and modern. Geometric shapes form an abstract locomotive, and red neon
announces the "Nairobi Terminus."
The train runs 293 miles from Kenya's capital city to the port of
Mombasa and back twice a day and represents the biggest infrastructure
project since Kenya's independence 54 years ago. The Chinese financed
it; a Chinese company built it; and the Chinese will operate it for
many years to come.
The project, which launched in the summer of 2017, has not only come
to signify Kenya's ambitions, but also China's ambitions on the
African continent. In the past decade, China has become the biggest
lender to governments in Africa. The money has helped build ports,
roads, bridges, airports and trains. But critics warn the loans are
full of traps that could leave African countries in the lurch. Kenya
alone owes $5.3 billion to China.
China's $3.2 billion loan for the railway project is hard to ignore.
At the entrance of every single rail car, an image of the Kenyan flag
is flanked by one of the Chinese flag.
Since the railway line opened for business, hundreds of thousands have
taken trains to and from Mombasa, a strategically important port on
the Indian Ocean. Riding in economy class from Nairobi, two strangers
are having a spirited argument.
"What we do not have transparency on is what really is the
collateral," he says, "and the very scary case in point is Sri Lanka."
At the end of last year, Sri Lanka found itself struggling to pay back
its debt to China, so it handed China a strategic port on a 99-year
So what happens if Djibouti can't pay back its port? What happens if
Kenya can't pay for its Standard Gauge Railway?
Anzetse Were, a development economist, says the problem is we don't know.
"As a public intellectual who analyzes the African and Kenyan economy
on a weekly basis, at no point have I come across a document that I
can say, 'Oh, so that's what the SGR is about,' " she says.
The Chinese Embassy in Kenya denied NPR's request for an interview.
But at a news conference in July, Chinese Ambassador Sun Baohong
defended her country's involvement in the continent.
"There is no debt trap with Africa," she said, adding that the
continent has historically had a huge debt load.
Were says these types of opaque deals work for many recipient
governments — they let them build visible projects, which helps them
win elections. And they can also be a source of income for corrupt
politicians and their supporters.
But for ordinary people, the opacity raises concerns, and lately in
Kenya, there has been public outcry.
"African governments may be happy with the opacity, but African
publics are not," says Were. "And fundamentally, the sentiments on the
ground [are] really going to inform how successful and how well
received their initiatives are in the country as a whole."
Kenya's floriculture industry earned more than $800 million in 2017.
"On a daily basis we export 36,000 tons from this country," said
Clement Tulezi, the CEO of Kenya Flower Council. "So we are moving
into a place where we want to market ourselves better, we want to
brand ourselves better as a country, and also brand the Kenyan
"We are doing Beijing, we are doing Shanghai, and we are doing
Guangzhou," said Irene Nkatha, the sales manager of Red Lands Roses.
"We started with one shipment per week, now we are doing two to three
shipments per week. The distance is short. It's only one day to go to
Guangzhou, it's only two days to go to Beijing."