|Monday 20th of January 2020
Who Targeted Ukraine Airlines Flight 752? #PS752 @philipgiraldi
Law & Politics
The claim that Major General Qassem Soleimani was a “terrorist” on a
mission to carry out an “imminent” attack that would kill hundreds of
Americans turned out to be a lie, so why should one believe anything
else relating to recent developments in Iran and Iraq?
To be sure, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 departing from
Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport on the morning of January
8th with 176 passengers and crew on board was shot down by Iranian air
defenses, something which the government of the Islamic Republic has
admitted, but there just might be considerably more to the story
involving cyberwarfare carried out by the U.S. and possibly Israeli
To be sure, the Iranian air defenses were on high alert fearing an
American attack in the wake of the U.S. government’s assassination of
Soleimani on January 3rd followed by a missile strike from Iran
directed against two U.S. bases in Iraq.
In spite of the tension and the escalation, the Iranian government did
not shut down the country’s airspace. Civilian passenger flights were
still departing and arriving in Tehran, almost certainly an error in
judgment on the part of the airport authorities.
Inexplicably, civilian aircraft continued to take off and land even
after Flight 752 was shot down.
Fifty-seven of the passengers on the flight were Canadians of Iranian
descent, leading Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to point the finger
both at the Iranian government for its carelessness and also at
Washington, observing angrily that the Trump Administration had
deliberately and recklessly sought to “escalate tensions” with Iran
through an attack near Baghdad Airport, heedless of the impact on
travelers and other civilians in the region.
What seems to have been a case of bad judgements and human error does,
however, include some elements that have yet to be explained.
The Iranian missile operator reportedly experienced considerable
“jamming” and the planes transponder switched off and stopped
transmitting several minutes before the missiles were launched.
There were also problems with the communication network of the air
defense command, which may have been related.
The electronic jamming coming from an unknown source meant that the
air defense system was placed on manual operation, relying on human
intervention to launch.
The human role meant that an operator had to make a quick judgment in
a pressure situation in which he had only moments to react.
The shutdown of the transponder, which would have automatically
signaled to the operator and Tor electronics that the plane was
civilian, instead automatically indicated that it was hostile.
The operator, having been particularly briefed on the possibility of
incoming American cruise missiles, then fired.
The two missiles that brought the plane down came from a Russian-made
system designated SA-15 by NATO and called Tor by the Russians. Its
eight missiles are normally mounted on a tracked vehicle.
The system includes both radar to detect and track targets as well as
an independent launch system, which includes an Identification Friend
or Foe (IFF) system functionality capable of reading call signs and
transponder signals to prevent accidents.
Given what happened on that morning in Tehran, it is plausible to
assume that something or someone deliberately interfered with both the
Iranian air defenses and with the transponder on the airplane,
possibly as part of an attempt to create an aviation accident that
would be attributed to the Iranian government.
The SA-15 Tor defense system used by Iran has one major vulnerability.
It can be hacked or "spoofed," permitting an intruder to impersonate a
legitimate user and take control.
The United States Navy and Air Force reportedly have developed
technologies “that can fool enemy radar systems with false and
deceptively moving targets."
Fooling the system also means fooling the operator. The Guardian has
also reported independently how the United States military has long
been developing systems that can from a distance alter the electronics
and targeting of Iran’s available missiles.
The same technology can, of course, be used to alter or even mask the
transponder on a civilian airliner in such a fashion as to send false
information about identity and location.
The United States has the cyber and electronic warfare capability to
both jam and alter signals relating to both airliner transponders and
to the Iranian air defenses. Israel presumably has the same ability.
Joe Quinn at Sott.net also notes an interested back story to those
photos and video footage that have appeared in the New York Times and
elsewhere showing the Iranian missile launch, the impact with the
plane and the remains after the crash, to include the missile remains.
They appeared on January 9th, in an Instagram account called 'Rich
Kids of Tehran'. Quinn asks how the Rich Kids happened to be in “a
low-income housing estate on the city's outskirts [near the airport]
at 6 a.m. on the morning of January 8th with cameras pointed at the
right part of the sky in time to capture a missile hitting a Ukrainian
Put together the Rich Kids and the possibility of electronic warfare
and it all suggests a premeditated and carefully planned event of
which the Soleimani assassination was only a part.
There have been riots in Iran subsequent to the shooting down of the
plane, blaming the government for its ineptitude.
Some of the people in the street are clearly calling for the goal
long sought by the United States and Israel, i.e. “regime change.”
If nothing else, Iran, which was widely seen as the victim in the
killing of Soleimani, is being depicted in much of the international
media as little more than another unprincipled actor with blood on its
There is much still to explain about the downing of Ukrainian
International Airlines Flight 752.
Here's the "I don't know him at all, don't know what he's about, don't know where he comes from, know nothing about him" guy, w Lev Parnas & Roman Nasirov, Mar-a-Lago 12/16. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump #LevRemembers #LetLevSpeak
Law & Politics
Here’s the “I don’t know him at all, don’t know what he’s about, don’t
know where he comes from, know nothing about him” guy, w Lev Parnas &
Roman Nasirov, former head of Ukrainian Fiscal Service, at Mar-a-Lago
12/16. @POTUS @realDonaldTrump #LevRemembers #LetLevSpeak
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Trump will "push a poisonous dagger" into the nation's back. @business
Law & Politics
Tehran, Iran (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader said President Donald Trump
is a "clown" who only pretends to support the Iranian people, as he
addressed Friday prayers In Tehran for the first time since 2012.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Trump will "push a poisonous dagger" into
the nation's back. He said the outpouring of grief at the funeral for
Iran's top general, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this
month, shows that Iranians support the Islamic Republic.
Khamenei said America had “cowardly” killed the most effective
commander in the fight against the Islamic State group when it killed
Gen. Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad.
In response, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles targeting
U.S. troops in Iraq, without causing serious injuries.
As Iran's Revolutionary Guard braced for an American counterattack
that never came, it mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian jetliner shortly
after it took off from Tehran's international airport, killing all 176
passengers on board, mostly Iranians.
Khamenei called the shootdown of the plane a "bitter accident" that
saddened Iran as much as it made its enemies happy.
He said Iran's enemies had seized on the crash to question the Islamic
Republic, the Revolutionary Guard and the armed forces.
He said Western countries are too weak to "bring Iranians to their
knees." Khamenei said Iran was willing to negotiate, but not with the
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has held the country's top office since 1989
and has the final say on all major decisions.
The 80 -year-old leader openly wept at the funeral of Gen. Qassem
Soleimani and vowed “harsh retaliation” against the United States.
Authorities concealed their role in the tragedy for three days,
initially blaming the crash on a technical problem.
Their admission of responsibility triggered days of street protests,
which security forces dispersed with live ammunition and tear gas.
Tensions between Iran and the United States have steadily escalated
since President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Iran's 2015
nuclear deal with world powers, which had imposed restrictions on its
nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international
The White House has since imposed crippling sanctions on Iran,
including its vital oil and gas industry, pushing the country into an
economic crisis that has ignited several waves of sporadic, leaderless
Trump has openly encouraged the protesters — even tweeting in Farsi —
hoping that the protests and the sanctions will bring about
fundamental change in a longtime adversary.
After Soleimani was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iran
announced it would no longer be bound by the limitations in the
European countries who have been trying to salvage the deal responded
earlier this week by invoking a dispute mechanism that is aimed at
bringing Iran back into compliance and could result in even more
Khamenei was always skeptical of the nuclear agreement, arguing that
the United States could not be trusted. But he allowed President
Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, to conclude the agreement with
President Barack Obama.
Since Trump's withdrawal, he has said there can be no negotiations
with the United States.
Khamenei last delivered a Friday sermon in February 2012, when he
called Israel a “cancerous tumor” and vowed to support anyone
He also warned against any U.S. strikes on Iran over its nuclear
program, saying the U.S. would be damaged “10 times over.”
Trump recounts minute-by-minute details of Soleimani strike to donors at Mar-a-Lago @cnn @Kevinliptakcnn
Law & Politics
In his speech — held inside the gilded ballroom on his Mar-a-Lago
property — he claimed that Soleimani was "saying bad things about our
country" before the strike, which led to his decision to authorize his
"How much of this shit do we have to listen to?" Trump asked. "How
much are we going to listen to?"
"They're together sir," Trump recalled the military officials saying.
"Sir, they have two minutes and 11 seconds. No emotion. '2 minutes and
11 seconds to live, sir. They're in the car, they're in an armored
vehicle. Sir, they have approximately one minute to live, sir. 30
seconds. 10, 9, 8 ...' "
"Then all of a sudden, boom," he went on. "'They're gone, sir. Cutting off.' "
"I said, where is this guy?" Trump continued. "That was the last I
heard from him."
Dethroning the dollar America's aggressive use of sanctions endangers the dollar's reign @TheEconomist
Ever since the dollar cemented its role as the world’s dominant
currency in the 1950s, it has been clear that America’s position as
the sole financial superpower gives it extraordinary influence over
other countries’ economic destinies. But it is only under President
Donald Trump that America has used its powers routinely and to their
full extent, by engaging in financial warfare. The results have been
awe-inspiring and shocking. They have in turn prompted other countries
to seek to break free of American financial hegemony. In 2018
America’s Treasury put legal measures in place that prevented Rusal, a
strategically important Russian aluminium firm, from freely accessing
the dollar-based financial system—with devastating effect. Overnight
it was unable to deal with many counterparties. Western clearing
houses refused to settle its debt securities. The price of its bonds
collapsed (the restrictions were later lifted). America now has over
30 active financial- and trade-sanctions programmes. On January 10th
it announced measures that the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin,
said would “cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian
regime”. The State Department, meanwhile, said that Iraq could lose
access to its government account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New
York. That would restrict Iraq’s use of oil revenues, causing a cash
crunch and flattening its economy. America is uniquely well positioned
to use financial warfare in the service of foreign policy. The dollar
is used globally as a unit of account, store of value and medium of
exchange. At least half of cross-border trade invoices are in dollars.
That is five times America’s share of world goods imports, and three
times its share of exports. The dollar is the preferred currency of
central banks and capital markets, accounting for close to two-thirds
of global securities issuance and foreign-exchange reserves. The
world’s financial rhythm is American: when interest rates move or risk
appetite on Wall Street shifts, global markets respond. The world’s
financial plumbing has Uncle Sam’s imprint on it, too. Most
international transactions are ultimately cleared in dollars through
New York by American “correspondent” banks. America has a tight grip
on the main cross-border messaging system used by banks, swift, whose
members ping each other 30m times a day. Another part of the
us-centric network is chips, a clearing house that processes
$1.5trn-worth of payments daily. America uses these systems to monitor
activity. Denied access to this infrastructure, an organisation
becomes isolated and, usually, financially crippled. Individuals and
institutions across the planet are thus subject to American
jurisdiction—and vulnerable to punishment. America began to flex its
financial muscles after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.
It imposed huge fines on foreign banks for money-laundering and
sanctions-busting; in 2014 a $9bn penalty against bnp Paribas shook
the French establishment. Mr Trump has taken the weaponisation of
finance to a new level (see chart). He has used sanctions to throttle
Iran, North Korea, Russia, Turkey (briefly), Venezuela and others. His
arsenal also includes tariffs and legal assaults on companies, most
strikingly Huawei, which Mr Trump accuses of spying for China.
“Secondary” sanctions target other countries’ companies that trade
with blacklisted states. After America pulled out of a nuclear deal
with Iran in 2018, European firms fled Iran, even as the eu encouraged
them to stay. swift quickly fell into line when America threatened
action if it did not cut off Iranian banks after the reimposition of
sanctions in 2018. Using the dollar to extend the reach of American
law and policy fits Mr Trump’s “America first” credo. Other countries
view it as an abuse of power. That includes adversaries such as China
and Russia; Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, talks of the dollar
being used as a “political weapon”. And it includes allies, such as
Britain and France, who worry that Mr Trump risks undermining
America’s role as guarantor of orderliness in global commerce. It may
eventually lead to the demise of America’s financial hegemony, as
other countries seek to dethrone its mighty currency. The new age of
international monetary experimentation features the de-dollarisation
of assets, trade workarounds using local currencies and swaps, and new
bank-to-bank payment mechanisms and digital currencies. In June the
Chinese and Russian presidents said they would expand settlement of
bilateral trade in their own currencies. On the sidelines of a recent
summit, leaders from Iran, Malaysia, Turkey and Qatar proposed using
cryptocurrencies, national currencies, gold and barter for trade. Such
activity marks an “inflection point”, says Tom Keatinge of rusi, a
think-tank. Countries that used merely to gripe about America’s
financial might are now pushing back. Russia has gone furthest. It has
designated expendable entities to engage in commerce with countries
America considers rogue, in order to avoid putting important banks and
firms at risk. State-backed Promsvyazbank pjsc is used for trade in
arms so as to shield bigger banks like Sberbank and vtb from the
threat of sanctions. Russia has also been busy de-dollarising parts of
its financial system. Since 2013 its central bank has cut the dollar
share of its foreign-exchange reserves from over 40% to 24%. Since
2018 the bank’s holdings of American Treasury debt have fallen from
nearly $100bn to under $10bn. Russia’s finance ministry recently
announced plans to lower the dollar share of its $125bn
sovereign-wealth fund. “We aren’t aiming to ditch the dollar,” Mr
Putin has said. “The dollar is ditching us.” Elvira Nabiullina,
Russia’s central-bank governor, says the move was partly motivated by
American sanctions (which were imposed after Russia’s annexation of
Crimea in 2014), but also by a desire to diversify currency risk. “I
see a global shift in mood,” she says. “We are gradually moving
towards a more multi-currency international monetary system.” Ms
Nabiullina echoes Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England,
who said in August that the dollar-centric system “won’t hold”. The
new age of international monetary experimentation features the
de-dollarisation of assets, trade workarounds using local currencies
and swaps, and new bank-to-bank payment mechanisms and digital
currencies. In June the Chinese and Russian presidents said they would
expand settlement of bilateral trade in their own currencies. On the
sidelines of a recent summit, leaders from Iran, Malaysia, Turkey and
Qatar proposed using cryptocurrencies, national currencies, gold and
barter for trade. Such activity marks an “inflection point”, says Tom
Keatinge of rusi, a think-tank. Countries that used merely to gripe
about America’s financial might are now pushing back. Russia has gone
furthest. It has designated expendable entities to engage in commerce
with countries America considers rogue, in order to avoid putting
important banks and firms at risk. State-backed Promsvyazbank pjsc is
used for trade in arms so as to shield bigger banks like Sberbank and
vtb from the threat of sanctions. Despite this, some European
officials remain optimistic. On November 29th six more eu states said
they planned to join Instex. “It’s a ten-to-twenty-year thing, and
hopefully not only covering Iran. You can’t undo decades of policy in
a year,” says a French official. And, if Europe manages to reform the
inner workings of the euro, its financial reach will expand. “We need
to complete the project first: banking union, fiscal integration,
genuine capital-markets union, and so on,” another French official
says. European powers are likely to play a leading role in
central-bank efforts to create a global electronic currency. Last year
Mr Carney floated the idea of a network of central-bank digital monies
that could serve as a global invoicing currency. If it happens America
may not be invited. The true test of any reserve currency is a
financial crisis. Eswar Prasad of Cornell University, the author of
“The Dollar Trap”, notes that the greenback benefits during times of
turmoil. The 2007-09 crisis, which originated in America,
paradoxically strengthened its status as a safe haven. When global
trade, saving, borrowing and reserves are largely in one currency,
these strengths are mutually reinforcing. No other capital market
comes close to America’s for depth and liquidity, a key factor when
choosing a currency for commerce. Yet financial supremacy depends on a
heady mix of economic clout, incumbency and legitimacy. And the
martial approach that America has adopted threatens the dollar’s
dominance, reckons Jeffrey Frankel of Harvard University. A former
American treasury secretary agrees. In 2016, while still in office,
Jack Lew told an audience in Washington: “It is a mistake to think
that [sanctions] are low-cost. And if they make the business
environment too complicated, or unpredictable, or if they excessively
interfere with the flow of funds worldwide, financial transactions may
begin to move outside of the United States entirely—which could
threaten the central role of the us financial system globally, not to
mention the effectiveness of our sanctions in the future.” As the
Trump administration continues to use sanctions aggressively, efforts
to circumvent them will accelerate. America does not have a monopoly
on financial ingenuity.■
23-SEP-2019 :: Streaming Dreams Non-Linearity Netflix
My Mind kept to an Article I read in 2012 ‘’Annals of Technology
Streaming Dreams’’ by John Seabrook January 16, 2012.
“People went from broad to narrow,” he said, “and we think they will
continue to go that way—spend more and more time in the niches—
because now the distribution lands-cape allows for more narrowness’’.
Netflix faces an onslaught of competition in the market it invented.
After years of false starts, Apple is planning to launch a streaming
service in November, as is Disney — with AT&T’s WarnerMedia and Com-
cast’s NBCUniversal to follow early next year.
Netflix has corrected brutally and lots of folks are bailing big time
especially after Netflix lost US subscribers in the last quarter.
Even after the loss of subscribers in the second quarter, Ben
Swinburne, head of media research at Morgan Stanley, says Netflix is
still on course for a record year of subscriber additions.
Optimists point to the group’s global reach. It is betting its future
on expansion outside the US, where it has already attracted 60m
Netflix is not a US business, it is a global business. The Majority of
Analysts are in the US and in my opinion, these same Analysts have an
international ‘’blind spot’’
Once Investors appreciate that the Story is an international one and
not a US one anymore, we will see the price ramp to fresh all-time
In just a few short weeks, coffee has gone from star performer to teetering on the edge of bear-market territory amid shifting perceptions on supplies in Brazil, the world's top producer and exporter. @markets
In just a few short weeks, coffee has gone from star performer to
teetering on the edge of bear-market territory amid shifting
perceptions on supplies in Brazil, the world’s top producer and
On Friday, arabica beans for March delivery capped a third straight
weekly decline to settle at $1.1215 a pound on ICE Futures U.S. in New
The price has dropped 19% from a December peak, just shy of the 20%
threshold that defines a bear market.
In the first half of December, a bullish stampede prevailed with
futures surging 50% in the prior two months.
Brazilian cooperative Cooxupe, the top arabica shipper, said in
mid-October that it was running out of beans for new orders,
countering forecasts of ample supply that drove prices to 13-year
At the time, inventories at warehouses monitored by ICE tumbled to an
On Friday, ICE stockpiles capped their first back-to-back weekly gain
since mid-August. Brazilian currency weakness this month boosted the
appeal of exports priced in the greenback.
Also this week, Brazil’s crop agency Conab reiterated that growers
will collect another bumper harvest in 2020, albeit probably less than
2018’s record levels. Exports of green beans rose 15% to an all-time
high in 2019, industry group CeCafe said.
“As the crop was smaller last year, the big export volume implies
Brazil probably had ample inventories,” Nelson Carvalhaes, CeCafe
president, said this week at a press briefing.
20-JAN-2020 :: The Maghreb a decade later The Intrusion of Middle Powers
I learnt from William Dalrymple in an article in the Financial Times
that it was a a Berber cavalry commander Quintus Lollius Urbicus who
after Hadrian’s death, was sent westward, to the furthest and most
uncivilised extremity of the empire, becoming the first African
Governor of Britain. The story of the apex of his brilliant career is
told in a second inscription found at the somewhat unlikely site of
Balmuildy, just to the north of Glasgow. It was wealthy north Africans
who crushed the Caledonian resistance and seized north Britain for the
Romans. By the end of the second century, a third of the Roman senate
was north African while the Emperor Septimius Severus grew up a little
to the east in Leptis Magna (now in modern Libya).
Modern Day Algeria finally rid itself of Bouteflika the wheelchair
bound last year but North Africa otherwise known as the Maghreb
remains volatile and is still yet to emerge from the ''Arab Spring''
which was triggered by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi on 17
December 2010, which then begat the Egyptian revolution of 2011, also
known as the January 25 Revolution, which toppled Hosni Mubarak and
then circled back to topple Muammar Gaddafi [“I tell the coward
crusaders: I live in a place where you can’t get me. I live in the
hearts of millions.”] with a great deal of help from the Merchants of
Regime Change led by Hilary [''We came, we saw, he died''] Clinton.
interestingly, the Advance Guard of mercenary ''Head Choppers'' were
then exfiltrated from Benghazi to Syria but their Advance was resisted
with a great deal of help by Putin and they are now being roundtripped
back to Libya, as we speak, by Turkey's Erdogan. Tunisia, where it all
started just under a decade ago, is in a steadier state. Egypt after a
brief interregnum under the Muslim Brotherhood has reverted to
''Military'' rule and lashings of repression but Al-Sisi used the
opportunity to reform the Economy and Egypt has been the ''Darling''
of International Investors and the destination for the best carry
Trade in the World for a number of years. Since 2010 and over the last
ten years, Middle Powers like Turkey, the UAE [whom Mattis
characterised as ''Little Sparta''], Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey
[Israel and Russia too but they cannot be characterised as Middle
Powers] have all extended their reach into the Maghreb and the Horn of
Africa. The schism which started in the Gulf has spread like a virus.
I remain a little surprised that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have not
visited economic warfare on Istanbul because it does look ripe for the
plucking but then Al-Thani is probably providing a backstop.
The New York Times has an Article about Mohammed bin Zayed and it reads thus
Then the driver pulled up outside a building where Clarke heard
popping sounds. He went inside and saw a group of young women in
military uniforms, firing pistols at targets. Seated not far away was
M.B.Z., in his white tunic and ear-protection muffs, alongside his
wife and an empty third chair reserved for Clarke. During a lull in
the shooting, M.B.Z. introduced the women, who were all his daughters
and nieces. “I’m starting a draft,” M.B.Z. said. “I want everyone in
the country to feel like they’re responsible. A lot of them are fat
and lazy.” To stimulate the draft, he said, he would begin with all
the young people in his own family.
And [how the] U.A.E. approached Sisi and outlined the terms of their
financial support before Morsi’s overthrow. “I think there’s every
reason to believe he staged a coup,” I was told by one former
diplomat. “For a tiny country in the Persian Gulf to overthrow the
ruler of Egypt and put their guy in, that’s a big achievement.”
The main Theatre for Proxy operations is Libya. Gaddafi characterised
Libya as a Cork and he said to Tony Blair that if he was toppled Libya
and Africa would be uncorked. It was a prescient prediction. On one
side we have General Haftar a dual Libyan-American citizen who is the
Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and is bankrolled and
supported by the UAE, Egypt, France and Greece On the other side we
have the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez
al-Sarraj and supported by Turkey and Qatar because they have been
joined at the hip for a while now. President Putin started on Haftar's
side but likes to play a ''balancing'' role and might well eventually
align with Turkey. Germany is currently holding a Peace Conference
this week. The US is sidelined other than making te odd phone call.
Libya is clearly an example of geopolitical ''cliff edge'' risks. The
Horn of Africa exhibits entirely similar characteristics. In fact,
from the Maghreb to the Sahel to the Horn of Africa, we are witnessing
a surge in asymmetric warfare and the intrusion of Middle Powers.
China's trade with Africa grows 2.2 per cent in 2019 to US$208 billion @SCMPNews H/T @eolander
Chinese imports fall 3.8 per cent to US$95.5 billion, China’s General
Administration of Customs says
Exports rise 7.9 per cent to US$113.2 billion as Beijing seeks new
markets to offset impact of trade war with the US
Jennifer McKeown, head of global economics at Capital Economics, said
the pledges China had made to buy more goods from the US could add 0.5
per cent to America’s economy over two years.
The trade deal could hurt other regions, including Africa, which
supplies China with much of its metals and oil, she said.
Countries like Angola, which is heavily dependent on oil exports to
China, could be the most exposed, she said.
Malawi in turmoil as judgment day looms @mailandguardian
Lilongwe — As Malawi anxiously awaits the results of a Constitutional
Court case that could nullify last year’s presidential election,
popular resistance to President Peter Mutharika is growing more
strident, precipitating the country’s worst political crisis since the
return to democracy in 1994.
The scars of the unrest are all too visible in Msundwe, a trading
centre on the outskirts of the capital Lilongwe that has become a
hotbed of protest action against the government.
The police station, close to the main marketplace, is in ruins:
ransacked, vandalised and burnt by a community that has effectively
revolted against the current government.
Prisoners inside were released when the building was torched several
months ago, and the town and the villages which surround it have
become no-go areas for police.
Just a few kilometres from the birthplace of main opposition leader
Lazarus Chakwera, Msundwe is now an opposition stronghold.
Long-standing local grievances against this government were
crystallised after the presidential election in May last year, which
was won by Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with
38.57% of the vote. Chakwera and the Malawi Congress Party came second
But the results were marred by serious allegations of electoral fraud,
and rejected by opposition parties, who launched a legal challenge.
This is now before the Constitutional Court: arguments have been
heard, and the country nervously awaits judgment which is expected in
early February at the latest.
In the meantime, protests against the government have been growing
louder and bolder. The protests began with calls for the resignation
of Justice Jane Ansah, the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral
Commission, but have evolved into a wider expression of
dissatisfaction with the government.
Msundwe, which has never before played a significant role in Malawian
politics, has taken centre stage.
Whenever the opposition are holding anti-government protests in
Lilongwe, scores of lorries and pick-up trucks arrive from Msundwe.
These vehicles are bussing in the most notorious of the opposition
supporters — christened the Msundwe Garrison — who have surprised many
watchers by maintaining regular street protests for close to seven
Mutharika has reacted to the popular unrest by going to ground. After
being sworn in for his second term, he stayed for months in Blantyre,
despite the presidency being based in Lilongwe.
He has dramatically cut down on public appearances and avoided
travelling in opposition-friendly areas, especially in the central
The size of his security detail has been greatly increased, and he now
travels with an escort of armoured military vehicles. But in
interviews he has remained defiant and attacked the opposition as bad
In early October, matters came to a head when Mutharika emerged from
his shell and attempted to host a public event in Lilongwe.
Opposition supporters in Msundwe attempted to block all traffic
heading in the direction of the event (in an earlier incident,
Mutharika’s convoy was forced to take a different route into the
capital to avoid a similar blockade).
Angry youths barricaded the roads and fought running battles with
police. One police officer was brutally stoned to death.
Later, the police returned to the area, firing teargas into houses,
beating residents and making hundreds of arbitrary arrests in
A report by the Malawi Human Rights Commission, a constitutionally
mandated institution, later revealed that police officers had sexually
violated 17 women in the Msundwe area, including four minors and one
“Some of the survivors were raped right in the presence of their
children, some of whom are able to recount the incident and describe
the police officer’s penis in great details,” reads part of the
The government has questioned the validity of the report.
James Mwale, a businessman at the Msundwe trading centre, sais
although the protesters have attracted notoriety for the violent
protests, it has also suffered severely for its actions.
“Police too have been a nightmare, when they want to retaliate against
the area, they don’t spare anyone, people have had to sleep at
graveyards in fear of violent police reprisals,” he said.
He noted, however, that the extended absence of police has also led to
a general security breakdown in the area.
The unrest in Malawi is not limited to Msundwe, however. With
Mutharika faring poorly in both the centre and northern parts of the
country, sustained protests have left his government under siege and
the economy in a tailspin.
Inflation, currently at 10.4%, is on the rise, and undercollection by
the Malawi Revenue Authority means the treasury is running at a
deficit of 59-billion kwacha (R1.2-billion, $80.3-million).
The tourism sector has attributed a poor season to the political crisis.
The military has been called in to maintain law and order during the
protests. This, however, has led to some tensions between soldiers and
Divisions have emerged even within Mutharika’s ruling party, with some
senior officials hoping to succeed him if a fresh election is called.
It is still far too early to write off Mutharika, however. Although a
late entrant to the public sphere — he spent decades in the US as a
law professor — he has proven to be a remarkably resilient politician.
Many observers thought his political career was over when he failed to
prevent Joyce Banda from succeeding his brother Bingu wa Mutharika as
president, on Bingu’s unexpected death in 2012, but he went on to beat
Banda in the next election.
His spokesperson, Mgeme Kalilani, said that the opposition is to blame
for the widespread unrest in the country:
“They chose to unleash violence as a reaction to their loss. The
president tried his best to help the opposition and the HRDC [Human
Rights Defenders Coalition, a civil society umbrella group] leadership
understand that political violence was not welcome in a democracy.
“He keeps reminding the opposition leadership and their supporters
about this fact. The expectation of the president is that the
opposition and the HRDC leadership will see the need to stop the
violence and the terror their supporters have been perpetrating
against members of other political parties and other innocent
citizens,” Kalilani told the Mail & Guardian.
Nothing is likely to be resolved before the Constitutional Court
delivers its verdict on the legitimacy of Mutharika’s election,
“There are three possible outcomes of the impending court judgment,”
explained Billy Mayaya, a political analyst.
“Firstly, a ruling in favour of the incumbent will result in major
political upheaval. Secondly, a ruling in favour of the opposition
will lead to major resistance on the part of the governing party.
“The third option of fresh elections may provide the solution but
without major reforms in the law and to the Constitution, nothing will
temper the situation.”
Concerns over political interference in the judiciary remain high —
not least within the judiciary itself. In an unprecedented
development, the five judges presiding over the case lodged an
official complaint with the Anti-Corruption Bureau complaining that a
prominent businessperson and a Supreme Court judge had attempted to
While confirming the complaint, the bureau has refused be drawn on
whose interests the two men were representing.
Until the judgment is delivered, Malawi remains in political limbo. “A
lot of people are expecting the courts to nullify the elections, if we
judge by the numbers that have been attending the protests and the
anger expressed. Should the courts express a different view, the
likelihood of chaos would be so, so high. It’s going to be a deadly
aftermath,” said Euginio Njoloma, a security analyst and lecturer at
Shabab militants from Somalia may have received help from Kenyans for deadly Manda Bay attack @MilitaryTimes
U.S. Africa Command officials believe that al-Shabab militants from
Somalia crossed the border into Kenya to conduct an attack on U.S. and
Kenyan forces earlier this month in Manda Bay — with the assistance of
facilitators within Kenya.
“We assess that these are al-Shabab coming out of Somalia, but with
the support of Kenyan facilitators and potential Kenyan aspirants of
al-Shabab,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy
director of intelligence, told reporters Thursday.
“We also assess that after the attack, they’re continuing to make
their way back into Somalia as well,” he added.
They are on the inside.