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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Wednesday 16th of September 2020

HOW WE LIVE NOW Visors and violence: we are returning to the Middle Ages @1843mag

This is perhaps as it should be: the Middle Ages was a time of plagues. The Roman Empire was felled as much by viruses as barbarians. The Black Death of the 1340s killed more than 40% of Europe’s population (which puts our little problem into perspective). The rich fled the cities to hunker down in the countryside (“The Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio is a collection of tales narrated by people sheltering outside Florence from the plague). A new artistic genre, the Danse Macabre, told the story of the universality of death. Flagellant religious orders whipped themselves in the hope that the pain would ward off the Last Judgment

Now we are witnessing the return of many medieval pathologies. Millenarianism is on the march again. Extinction Rebellion activists close down cities and daub town squares with fake blood in protests that usually involve wild dancing and drumming along with predictions of the end of the world. The new high-tech Middle Ages is even seeing the return of medieval political nomenclature. Kings were once called the Bald (Charles) or the Cruel (Peter of Castile). Donald Trump now dubs his opponents Sleepy Joe or Crooked Hillary.

There are structural similarities too – similarities that began long before covid-19 took hold and raise worrying questions about our post-covid future. The middle class that was the bulwark of the post-war world is on the retreat across the West. The new tech oligarchy resembles the medieval aristocracy, “the chivalrous class without the chivalry”, as Joel Kotkin wrote in a recent book, “The Coming of Neo-Feudalism”.

Its members live in gated communities or isolated enclaves protected from the rest of society. They socialise with each other at global festivals but seldom have any contact with those who inhabit unfashionable areas such as flyover country in America (the parts of the country most Americans only ever see from the air), or the north of England. Large armies of “retainers” wear their livery, in the form of t-shirts or baseball hats emblazoned with logos, and do their bidding.

The academic elite looks more like the medieval clergy by the day. Universities and university towns are latter-day monasteries that protect their members from contamination by hoi polloi. Academics engage in the modern equivalent of scholastic debates: rather than discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin they discuss whether sex is a social construct (the answer: of course).

Rather than contain a multitude of thought, these latter-day clerics are obsessed with sin in the form of racism and sexism and dole out fearsome punishments to sinners. Those who venture outside a narrow range of permissible opinion are excommunicated from society, publicly flayed on Twitter and forced to live in the intellectual equivalent of medieval forests.

These gated communities and medieval monasteries are surrounded by an expanding class of serfs and beggars. The serfs exist at the beck and call of the tech and clerical elites – they drive their cars, deliver their food and clean their houses. But rather than being tied to particular people or plots of land they are just-in-time workers on zero-hours contracts who are tethered to an algorithm. The serfs pick their way through the crowds of beggars, living in tent cities and subsisting on the cast-offs of the wider society.

Police officers look increasingly like Don Quixote’s knights. This is particularly so in America, the country that is leading the charge back to the Middle Ages despite having never experienced the Middle Ages itself. People there wear helmets to protect themselves from rocks, special vests to ward off bullets, and pads on their elbows and knees. They are weighed down by all sorts of heavy equipment – radios, flashlights and, of course, guns. They sometimes ride on horses, like knights of old, but are more likely to choose armoured Humvees, or even tanks.

Despite all this heavy armour, the police are losing control of the streets. One of the signature achievements of modernity was the creation of the nation state which could claim a monopoly of violence within its borders. The state is once again losing the battle against feudal gangs of various sorts. In London, knife-crime is becoming so common that it can’t be long before people wear swords and scabbards. In many of America’s great cities the police have left inner-city areas to look after themselves. Downtown Portland is ruled by gangs of activists who wear medieval armour of their own and engage in regular – and highly ritualised – jousts with police.

The most striking similarity, though, is the distance between image and reality. The people of the Middle Ages talked about chivalry and the Glory of God but lived in a brutal world in which gangs mugged each other and monks engaged enthusiastically in all the sins of the fleshToday’s elite talk constantly about “inclusion” and “win-win” situations but have created a world in which the spoils go to a tiny minority, and more and more people are cast into the wilderness. The inferno beckons.

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I've volunteered for the Russian vaccine trials held here in Durban. I received my first shot at 10am. It’s completely safe with иo side effects whatsoeveя, and that I feelshκι χoρoshό я чувствую @Sahendra_Singh7

I've volunteered for the Russian vaccine trials held here in Durban. I received my first shot at 10am. It’s completely safe with иo side effects whatsoeveя, and that I feelshκι χoρoshό я чувствую себя немного странно и я думаю, что вытащил ослиные уши.

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In this time, as the coronavirus pandemic burns through us, our world is passing through a portal. We have journeyed to a place from which it looks unlikely that we can return @parisreview Arundhati Roy

In this time, as the coronavirus pandemic burns through us, our world is passing through a portal. We have journeyed to a place from which it looks unlikely that we can return, at least not without some kind of serious rupture with the past—social, political, economic, and ideological.

The Free Virus that has made nonsense of international borders, incarcerated whole populations, and brought the modern world to a halt like nothing else ever could. It casts a different light on the lives we have lived so far. It forces us to question the values we have built modern societies on—what we have chosen to worship and what to cast aside. As we pass through this portal into another kind of world, we will have to ask ourselves what we want to take with us and what we will leave behind. We may not always have a choice—but not thinking about it will not be an option. And in order to think about it, we need an even deeper understanding of the world gone by, of the devastation we have caused to our planet and the deep injustice between fellow human beings that we have come to accept. Hopefully, some of these essays, written before the pandemic came upon us, will go some small way toward helping us negotiate the rupture. Or, if nothing else, a moment in history that was recorded by a writer, like a metaphorical runway before the aircraft we’re all in took off for an unknown destination. A matter of academic interest for future historians.

The first essay in Azadi is the W. G. Sebald Lecture on Literary Translation, which I delivered in the British Library in London in June 2018. Much of it is about how the messy partitioning of the language we knew as Hindustani into two separate languages with two separate scripts—now sadly and somewhat arbitrarily called Hindi and Urdu (in which erroneously Hindi is associated with Hindus and Urdu with Muslims)—presaged the current project of Hindu nationalism by more than a century.

Many of us hoped that 2018 would be the last year of the reign of Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party. As the 2019 general election approached, polls showed Modi and his party’s popularity dropping dramatically. We knew this was a dangerous moment. Many of us anticipated a false-flag attack or even a war that would be sure to change the mood of the country. One of the essays—“Election Season in a Dangerous Democracy”—is, among other things, about this fear. We held our collective breath. In February 2019, weeks before the general election, the attack came. A suicide bomber blew himself up in Kashmir, killing forty security personnel. False flag or not, the timing was perfect. Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party swept back to power.

And now, only a year into his second term, through a series of horrifying moves, Modi has changed India beyond recognition. The infrastructure of fascism is staring us in the face, the pandemic is speeding up that process in unimaginable ways, and yet we hesitate to call it by its name.

I started to write this while U.S. president Donald Trump and his family were on an official visit to India in the last week of February 2020. So it, too, has had to pass through the rupture, the pandemic portal. The first case of coronavirus in India had been reported on January 30. Nobody, least of all the government, paid any attention. It had been more than two hundred days since the state of Jammu and Kashmir had been stripped of its special status and placed under an information siege, and more than two months since a new anti-Muslim, unconstitutional citizenship law had brought millions of protesters onto the streets of India. In a public speech to a crowd wearing Modi and Trump masks, Donald Trump informed Indians that they play cricket, celebrate Diwali, and make Bollywood films. We were grateful to learn that about ourselves. Between the lines he sold us MH-60 helicopters worth three billion dollars. Rarely has India publicly humiliated herself thus.

Not far from the Grand Presidential Suite of the Delhi hotel where Trump spent the night, and Hyderabad House, where he held trade talks with Modi, Delhi was burning. Armed Hindu vigilante mobs in northeast Delhi, backed by the police, attacked Muslims in working-class neighborhoods. Violence had been in the air for a while, with politicians belonging to the ruling party delivering open threats to Muslim women conducting peaceful sit-in protests against the new citizenship law. When the attack began, police were seen either standing aside or backing up the mob. Muslims fought back. Houses, shops, vehicles were burned. Many, including a policeman, were killed. Many more were hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Horrifying videos flew around the internet. In one of them, grievously wounded young Muslim men, laid out on the street, some piled against each other by uniformed policemen, are being forced to sing the National Anthem. (Subsequently one of them, Faizan, died from having a policeman’s baton pushed down his throat.)

Trump made no comment on the horror swirling around him. Instead he conferred on Narendra Modi, the most divisive, hateful political figure in modern India, the title “Father of the Nation.” Until recently, this was Gandhi’s title. I am no fan of Gandhi, but surely, even he did not deserve this.

After Trump left, the violence went on for days. More than fifty people lost their lives. About three hundred were admitted into hospital with grievous wounds. Thousands of people moved into refugee camps. In Parliament, the home minister praised himself and the police. Members of the ruling party gave speeches to their smirking supporters in which they more or less blamed Muslims for provoking the violence, for attacking themselves, burning their own shops and homes, and throwing their own bodies into the open sewage canals that crisscross their neighborhood. Every effort was made by the ruling party, its social media trolls, and the electronic media it controls to portray the violence as a Hindu–Muslim “riot.” It was not a riot. It was an attempted pogrom against Muslims, led by an armed, fascist mob.

And while the dead bodies were still surfacing in the filth, Indian government officials held their first meeting about the virus. When Modi announced the nationwide lockdown on March 24, India spilled out her terrible secrets for all the world to see.

What lies ahead?

Reimagining the world. Only that.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.1858

Dollar Index 93.046

Japan Yen 105.32

Swiss Franc 0.9074

Pound 1.2887

Aussie 0.7314

India Rupee 73.63

South Korea Won 1174.27

Brazil Real 5.2763

Egypt Pound 15.77

South Africa Rand 16.39975

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08-JUN-2020 :: Anybody can be decisive during a panic It takes a strong Man to act during a Boom.
World Of Finance

“Anybody can be decisive during a panic; it takes a strong man to act during a boom.” ― V.S. Naipaul, A Bend in the River

“The businessman bought at ten and was happy to get out at twelve; the mathematician saw his ten rise to eighteen, but didn’t sell because he wanted to double his ten to twenty.”

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Africa’s gathering debt storm @stadenesque

Without rapid and vastly increased external help to weather the COVID-19 storm and ease their debt-service burden, many African economies could collapse. This would directly affect the rich world in ways for which it is not prepared.

The COVID-19 crisis is pushing Africa to the financial brink.

A major problem for Africa is that it now has significant private-sector debt. In May, a group of 25 of the continent’s largest private creditors was created, in consultation with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The organization’s executive secretary, Vera Songwe, has been pushing for Africa’s debt to be bundled into an instrument resembling a collateralized debt obligation, backed by an AAA-rated multilateral finance institution or a central bank. This would save countries time by quickly giving them a two-year repayment freeze in order to deal with the pandemic, without preventing them from tapping credit markets in the future to fund economic recovery.

But the private creditors quickly rejected such blanket approaches, insisting that African countries’ debt needs to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. This risks wasting so much time that many countries could slide into default while they’re waiting, which would be especially galling in view of the large profits these creditors have made by chasing Africa’s sky-high yields.

Although none of these proposals is a magic bullet, Africa’s debt problem is not intractable. The continent’s debt-service payments in 2020 amount to $44 billion. That is a lot of money, but it’s small change compared to the trillions of dollars that rich-country governments are pumping into their own economies.

Pious laments about how the “poorest countries will suffer the most” accompany the infighting among Africa’s creditors. This response assumes that while Africa’s distress is regrettable, it’s also far away, and the continent will quietly suffer in its corner. Today, such thinking is woefully naive.

Until early this year, many African economies had been growing robustly. Now, without external help to weather the COVID-19 storm, these countries could face economic collapse. This will directly affect the rich world in ways for which it is not prepared.

For China, the current debt crisis represents its biggest political setback to date in Africa. The continent’s economic value to China may have declined somewhat, but its political value as a dependable bloc of votes in multilateral institutions is increasing. If Democratic challenger Joe Biden wins November’s US presidential election, China will face concerted pressure in those organizations. And although China has joined the G20’s DSSI in principle, its application remains piecemeal and opaque.

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.@IMFNews Chiefs Say Africa’s Recovery Needs Billions and Reforms @economics

Sub-Saharan Africa will need hundreds of billions of dollars and reforms that bring change for a resilient recovery from the damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Support from the international community that includes stepped-up debt relief, financing and capacity development will be needed, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and Abebe Aemro Selassie, the director of the lender’s Africa department, said Tuesday in a blog post. The IMF has approved more than $15 billion in financial assistance and debt-service relief to sub-Saharan African countries to offset the impact of the pandemic and “certainly will be doing more in the years ahead,” they said.

The regional economy will probably contract by 3.2% this year, before rebounding to grow by 3.4% in 2021, the IMF said in its World Economic Outlook published in June.

In addition to assistance from multilateral lenders, many African nations have taken advantage of the Group of 20 leading economies’ Debt-Service Suspension Initiative to free up funds to finance the fight against the pandemic. While countries including South Africa and Ivory Coast announced fiscal-support packages, very little of that was new spending and as a ratio of gross domestic product it lagged advanced economies.

Policymakers must ensure that the fiscal support deployed to fight the virus also works toward building a smarter, greener and more equitable future, and implement reforms that encourage investment from the private sector, Georgieva and Selassie said.

“Important as external support will be, it will be neither effective nor sufficient unless policy-induced distortions that stymie private investment are eliminated or public finance management systems improve,” they said.

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Charting a Path for a Resilient Recovery in Sub Saharan Africa By Kristalina Georgieva and Abebe Aemro Selassie

Perhaps first among the many lessons of 2020 is that the notion of so‑called black swan events is not some remote worry. These purportedly once‑in‑a‑generation events are occurring with increasing frequency.

Take climate‑related shocks, especially in sub‑Saharan Africa. More than any other region, it is vulnerable to these events because of its heavy dependence on rain‑fed agriculture and its limited ability to adapt to shocks. 

Every year, the livelihoods of millions are threatened by climate‑induced disasters.

As we all continue to grapple with the COVID‑19 crisis, policymakers also need to look ahead. 

Countries need to ensure that the vast global fiscal support deployed to fight the pandemic also works to build a smarter, greener and more equitable future.

Nowhere is that more important than in sub‑Saharan Africa. It is where the needs are greatest and also home to the world’s youngest population, creating added urgency to act now to build forward better. 

Together, we need to chart a path to a more resilient recovery.

Why resilience matters

Our Regional Economic Outlook for sub-Saharan Africa published earlier this year highlights the lasting damage in the region from climate events. 

Over the medium term, annual per capita economic growth can decline an additional 1 percentage point with each drought. 

That impact is eight times worse than for an emerging market or developing economy in other parts of the world.

Nelson Mandela once said: “do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

Given the increased frequency of shocks, building capacity to withstand them becomes essential to protect development gains.

Take investing in a smarter, digital economy. In another chapter of the Regional Economic Outlook we found that expanding internet access in sub‑Saharan Africa by 10 percent of the population could increase real per capita GDP growth by as much as 4 percentage points.

In other words, a recovery that raises resilience will not just save lives, but will also translate into higher living standards, better‑quality jobs, and more opportunity for all.

To achieve this, fiscal and financial policies need to prioritize investing in people, infrastructure, and coping mechanisms.

Empowering people

Investing in healthcare and education can pay large dividends in terms of growth, productivity, gender equity, and living standards. But investing in people is also critical for building resilience.

People who are physically resilient spend less on extra medical care and, if they do fall sick, they return to work or school sooner.

Of course, good health depends on good nutrition. When a climate shock hits, having access to enough safe and nutritious food is essential to survival. 

And this is where better education on the impact of climate change can help countries safeguard agricultural output.

In Chad, for example, farmers are improving water retention through new rainwater harvesting techniques.

Access to new technologies can help farmers and doctors. Sierra Leone launched a new drone corridor last November, the first in West Africa, to monitor agricultural conditions and enable rapid delivery of medicine. 

Better mobile phone networks mean better access to early warning systems and weather information—even in the form of simple voice messages—that enable more productive and climate‑smart agriculture.

But investing in people is more than just finding better ways to do existing jobs. It is also about carving out new jobs. Better jobs. It is therefore vital to invest in building digital skills.

Our analysis shows that, on average, digitally‑connected firms in the region employ eight times more workers, and create higher skilled, full‑time jobs. 

Also, increased internet penetration is associated with a larger share of women working in the services sector—the shift to more employment in services is two and a half times larger for women than men.

Enhancing infrastructure

Good infrastructure is the backbone of any healthy and resilient economy. 

However, in a region where large‑scale infrastructure investments are already badly needed, there is an added premium on infrastructure investments that are smart, green and inclusive.

While the pandemic seems set to accelerate sub‑Saharan Africa’s digital transformation, this won’t happen by itself.

It requires substantial investment in infrastructure—both digital‑friendly traditional infrastructure (including more reliable electricity) and digital‑ready information technology infrastructure.

Almost all countries in the region, except just a few, are connected through submarine cables or via cross‑border terrestrial links. 

But more needs to be done to improve digital access within countries and to reverse the widening gender gap.

At the same time, countries faced with the ravages of climate events need greater investment in weather‑resilient infrastructure. 

For instance, Mozambique’s Beira Port—a major regional trade and transportation hub—was operational within days of each of two consecutive cyclones thanks to extensive drainage systems and well‑constructed buildings and roads.

Digital and climate-resilient infrastructure can go hand‑in‑hand. 

One‑fifth of sub‑Saharan Africa’s electricity is generated from hydropower—which is susceptible to droughts—so we need greater efforts to diversify electricity sources over the long run.

This means moving towards other renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power. This shift will help reduce carbon emissions, spread electrification, and create jobs. 

In Kenya, the government increased access to electricity from 40 to 70 percent of the population in large part through the use of small, off‑grid, solar‑powered energy plants. 

The added bonus is that the pay‑as‑you‑go, mobile money model makes this initiative accessible and easy to expand, plus it created 10 times more jobs than in traditional utilities.

Strengthening coping mechanisms

Following a shock, social assistance and access to finance, among others, act as buffers that help people and businesses cope. 

They compensate for lost income—allowing households to smooth consumption and buy essentials like food—and make it possible for businesses to continue operating.

A good example is Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program, which provides emergency cash transfers to food‑insecure households. 

By requiring recipients to use bank accounts, the transfers are received quickly and financial inclusion has improved.

Broadening access to finance for low‑income households and small businesses helps them better cope during a shock. 

It also makes it easier for households to empower themselves by investing in health, education, and so on, and for businesses to invest in productive projects.

Where digitalization supports better policy design and better economic outcomes, it can be a win‑win.

Governments are also taking advantage of the region’s leadership in mobile money to provide immediate support to households and businesses, while promoting social distancing. 

For instance, Togo’s “NOVISSI” social protection program uses mobile money and electronic cash transfers to support informal sector workers impacted by COVID‑19.

One thing is clear: achieving a resilient recovery in sub‑Saharan Africa, as elsewhere, will not be easy.

For one, it will be expensive. Precisely estimating the costs is not easy given complementarities between investments in people, infrastructure, and policies. 

But it will certainly be in the hundreds of billions of dollars in the coming years.

Meanwhile, of course, the COVID‑19 crisis is taking a toll on the region’s already limited fiscal space. And even before the crisis, most countries’ public debts were increasing rapidly.

Second, it will require transformative reforms. Important as external support will be, it will be neither effective nor sufficient unless policy-induced distortions that stymie private investment are eliminated or public finance management systems improve. 

More domestic revenue mobilization will also be imperative—something which digitalization can help by improving the efficiency of collection.

Third, support from the international community will be vital. Stepped‑up debt relief, financing, and capacity development will all be needed. 

The IMF is supporting the recovery in sub‑Saharan Africa through all three of those channels. And we certainly will be doing more in the years ahead.

As we noted at the outset by invoking Nelson Mandela, getting back up after being knocked down is key.

The fact is investing in a more resilient future will be more cost‑effective than repeated rebuilding after crises or disasters.

That should be the measure of today’s success—encouraging a more virtuous cycle and more resilient development path for the region.

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Circumvention of Term Limits Weakens Governance in Africa @AfricaACSS

A growing pattern of evading term limits in Africa carries far-reaching consequences for the continent’s governance, security, and development.

Africa has seen a reversal in term limit norms since 2015. Since that time, leaders of 13 countries have evaded or overseen the further weakening of term limit restrictions that had been in place:

The lack of effective term limits has resulted in Africa having 10 leaders who have ruled for over 20 years and two family dynasties that have been in power for more than 50 years:

This erosion of term limits is a setback for good governance in Africa:

Leaders in countries with term limits have been in office, on average, for 4 years. Those that have modified or eliminated term limits have been in power for a median of 10 years.

Recent years have also seen the ouster of long-ruling African leaders by their erstwhile political allies, resulting in a continuation of the existing power structure. If these regimes—Algeria, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Zimbabwe—are included, then the median time in office for countries without term limits jumps to 17 years.

Nine of the 10 African countries facing civil conflicts (excluding insurgencies by militant Islamist groups) are those without term limits.

Of the 10 African countries that are the largest source of Africa’s 29 million refugees and internally displaced populations, 8 are countries lacking term limits.

Corruption is a challenge in many African countries, though it is particularly pernicious in countries without term limits. For countries that have modified or eliminated term limits, the median ranking on Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index is 145 out of 180 countries. This is 57 places lower than the average ranking for African countries that have adhered to term limits.

Africa has 34 presidential elections scheduled between 2019 and 2021. In roughly one-third of these elections the issue of leaders challenging term limits has been central. The often controversial means by which these leaders are extending their terms undermines the legitimacy that these electoral processes are intended to generate.

The institutionalization of term limits in Africa is part of a reform effort started in the 1990s to address the legacy of overconcentrated power in the executive. 

Term limits are seen as an especially important element of checks and balances in Africa given the relative weakness of independent democratic institutions such as the legislature, judiciary, civil service, security forces, media, public protector, and central bank.

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U.S. Military Seeks Authority to Expand Counterterrorism Drone War to Kenya @nytimes

Draft rules for potential airstrikes, drawn up after a Shabab attack at a base in January, are said to be limited and would require Kenyan assent.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military’s Africa Command is pressing for new authorities to carry out armed drone strikes targeting Qaeda-linked Shabab fighters in portions of eastern Kenya, potentially expanding the war zone across the border from their sanctuaries in Somalia, according to four American officials.

The new authorities, which must still be approved by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and then President Trump, do not necessarily mean the United States will start carrying out drone attacks in Kenya. Nevertheless, they would give Africa Command permission under certain circumstances to expand the counterterrorism drone war into another country.

The push for the expanded authorities traces back to a Shabab attack in January on a military base in Kenya that housed United States troops, the officials said. 

The attack on the airfield at Manda Bay killed three Americans and caused millions of dollars in damage.

U.S. commanders scrambled immediately after that attack to track and kill the Shabab hit team that had infiltrated the base from Somalia, securing permission on the fly to carry out a drone strike on them in Kenyan territory, according to the officials.

 But they never attacked because the militants — retreating to Somali territory — eluded them.

As they confronted the fallout from the debacle, officials recognized that they lacked guidelines to conduct drone strikes in Kenya should Shabab attack there again. 

The Pentagon led an interagency push to write rules for any future strikes in Kenya under more relaxed limits on drone strikes that Mr. Trump’s national security team created in 2017, replacing more stringent procedures from the Obama era.

Col. Christopher P. Karns, the command’s chief spokesman, declined to comment on the new authorities. “Africom certainly recognizes the need to apply consistent international pressure on Al-Shabab and to monitor their activity, presence, and actively confront them in order to prevent their spread,” he said in an email. “This can take several forms.”

Lt. Col. Anton T. Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesman, added in an email, “The U.S. military will defend U.S. personnel, citizens and homeland as necessary anywhere in the world.” He also did not address the new guidelines.

But according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the draft guidelines would theoretically authorize not only drone strikes in self-defense of American troops or collective self-defense of partnered Kenyan forces, but also offensive strikes intended to pre-empt a suspected threat — like if officials uncovered intelligence about preparations at a compound to assemble a car bomb.

Several officials noted, however, that Kenya has a stable government and capable security forces. 

As a result, the officials did not expect the authorities to prompt the United States to carry out frequent drone strikes there, if any. 

Still, they said they could envision a situation in which a drone would be the only realistic option to try to pre-empt a terrorist operation.

The draft plan was said to contain limitations. Among them, the military would be permitted to conduct strikes only in a portion of Kenya, two officials said. 

One specifically identified the potential strike zone as Garissa and Lamu Counties, which encompass the air strip camp at Manda Bay and the nearby border region with Somalia.

Moreover, the Kenyan government would have to consent to any strike — a major difference from Somalia, whose provisional government has essentially given the United States blanket permission to carry out strikes when it sees fit. 

The American military would also have to consult with the U.S. ambassador in Kenya.

In addition to the military’s desire for expanded authorities, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya asked Mr. Trump during a White House visit in February for additional counterterrorism assistance, including “armed aerial support” to help combat the Shabab, a senior American official said.

The Kenyan Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond on Tuesday to requests for comment.

Mr. Esper, who has been weighing cuts to American troops on the continent as part of a global reshuffling of forces to address new threats from China and Russia, initially expressed reluctance to approve the new authorities, officials said.

But he relented to the narrowly focused guidelines rather than be seen as rejecting an important force-protection measure favored by his field commanders, officials said.

Still, some American lawmakers complained on Tuesday that Congress had been cut out of the process.

“We need to do whatever’s necessary to defend American lives and interests, but that doesn’t require starting a drone war in Kenya without consulting Congress and using a war authorization that’s two decades old,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, referring to the 2001 law Congress passed authorizing strikes against Al Qaeda.

The Shabab, Al Qaeda’s largest and most active global affiliate, has in recent months issued specific new threats against Americans in East Africa and even the United States. 

After a hiatus this year, it has increased a campaign of car bombings in Somalia, American counterterrorism and intelligence officials said.

Several ominous signs indicate that the Shabab is seeking to expand its lethal mayhem well beyond its home base and attack Americans wherever it can — threats that prompted a flurry of American drone strikes in Somalia this year to try to snuff out the plotters.

“Al Shabab is the most capable terrorist group on the African continent,” Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, the Africa Command’s director of intelligence, told reporters on Friday.

Shabab fighters have consolidated positions in the Juba River valley in southern Somalia to create “a de facto safe haven” where terrain and other factors prevent American troops from hunting them down, Maj. Gen. Dagvin R.M. Anderson, who commands American Special Operations forces in Africa, said last week.

“What that has allowed them to do is develop their planning, develop their finance, develop their media operations there to a high degree,” General Anderson told a virtual security conference held by the American Enterprise Institute last week.

This month, three Somali military officers were killed and two others were injured along with an American service member in a truck bombing in the Jana Abdalle area in the Lower Juba region of Somalia.

In recent years, the Shabab, which American intelligence analysts estimate has 5,000 to 10,000 fighters, has lost many of the cities and villages they once controlled. 

Despite facing a record number of American drone strikes, the group has morphed into a more nimble and lethal outfit, carrying out large-scale attacks against civilian and military targets across Somalia and neighboring countries.

To weaken the Shabab’s presence, Somali forces work alongside troops from the African Union peacekeeping operations, which include forces from Kenya, Djibouti, Burundi, Uganda and Ethiopia. 

Kenya, in particular, has been a frequent target of Shabab retaliatory attacks.

“Al Shabab remained intent on and capable of conducting attacks inside Kenya and along the Somalia-Kenya border, consistent with its stated intent to compel Kenyan forces to withdraw from Somalia,” an interagency inspectors general report released on Sept. 1 concluded.

Shabab militants in early 2019 assaulted a hotel-shopping complex in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 21 people, including a police officer. 

Six years earlier, masked gunmen stormed the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall in the Kenyan capital, in a rampage that killed at least 67 people.

But the brazen assault on Jan. 5 at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, took American and Kenyan troops by surprise. 

Armed with rifles and explosives, about a dozen Shabab fighters destroyed an American surveillance plane as it was taking off and ignited an hourslong gunfight.

Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass while other American troops and support staff were corralled into tents with little protection to wait out the battle, American officials said.

The deaths of the three Americans — one Army soldier and two Pentagon contractors — were the largest number of United States military-related fatalities in Africa since four soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger in October 2017.

The attack set in motion the push by the Africa Command and some Pentagon officials for the new authorities to protect the roughly 200 American soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, as well as about 100 Pentagon civilian employees and contractors, in Kenya helping train and assist local forces. Most of them work at Manda Bay, according to military officials.

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13-JAN-2020 :: The Manda Bay attack is the first al-Shabab has carried out on a U.S.military installation inside Kenya

The Manda Bay attack is the first al-Shabab has carried out on a U.S.military installation inside Kenya Among the aircraft destroyed at the Manda Bay base were manned surveillance planes that collect data across the border in Somalia, as well as over Kenya’s dense Boni forest, Also reportedly destroyed were aircraft operated by U.S. Special Operations Command and modified Havilland Canada Dash-8 spy aircraft, which carries the U.S. civil registration code N8200L. This is  a mind bending Jedi Level intrusion and asymmetric warfare coup de grace.

The U.S. Africa Command has sent its crack East Africa Response Force to secure the airfield and augment security. This is in fact a big deal.

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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September 2020

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