|Monday 09th of November 2020
Just weeks after the stock market crashed in 1929, President Herbert Hoover assured the country that things were already “back to normal,” Liaquat Ahamed writes in Lords of Finance
World Of Finance
Five months later, in March 1930, Hoover said the worst would be over “during the next 60 days.”
When that period ended, he said, “We have passed the worst.”
Eventually, Ahamed writes, “when the facts refused to obey Hoover’s forecasts, he started to make them up.”
Government agencies were pressed to issue false data. Officials resigned rather than do so, including the chief of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And we all know how that turned out: The Great Depression.
Babur’s Soul @Openthemag @DalrympleWill
IN 1526, Zahir-ud-Din Babur, a young Timurid poet-prince from Farghana in Central Asia, descended the Khyber Pass with a small army of handpicked followers; with him he brought some of the first modern muskets and cannon seen in India.
With these he defeated the Delhi Sultan, Ibrahim Lodhi, and established his garden-capital in Agra.
This was not Babur’s first conquest. He had spent much of his youth throneless, living with his companions from day to day, rustling sheep and stealing food.
Occasionally he would capture a town—he was 14 when he first took Samarkand and held it for four months.
Aged 23, he finally managed to seize and secure Kabul, and it was this Afghan base that became the springboard for his later conquest of India.
But before this he had lived for years in a tent, displaced and dispossessed, a peripatetic existence that had little appeal to him.
‘It passed through my mind,’ he wrote, ‘that to wander from mountain to mountain, homeless and helpless, has little to recommend it.’
Babur died in 1530, only four years after his arrival in India and before he could properly consolidate his new conquests.
He regarded himself as a failure for having lost his family lands in Central Asia and was profoundly ashamed that his generation of Timurids, thanks to their squabbles and rivalries, had failed to defend their ancestral inheritance after holding Oxiana for more than a century.
He could not have imagined that within a few years, his new Indian conquests would have grown to be the greatest and most populous of all Muslim-ruled empires, with around 150 million subjects—five times the number ruled by their only rivals, the Ottomans.
Before long, his family’s new conquests were producing about a quarter of all global manufacturing: by 1650, the Mughal Empire was the world’s industrial powerhouse and its greatest producer of manufactured textiles.
In comparison, England then had just 5 per cent of India’s population and was producing under 3 per cent of the world’s manufactured goods.
A good proportion of the profits of these Indian manufactures found their way to the Mughal exchequer in Agra, making Babur’s successors, with incomes of around £100 million, by far the richest monarchs in the world.
In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the great Mughal cities of Agra and Lahore are revealed to Adam after the Fall as future wonders of God’s creation.
This was no understatement: by the age of Milton, Lahore had grown larger even than Constantinople and, with its two million inhabitants, dwarfed both London and Paris.
From the ramparts of the Fort, Babur’s descendants ruled over most of India, all of Pakistan and Bangladesh and great chunks of Afghanistan.
Their army was all but invincible; their palaces unparalleled; the domes of their many mosques quite literally glittered with gold.
The Mughals were really rivalled only by their Ming counterparts in China.
For their grubby contemporaries in the West, stumbling around in their codpieces, Babur’s descendants, dripping in jewels, were the living embodiment of wealth and power—a meaning that has remained impregnated in the word ‘mogul’ ever since.
If the dynasty Babur founded represented Islamic rule at its most powerful and majestic, it also defined it at its most aesthetically pleasing: this was, after all, the Empire that gave the world Mughal miniatures, Mughal gardens and the spectacular architectural tradition that culminated in the Taj Mahal.
The great Mughal emperors were also, with one notable exception, relatively tolerant, pluralistic and eclectic.
Their empire was effectively built in coalition with India’s Hindu majority, particularly the Rajputs of Rajasthan, and succeeded as much through conciliation as by war.
This was particularly so of Babur’s grandson, the Emperor Akbar (1542-1605), who issued an edict of universal religious toleration, forbade forcible conversion to Islam and married a succession of Hindu wives.
At the same time that Jesuits were being hung, drawn and quartered in London, and when most of Catholic Europe was given over to the Inquisition, in India, Akbar was summoning Jesuits from Goa, as well as Sunnis and Shia Muslims, Hindus of both Shaivite and Vaishnavite persuasions, to come to his palace and debate their understanding of the metaphysical, declaring that ‘no man should be interfered with on account of religion, and anyone is to be allowed to go over to a religion that pleases him’.
Babur not only established this extraordinary dynasty and set the tone for their future political, economic and aesthetic triumphs, he also produced one of the most fascinating autobiographies ever written to record exactly how he did it.
The Baburnama does much more than merely keep the memory of his conquests alive. In its pages, Babur opens his soul with a frankness and lack of inhibition comparable to Pepys.
Typical is his description of falling in love with an adolescent boy from the Herat bazaar: ‘Before this I had never felt desire for anyone,’ he wrote.
‘But in the throes of love I wandered bareheaded and barefoot around the lanes and the streets and through the gardens and orchards, paying no attention to acquaintances or strangers, oblivious to self and others.’
Throughout his memoir, we are admitted to Babur’s innermost confidence as he examines and questions the world around him.
He compares the fruits and animals of India and Afghanistan with as much inquisitiveness as he records his impressions of falling for men or marrying women, or weighing up the differing pleasures of opium, hashish and alcohol.
Profoundly honest and unusually articulate, at once emotionally compelling and profoundly revealing, the Baburnama is in many ways an oddly modern text, almost Proustian in its self-awareness.
It presents the uncensored fullness of the man, a human life perfectly pinned to the page in simple, direct and unpretentious prose.
The uniqueness of the Baburnama was immediately recognised by all of Babur’s contemporaries as it was by his Mughal successors, who quickly had it translated from Babur’s colloquial Turki to literary Persian; later, in its English editions, it became a favourite text of the Orientalists of the British Raj who had replaced the Mughals in India and who saw many echoes of their life and thoughts in his.
According to the Victorian administrator and Persian scholar, Henry Beveridge, the husband of the translator of one volume, Annette Beveridge (and with whom she produced their son William, who was instrumental in the formation of the British welfare state,)
the Baburnama ‘is one of those priceless records that is for all time, and is fit to rank with the confessions of St Augustine and Rousseau, and the memoirs of Gibbon and Newton. In Asia it stands alone’.
This last sentence is not quite accurate: there was in fact a wonderfully rich tradition of Islamic autobiography out of which the Baburnama grew and which includes such masterworks as the witty and urbane Memoirs of Usamah Ibn Munquid, a Syrian Arab landowner from the time of the Crusades, and the wise, measured and ironic Mirror for Princes of Kai Ka’us Qabus, the extraordinary 11th century Seljuk prince who built the great Gunbad-i-Qabus tomb tower on the Caspian steppe and had his corpse suspended half way up in a rock crystal coffin. What is true, however, is that the Baburama is the culmination and climax of that Islamic autobiographical tradition as much as the Taj Mahal is the climax of its architectural legacy.
It is not just that the book is so very long and fabulously detailed: it extends to 6oo pages in the latest Turki critical edition, even with 15 Afghan years of the story now missing and lost forever.
This means that Babur’s life is more fully documented than that of any figure in the entire pre-colonial Islamic world.
What makes it stand out and remain relevant, and moving, today is its universal humanism and its unusual honesty, sensitivity and self-understanding.
As his latest scholarly biographer Stephen Dale puts it,
‘Babur transcended the narrative and historical genres of his culture to produce a retrospective self-portrait of the kind that is usually associated with the most stylishly effective European and American autobiographies.’
‘No other author in the Islamic world, or in pre-colonial India or China, offers a comparable autobiographical memoir, a seemingly ingenuous first-person narrative enlivened with self-criticism as well as self-dramatization, and the evocation of universally recognizable human emotions.
Not only does Babur make himself engagingly and personally approachable to readers, he also creates a three-dimensional picture of his world otherwise known mainly from stylized political narratives and dazzlingly colourful but two-dimensional miniature painters.’
The Baburnama is also, as generations of readers from different cultures have found, an unusually charming text: a warm-hearted, romantic and deeply engaging record of a highly cultured and honestly self-critical man:
‘His literary work delivers to us everything,’ writes Jean-Paul Roux, the French historian of the Mughals, ‘with his qualities and faults, especially his daily inner self, in his most casual moods, in his most profound thoughts, which often could have been our own.’
From the opening page, Babur’s love of nature and the fineness of his descriptive eye are immediately apparent as he evokes his lost homeland, the Farghana Valley.
Passage after passage lovingly describes the things he adored and now, writing in Indian exile, misses: spring mornings spent in hillsides dotted with wild violets, tulips and roses; cold running water, passing through ‘a shady and delightful clover meadow where every passing traveller takes a rest’, ‘beautiful little gardens with almond trees in the orchards’; ‘pomegranates renowned for their excellence… good hunting and fowling… pheasants which grow so surprisingly fat that rumour has it four people could not finish one they were eating with its stew’.
Throughout the text, Babur’s eye is alert for natural beauty and inquisitive about its curiosities.
He is, for example, delighted by the idea of the flying squirrels that he ‘found in the mountains, an animal larger than a bat and having a curtain like a bat’s wing, between its arms and legs. It is said to fly, downward, from one tree to another… Once we put one to a tree: it clambered up directly and got away but, when people went after it, it spread its wings and came down, without hurt, as if it had flown’.
Whole pages are devoted to the different varieties of many-coloured tulips growing wild in the Hindu Kush or to the smell of Holm Oak when used as winter firewood, ‘blazing less than mastic, but, like it, making a hot fire with plenty of ashes, and a nice smell. It has the peculiarity in burning that when its leafy branches are set alight, they fire up with an amazing sound, blazing and crackling from bottom to top’.
He goes into raptures about the changing colours of a flock of geese on the horizon, ‘something as red as the rose of the dawn kept showing and vanishing between the sky’.
Elsewhere he rhapsodises about the brilliant colours of an Afghan autumn.
Above all, he loved books. His first act after a conquest was to go to the library of his opponent and raid its shelves.
Whenever he visited a new city he would go to poetry meetings and listen to the verses being recited by its poets, joining in where appropriate and criticising whenever he disliked a particular couplet.
Bad poets were a particular source of irritation to the connoisseur in Babur.
Babur’s Soul @Openthemag @DalrympleWill [continued]
One distant cousin he admired for his table and administration—‘everything of his was orderly and well-arranged’—but castigated him for kidnapping beautiful boys for his bed (‘that vile practice’) and even more so for his ‘flat and insipid verse—not to compose is better than to compose verse such as his’.
His sensibilities sharpened by wide reading, Babur had a great gift for producing these witty and often piquant word-portraits of his contemporaries.
His own father he described as ‘short in stature with a round beard and a fleshy face, and was fat. He wore his tunic so tight that to fasten the ties he had to draw in his belly; if he let himself go, it often happened that the ties tore away. He was not choice in dress or food… In his early days he was a great drinker. Later on, he used to have a party once or twice a week. He was good company, talkative and well-spoken man… He was fun to be with in a gathering and good at reciting poetry to his companions’.
The Baburnama is an intriguingly mixed bag of such character sketches blended with musings on a wide variety of subjects: it is at once a diary, a history, a collection of nature notes, a gazetteer, a family chronicle and book of advice of a concerned father to a slightly hopeless son.
It is divided into three equal parts. The first tells of his childhood and the adolescent failures that led to the loss of his patrimony.
The second tells of his early twenties and his time spent homeless and wandering beyond the Oxus.
This is followed by the lucky capture of Kabul, which he then uses as a base to rally his exiled and scattered Timurid relatives.
The third tells the story of his final years and the conquest of India, a triumph tainted in its author’s eyes by the ever-present pain of exile and loss. History may remember him as the first Mughal emperor, but in his own eyes he was always a refugee.
Much of the text is a record of Babur’s restless energy and ambition, his struggles in a world that is inevitably profoundly male, military and feudal: fighting, riding, polo, drinking, swimming, fishing and hawking occupy many more pages than more peaceful pursuits such as chess, painting, calligraphy, romance, versifying or lovemaking.
But even the most relentlessly masculine passages are redeemed by Babur’s personal modesty and his awareness of his own failures, which he depicts as leading directly to the displacement and the exile of his people.
He gives as much space for battles lost as he does to battles won, and he takes full responsibility for his youthful failures: ‘These blunders,’ he writes, ‘were the fruits of inexperience.’
He is also frank about his capacity for grief and depression, and open about the great tragedies of his life and the way that they brought about his darkest moments.
He writes with palpable feeling about his mother’s death from fever; his favourite sister’s capture and rape by his Uzbek enemies; and the death of his comrades-in-arms:
‘His death made me strangely sad… ,’ he writes at one point. ‘For few have I felt such grief. I wept unceasingly for a week or ten days.’
He sets out at the beginning that he intends to hide nothing, however badly it may reflect on him, and he remains strikingly true to this undertaking:
‘In this history,’ he writes, ‘I have held firmly to it that the truth should be reached in every matter, and that every act should be recorded precisely as it occurred.’
Partly as a result of this, the Baburnama also records much that is to our eyes unflattering.
In this way it provides evidence for those in India, particularly from the Hindutva right, who today look on Babur as a barbarous and bloodthirsty jihadi invader.
For all the examples of his intense sensitivity towards botany, his love of poetry and calligraphy and painting, he also records himself ordering the slaughter of captives, the bloody torture and impaling of rebels and the enslavement of the women and children of his enemies.
He even records building pyramids of skulls. These were, after all, extremely violent times.
Like Alexander the Great, Rajaraja Chola, a Florentine prince of the age of Machiavelli or an Elizabethan poet-privateer of the age of Sidney or Drake, Babur was a man of ruthless, even pitiless, action as well as one of extraordinary sensitivity.
As Stephen Dale puts it, Babur shares with his Renaissance contemporaries ‘the cultivation and refinement of aesthetic sensibility amidst a brutal life of constant political and social violence’.
The parallel with the Italian Renaissance also struck Salman Rushdie: ‘The Western thinker whom Babur most resembles is his contemporary, the Florentine Niccolo Machiavelli,’ he wrote in his brilliant essay on the Baburnama.
‘In both men, a cold appreciation of the necessities of power, of what would today be called realpolitik, is combined with a deeply cultured and literary nature, not to mention the love, often to excess, of wine and women. Of course, Babur was an actual prince, not simply the author of The Prince, and could practice what he preached; while Machiavelli, the natural republican, the survivor of torture, was by far the more troubled spirit of the pair. Yet both of these unwilling exiles were as writers blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a clear-sightedness that looks amoral; as truth often does.’
Babur, in short, was at once the most refined of aesthetes—personally warm and loyal, with a sophisticated and sensitive mind—and also what we today might regard as a war criminal: casually violent and quite capable, when necessary, of overseeing acts of mass murder.
As Rushdie concludes, ‘Who then was Babur—scholar or barbarian, nature-loving poet or terror-inspiring warlord? The answer is to be found in the Baburnama, and it’s an uncomfortable one: he was both.’
From the opening page, Babur’s love of nature and the fineness of his descriptive eye are immediately apparent as he evokes his lost homeland, the Farghana Valley. throughout the text, Babur’s eye is alert for natural beauty and inquisitive about its curiosities
Amid so much in his memoir that is deeply human and which speaks to us with so much immediacy, it is this interplay of the sophisticated and warmly familiar with the alarmingly foreign and brutal that, more than anything else, gives the Baburnama its compelling complexity.
THE FARGHANA VALLEY is the Kashmir of Central Asia. The Soviets tried to turn it into an industrial zone, the focus of several Five Year Plans, intending to create a mass regional monoculture of industrialised cotton.
But the cotton business died along with the USSR and the region is now quickly reverting to the beautiful, high-altitude Eden it was at the time of Babur.
The valley is reached from the steppe around Tashkent by a winding mountain road which climbs steeply through Alpine meadows. Then, at the top of the pass, you pass through a rain shadow—a high-altitude desert, declining, as you descend, into scrubby, arid steppe grassland.
Then quite suddenly, at the bottom, the desert blossoms and beyond the first green fields of rich spring wheat you see the bubbling irrigation runnels, muddy with fresh snowmelt from the Kyrgiz Pamirs, that have brought about the transformation.
Beyond these fields, framed by jagged snow peaks, lies the fertile fruit basket of Babur’s beloved Farghana.
As you drive along avenues of poplar, rolling meadows full of poppies and wild tulips flank an expanse of apple, mulberry, apricot and almond orchards, all heavy with ripening fruit.
In the distance, on the higher ground at the edge of the valley, are vineyards.
Next to some of the larger irrigation runnels—bubbling streams of snowmelt from the Tien Shan—men sit crosslegged on wooden charpoys, in the shade of poplars, eating tent flaps of naan and long skewers of shashlik.
Flocks of fat-tailed sheep are grazing amid the meadows. Donkeys rest by the roadside. An old man casts a fishing line from a bridge.
The green intensifies as you progress, until eventually the poplars mass into thickets around the oxbow meanders of the Amu Darya, Alexander’s Oxus.
Directly above its banks rise the precipitous mud brick walls of the greatest fortress of Farghana and its ancient capital: Akshi. The sun sets behind the snowpeaks; below, waterfowl call to roost. There is no one about.
The town was destroyed and left deserted by a cataclysmic earthquake of 1621, but even in complete ruination, you can sense the massive grandeur and might of this place in its Timurid glory days.
Babur was at once the most refined of aesthetes—personally warm and loyal, with a sophisticated and sensitive mind—and also what we today might regard as a war criminal: casually violent and quite capable, when necessary, of overseeing acts of mass murder
Babur was born here, in Akshi, in 1483. The cataclysmic 13th century conquests of Genghis Khan (most active between 1218 and 1221) followed a century later by those of Timur (1336 to 1405) had between them destroyed the old global order and utterly changed the complexion of the world between the Mediterranean to India; but it left Central Asia one of the richest regions on earth and Akshi as one of its most imposing and impregnable fortresses.
Timur had hauled back to Samarkand the greatest craftsmen, artists and intellectuals from every region he conquered and through their captive labour turned his steppeland capital into one of the great cities of the world.
A major cultural renaissance followed, as the Timurids— dubbed ‘the Oriental Medici’ by the aesthete and travel writer Robert Byron—transformed themselves into refined litterateurs, connoisseurs of painting and poetry and calligraphy, as well as scientists, mathematicians and astronomers.
This moment of cultural efflorescence was still at its height when Babur was born.
In Herat, the centre of this Timurid Renaissance, Babur’s cousin Shah Rukh was ruling over a court of extraordinary talent where the great Bihzad painted his masterworks and Shah Rukh’s sons argued over the superior literary talents of Khusraw or Nizami, comparing poems, ‘line by line’.
Babur was directly descended from both of the great world conquerors: from Genghis and his son Chaghatai (1162-1227) on his mother’s side, and from Timur on that of his father, who was one of Timur’s many grandsons.
But the cultural achievements of Babur’s generation were not matched by political or military triumphs.
Instead Timur’s many descendants fought among themselves over his inheritance, and each campaigning season brought another round of internecine family feuds: an endlessly repeating cycle of raids and invasions, alliances and betrayals.
As EM Forster noted in his essay on Babur, ‘There were simply too many kings about and not enough kingdoms. Tamerlane and Genghis Khan had produced between them so numerous a progeny that a frightful congestion of royalties had resulted along the upper waters of the Jaxartes and the Oxus, and in Afghanistan. One could scarcely travel two miles without being held up by an Emperor.’
Babur put the same thought more succinctly: ‘Ten darwishes can sleep under a single blanket,’ he wrote, quoting a proverb, ‘but two kings cannot find room under one clime.’
The Baburnama opens with a panorama of the final years of Timurid Central Asia, just before the rule of Babur and his cousins was snuffed out for ever.
Babur tells how his father died, in a fall from his pigeon house in 1494, when his heir was barely 12 years old.
Immediately, two Timurid uncles invaded his lands, while several of his father’s nobles tried to replace him with his more malleable younger brother.
Babur saw off both threats and even, briefly, managed to capture Samarkand at the tender age of 14.
But a new and much more formidable enemy soon appeared on the horizon. Taking advantage of Timurid in-fighting, the disciplined cavalry of the Uzbek warlord Muhammad Shaybani Khan (1451-1510) took Samarkand from Babur, easily outmanoeuvring and defeating his inexperienced teenage opponent.
Next, Shaybani took Bukhara, then Tashkent. Then, one by one, in a startling short time, he overthrew each of Babur’s feuding cousins and kinsmen, none of whom seemed to realise the seriousness of the Uzbek threat until too late.
‘They went to pieces,’ wrote Babur, ‘and were unable to do anything, Neither could they gather their men nor were they able to array their forces. Instead, each set out on his own.’
Babur claims he tried to raise the alarm: ‘An enemy like Shaybani Khan had arrived on the scene, and he posed a threat to Turk and Mughal alike,’ he wrote. ‘[I argued that Shaybani] should be dealt with now while he had not yet totally defeated the nation or grown too strong, as has been said:
Put out a fire when you can
For when it blazes high it will burn the wood.
Do not allow an enemy to string his bow,
While you can pierce him with an arrow.’
But the Timurids failed to unite, and defeat continued to follow defeat.
Babur’s final stand was in his birthplace of Akshi, in June 1503. His outnumbered men, perhaps 400-strong, failed to staunch the relentless Uzbek attack and by evening Babur was leading his last companions through the east gate, fleeing for their lives into the orchards below, as the Uzbeks pursued them on horse.
‘That was no time to make a stand or delay,’ he wrote later. ‘We went off quickly, the enemy unhorsing our men.’
Many were killed and his half-sister, Yadgar Sultan Begum, was captured.
By sunset, Babur found himself with only eight men, one of whom offered him his horse. ‘It was a miserable position for me,’ wrote Babur.
‘He remained behind. I was alone.’ Babur hid and was soon discovered, but somehow managed to convince his enemies that he would reward them handsomely if they helped him escape.
He then wandered forlornly from cousin to cousin, looking for opportunities to make a comeback, but without success:
‘I endured much poverty and humiliation,’ he wrote. ‘I had no country or the hope of one. Most of my retainers dispersed, and those left were unable to move around because of destitution… .
It came very hard on me. I could not help crying.’
Worse was to follow in the months that followed as the last of his cousins north of the Oxus were, one by one, defeated, captured or killed.
By the age of 22, Babur and his extended family had lost everything: ‘For more nearly 140 years,’ he wrote, ‘[these lands had belonged] to our dynasty.’ Now he and his people were reduced to utter destitution.
Babur wrote this first section with all the elegiac love of an exile for a world he knows he has lost forever and will never see again.
As a result, it is also the part of his book that is most challenging to read: charmingly nostalgic in small doses, it is also at times a bewilderingly, even numbingly, detailed record of the lost world of Timurid Central Asia and the annihilated Timurid nobility that once peopled it.
It was as if setting it down minutely on paper could somehow preserve a fragment of what had been lost.
He walked three times around Humayun’s bed, praying: “O God! If a life may be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and my being for a Humayun.”
There are many mythical tales about Babur but my favourite is the story of Humayun. eldest son and heir-apparent, was stricken by a fever. Despite the best efforts of the royal physicians, his condition steadily worsened.
Driven to despair, Babur consulted a man of religion who told him that the remedy “was to give in alms the most valuable thing one had and to seek cure from God.”
Babur is said to have replied thus: “I am the most valuable thing that Humayun possesses; than me he has no better thing; I shall make myself a sacrifice for him. May God the Creator accept it.”
Humayun possessed a priceless diamond, they said, which could be sold and the proceeds given to the poor... Babur would not hear of it. “What value has worldly wealth?” Babur is quoted to have said.
“And how can it be a redemption for Humayun? I myself shall be his sacrifice.”
He walked three times around Humayun’s bed, praying: “O God! If a life may be exchanged for a life, I who am Babur, I give my life and my being for a Humayun.”
A few minutes later, he cried: “We have borne it away, we have borne it away.”And sure enough, from that moment Babur began to sicken, while Humayun grew slowly well. Babur died near Agra on December 21, 1530.
A Time For Everything
Law & Politics
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 2 Vanity[a] of vanities, says the Preacher
Law & Politics
Vanity[a] of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens[b] to the place where it rises.
What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there a thing of which it is said,
“See, this is new”?
It has been already
in the ages before us.
There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance
of later things[d] yet to be
among those who come after.
Erdogan Fires Turkish Central Bank Governor, Launching Full-Blown Currency Crisis @zerohedge
Back in July 2019, when Turkey's economy was in freefall and its inflation was soaring following a historic currency crash in mid-2018, and shortly after Erdogan became a de facto executive and unopposed ruler of Turkey, the Turkish president had a brilliant idea: take decades of monetary orthodoxy and flip them on their head.
Faced with a lose-lose situation of slowing growth, runaway prices and a slumping lira, Erdogan conceived of what is now known as "Erdoganomics" or the bizarre epiphany that in order to fight inflation and keep the currency from plunging, all Turkey had to do was the polar opposite of what any other country in its position would do and cut rates, or as he put it, totally obliterating cause and effect, high interest rates cause inflation.
To implement this truly "unique" vision, Erdogan fired the then-governor of the Turkish Central Bank, Murat Cetinkaya, who inexplicably refused to cut rates at a time when Turkish inflation was surging, and replaced him with an obedient lapdog, Murat Uysal.
"We fired the previous central bank governor because he wouldn’t listen and we have decided to move on with our new friend,” Erdogan said in a speech at parliament in Ankara Tuesday.
Erdogan said he told the new governor that “we are going to lower interest rates."
It worked for a while: Uysal delivered a bigger-than-forecast cut on almost all occasions, that he’s reduced rates since Erdogan appointed him in July, bringing the cumulative easing under his watch to 16 percentage points - including a record move in his first month on the job.
For a while it worked: having cut rates by 16% in under a year, the Turkish economy had staged a modest rebound, but most importantly, inflation did in fact collapse, sparking quiet but agitated discussions across various corners of monetary academia, if Erdoganomics was not in fact right, and everything accepted as conventional by central banks was not upside down.
In the end, of course, it failed, and with the Turkish economy crippled by the global pandemic, with much needed tourism in freefall and accelerating a capital account crisis, the Turkish lira started to slide, and slide, and slide some more... until it eventually surpassed the Brazilian Real as the worst performing currency in the world, losing 30% of its value in 2020
But worst of all, instead of further cutting rates in line with Erdogan's visions, the central bank ended its easing cycle and back in September, it resumed hiking, rising rates from 8.25% to 10.25%.
While that rate hike was the only thing that prevented the lira from a far greater collapse, it also turned out to be one more rate hikes than Erdogan could handle, and late on Friday, Erdogan unexpectedly fired the governor of the country’s central bank - less than a year and a half after he did the exact same thing - and replaced him with a former finance minister.
Murat Uysal was just 16 months into his four-year term at the helm of the central bank when he was dismissed by presidential decree in the early hours of Saturday, with no reason given although the reason was clear: instead of cutting rates to "stimulate" the economy and fight rising inflation, he hiked.
That was all the Turkish president needed to know, and so he replaced one central bank figurehead with another, even more obedient figurehead, when he appointed Naci Agbal, who served as Erdogan’s finance minister between 2015 and 2018 and is now the head of the presidential budget office.
So what happens next?
Well, for one, the latest firing will cement the reality that the Turkish central bank is now merely a branch of Erdogan's executive presidency, one where the higher the inflation the lower the interest rates.
More importantly for Turkey and its residents, Erdogan's action will trigger a new and even more acute crisis for the Turkish lira, now that it is clear that Erdogan will resume another aggressive rate cut cycle.
Only instead of sparking growth, the imminent rate cuts will end up destroying any "carry" currency value the Turkish lira may have had to western investors, leading to what will be a historic dump, perhaps as soon as Monday.
In short, we expect this to be the first salvo in what ultimately culminates as a full-blown currency crisis for the Turkish nation, and while Erdogan may try to impose capital controls, it won't last for one simple reason: the Turkish central bank is almost out of FX reserves.
And once those are gone, the Turkish lira will promptly go bidless and will follow in the footsteps of the Venezuela bolivar.
Bad cop, worse cop @Africa_Conf
The President’s spies and soldiers are fighting each other, not just the opposition, ahead of elections in February
President Yoweri Museveni has been reshuffling his security chiefs after rivalries broke into the open, threatening the cohesion of the state's repressive apparatus.
On 8 October Colonel Kaka Bagyenda was sacked as head of the Internal Security Organisation after it became clear that it was challenging other parts of the security system, especially the military, and accusing them of plotting to overthrow the President.
The scandal-dogged ISO is responsible for counter-intelligence as well as surveillance of the opposition. But Bagyenda's sacking, according to insiders in Kampala, is the climax of his long-running fight with what is now regarded as Uganda's most powerful intelligence outfit, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
Often the CMI collaborates with the Special Forces Command, the elite branch of the Ugandan military in charge of Museveni's security.
The CMI and SFC are both within the military chain of command.
Pundits warn that the ISO was guilty mostly of an excess of zeal. It was intended that it should harass only the government's political enemies, and Bagyenda fell because he did not confine his depredations to the opposition but had targeted prominent members of society.
And his organisation lost out in favour of the military. The ISO is under-resourced and its staff unprofessional, we hear.
Chief among the ISO's missteps was to accuse the President's son, Lieutenant General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, and his mother, the First Lady Janet Museveni, of plotting to overthrow the President. This is believed to have been the proximate cause of Bagyenda's fall.
CMI and SFC placed the ISO under investigation for making this accusation.
While the investigations were ongoing, ISO clashed with the military leadership in another case in which some individuals had sued Bobi Wine and other members of his National Unity Platform, alleging that he had acquired the party fraudulently.
Bobi Wine needed the NUP as a vehicle in order to meet constitutional conditions for standing for the presidency.
Many in Kampala think that the National Unity Reconciliation and Development Party, the precursor to the NUP, had been encouraged by the securocrats to sue Bobi Wine so that he would be shown to have acquired the party wrongly, and would thus be 'legally' ineligible to stand (AC Vol 61 No 20, Bottling Wine).
The plot hinged on Moses Kibalama, the NUP's founder. ISO officers are believed to have coerced Kibalama to claim in an affidavit that the NUP had been forced out of his hands by Bobi Wine.
ISO found itself at odds with Gen David Muhoozi, the commander of Uganda's armed forces, over Kibalama.
The upshot was that Bobi Wine was cleared to continue with the NUP. So the military's resentment of the ISO grew.
The embarrassed military blamed the ISO. President Museveni was angered at the reputational damage the army had suffered and met Bagyenda to demand answers.
Museveni was particularly irritated that many thought his government was so afraid of Bobi Wine it would keep him out of the polls illegitimately.
The ISO is also accused of creating other problems for the government. In May, the CMI and SFC had arrested an ISO operative named Simon Peter Odongo for falsifying intelligence which ISO had submitted to the President.
Odongo was a key operative in ISO's cyber unit. In 2017, he produced a report claiming that Uganda's Secretary to the treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, together with other high officials had been involved in a scheme to steal $20 million from the central bank.
Yet the Bank of Uganda confirmed no money was missing. The ISO had also claimed that the MTN mobile phone network contained a 'back door' in its systems that Rwanda could use to spy on government communications.
In July 2018, the ISO raided MTN and later senior MTN employees, including the CEO Wim Vanhelleputte, a Belgian, were deported for allegedly compromising national security.
Following further investigations, Vanhelleputte was allowed to return to Uganda and resume his job. President Museveni admitted he had been misled.
Odongo was also involved in the imbroglio around the 2017 assassination of top police officer Andrew Felix Kaweesi (AC Vol 59 No 4, An inspector calls, no longer).
Gen Kale Kayihura was accused of the murder before a court martial. That and other charges were dropped after it emerged that prosecution witnesses had been coached by ISO operatives. He still faces serious charges but has been released on bail since late August.
Then, in May, CMI and SFC arrested Odongo following an altercation with some military officers. The two agencies have since defied court orders demanding his release.
In what appeared to be a further escalation of tensions, the CMI and SFC in July raided ISO's safe houses, where the agency was accused of holding and torturing Ugandans, and arrested ISO personnel.
Responsibility for internal security and undermining the opposition has long been blurred, with the ISO, CMI, SFC and the Uganda Police Force all exercising varying degrees of autonomy while competing for resources and the President's favours.
The President likes his securocrats to be suspicious of each other, insiders say, because it means no single body or commander can plot against him without his rivals hearing about it and alerting him.
But Bagyenda is believed to have taken vigilance to extremes.
Bagyenda, 68, had an important intelligence role in the National Resistance Army's guerrilla war. After Museveni came to power in 1986, the ISO was in the ascendant until the early 2000s, when its then head, Henry Tumukunde, then a brigadier, got into a power struggle with the CMI.
Tumukunde challenged Museveni's first lifting of presidential term limits and from then on CMI started to command resources that had previously been available to ISO and its decline began.
By 2005, Gen Kayihura had made the police the senior security enforcer for the President, overshadowing the CMI and ISO.
That continued until he and Museveni fell out in 2017 when he was accused of wanting to unseat the President and working with Rwanda.
During that period the ISO was starved of funds and shorn of its intelligence-gathering functions.
It gradually diminished in importance until it became no more than an appendage of the National Resistance Movement, its agents often adjuncts of squabbling ruling party cadres and acting as extortionists, NRM sources said.
When Kayihura fell, Museveni summoned Bagyenda back from obscurity on his island in Lake Victoria to regain supremacy in the security firmament. Gen Salim Saleh, Museveni's brother, was believed to have influenced the appointment.
Bagyenda quickly stamped his own authority on the ISO by sidelining the few remaining qualified intelligence officers, replacing them with a team that came to seen as highly disreputable.
It included Paddy Serunjogi, a leader of a notorious criminal gang who in 2017 confessed to being behind a spate of robberies and murders in Kampala.
Under Bagyenda's leadership the ISO's profile rose, albeit mostly for its reputation for torturing citizens in its safe houses and fabricating intelligence against them.
The poorly trained operatives often used to extort money from senior government officials and top business people in the capital as well as harassing oppositionists.
The ISO also claimed to have 'rooted out' spies. It convinced the President that Rwanda was infiltrating the Ugandan security structure with a view to overthrowing him.
This belief helped fuel the public falling out between the two countries last year (AC Vol 60 No 6, Sibling rivalry turns ugly).
In spite of all this chaos, President Museveni has chosen not to punish Bagyenda. Instead, he has appointed him ambassador to Angola.
President João Lourenço is leading the effort to reconcile Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Museveni.
Bagyenda's appointment is also intriguing because as ISO chief he carried out the very operations that escalated tensions between Rwanda and Uganda.
Much remains unclear about why Bagyenda ended up in such a prominent role.
What is clear is that President Museveni wanted him out of the security establishment, which has been critical to his previous election victories and is expected to deliver the same in the 2021 elections.
Democracy is faltering in Tanzania and Ivory Coast @TheEconomist
Law & Politics
“I have escaped arrest twice today,” said Zitto Kabwe, a Tanzanian opposition leader, on November 2nd. But, he added, “I cannot avoid the police for ever.”
The next day they picked him up, like so many of his colleagues who contested Tanzania’s election on October 28th. Some have been beaten.
Tundu Lissu, a leading rival to President John Magufuli, was grabbed by police in front of European embassies, where he was seeking refuge having been turned away by the American embassy.
Mr Lissu was interrogated, but not charged—perhaps because German diplomats were waiting outside the police station.
Democracy in Tanzania is broken—and is in trouble elsewhere in Africa, too.
Guinea’s election on October 18th resulted in a dubious victory (and a third term) for President Alpha Condé. At least 30 people were killed protesting against the result, says the opposition.
Ivory Coast is in crisis after President Alassane Ouattara won a third term on October 31st, amid a boycott by the opposition.
Both leaders claimed not to be bound by term limits, illustrating a dismal recent trend (see map).
Tanzania may be the most troubling case. Not long ago it seemed on its way to becoming a relatively prosperous democracy.
For more than a decade from 2000 its economy was among Africa’s best performers. But Mr Magufuli, who took over in 2015, has set things back.
He has produced fishy economic numbers that seem to hide real problems, while cracking down on any opposition.
In this election he won 84% of the vote, up from 58% in 2015, according to the official tally.
His party won enough seats to abolish term limits, if it so chooses.
The opposition is claiming fraud. “This was not an election,” says Mr Lissu. “It was just a gang of people who have decided to misuse state machinery to cling to power.”
Mr Lissu has called for protests. Mr Kabwe hopes other countries will impose sanctions on Tanzania.
Britain, for one, said it was “deeply troubled” by the result.
But countries in the region have been more supine. An observer mission from the East African Community, a regional bloc, said the vote had been “conducted in a credible manner”.
The observer mission from the African Union (au) has yet to express an opinion. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who currently chairs the au, congratulated Mr Magufuli on his win in a “peaceful election”.
Ivory Coast seemed to be moving in the right direction, too. Mr Ouattara took over in 2011, after a disputed election and much bloodshed.
The economy grew faster than most in Africa. But democracy has suffered. In 2016 Mr Ouattara wangled changes to the constitution which, he claims, reset the clock on his time in office, so that its two-term limit would not apply to him until after a fourth term.
In August he reneged on his decision to retire and said he would run again. The constitutional council waved through his candidacy and blocked 40 of 44 other contenders from running, including several big names. Since then there have been protests and ethnic violence. Dozens of Ivorians have been killed.
When the time came to vote, the opposition called for civil disobedience. Protesters smashed up polling stations and prevented voting in some areas.
At least five people were killed in clashes. A significant chunk of the population did not vote.
The electoral commission says that 21% of polling stations never opened. The au and the Economic Community of West African States (ecowas), another regional bloc, nonetheless called the poll “satisfactory”. Officially Mr Ouattara took 94% of the vote.
The Ivorian opposition is not backing down. Rather, it is setting up a parallel government, led by an 86-year-old, Henri Konan Bédié, who ran against Mr Ouattara in the election.
Its aim is to organise a new election. Mr Ouattara’s men call this sedition. Tensions are rising.
On November 3rd riot police surrounded Mr Bédié’s house and used tear gas to disperse journalists before carting away some 20 people, including a former minister of health.
The houses of other opposition figures were also surrounded. As The Economist went to press Mr Bédié had not been arrested.
With each side taking such extreme positions, dialogue looks remote, says William Assanvo of the Institute for Security Studies in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s commercial capital.
He thinks the crisis will worsen, as leaders are arrested and clashes break out between rival factions and ethnic groups.
Parts of the armed forces do not view Mr Ouattara as legitimate, he adds.
Guillaume Soro, a former prime minister and rebel leader exiled in France, has called on the army to act against Mr Ouattara. Over 3,000 people have fled the country.
International mediation is desperately needed, says Arsène Brice Bado of the Jesuit University in Abidjan.
But regional bodies tend to favour incumbents. In 2015 the members of ecowas discussed a proposal to restrict presidents in the region to two terms, but it was ultimately dropped.
The limp response of ecowas to the situations in Guinea and Ivory Coast has made opposition parties even angrier.
Guinea, Tanzania and Ivory Coast are setting a bad example just as an election season in Africa heats up.
Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Ghana, Niger and Uganda all go to the polls in the next few months.
Their leaders might do well to look instead to the Seychelles, where last month the opposition won a presidential election for the first time since independence in 1976. The loser graciously attended his opponent’s victory speech. ■
Back to blood Ethiopia’s prime minister may be starting a civil war @TheEconomist
Law & Politics
It started as a border skirmish in 1998, between Ethiopian policemen and Eritrean soldiers in Badme, a small village on a barren mountain. One observer at the time likened it to “two bald men fighting over a comb”.
It grew into a two-decade-long war in which two of the world’s poorest countries bled themselves to exhaustion.
Waves of young men charged across the no-man’s-land between their trenches, in battles reminiscent of the first world war in Europe. Perhaps 100,000 soldiers died, and half a million civilians were forced from their homes.
Among those who fought in Badme was a young Ethiopian radio operator who briefly left his foxhole to position his antenna.
When he came back to it, he found his unit had been wiped out in an artillery strike.
“War is the epitome of hell,” said Abiy Ahmed, the radio operator who is now Ethiopia’s prime minister. “I know because I was there.”
He ended that pointless conflict in 2018, by promising to withdraw Ethiopian troops from Badme and restoring relations with Eritrea. In 2019 Abiy won the Nobel peace prize.
Yet now the peacemaker has turned martial. Early on November 4th, while the world’s eyes were boggling at America’s elections, Abiy ordered his troops into action against the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (tplf), which runs Tigray, a northern region of Ethiopia (see article).
He accuses the tplf of attacking an army base to steal weapons. “The last red line has been crossed,” he said. “The federal government is therefore forced into a military confrontation.”
Abiy argues that armed action is needed to bring the tplf to heel and to hold together Ethiopia’s fractious federation of ethnically based states.
Yet in resorting to tanks, rather than talks, he risks rolling Ethiopia into another pointless, hellish war.
Such a war could lead to the balkanisation of Africa’s second-most-populous country (with 110m people). It could also spread instability into neighbouring countries.
Start with the balance of forces. Because Tigray was on the front line of the war with Eritrea, it has a large militia and paramilitary force manned by veterans.
The army’s Northern Command in Tigray contains more than half of the federal army’s fighting men and its best divisions, according to the International Crisis Group, an ngo.
Many of the officers and men in the Northern Command are Tigrayan. If ordered into battle against their own region, many might choose to defend it instead.
Fighting in Tigray could draw in neighbouring Amhara, which has long-standing disputes over the border between the two regions. It could also fan ethnic conflagrations elsewhere in Ethiopia.
Even though Oromos, another ethnic group, currently dominate the federal government, Oromo activists are demanding more power and autonomy for their region.
Their mobs have been killing members of other groups in multi-ethnic towns and cities in Oromia.
Amnesty International has reported that on November 1st Oromo gunmen rounded up 54 people, mostly women and children, and killed them in a schoolyard.
Smaller ethnic groups, such as the Sidama in the south, are also agitating for greater autonomy and have mounted pogroms against minorities.
Conflict could draw in neighbouring countries, such as Eritrea, which has a score to settle with the tplf dating back to the war it fought with Ethiopia.
And it could destabilise Somalia, where Ethiopian troops are battling the jihadists of al-Shabaab.
For almost 150 years since Emperor Menelik II waged the wars of conquest that created the borders of modern Ethiopia, the country’s various governments have used naked power to hold it together against the centrifugal forces of ethnic nationalism.
Now, however, violence is more likely to speed up the gyre. To slow it, Abiy and the tplf need to stand their forces down. That would allow time for Ethiopians to talk about how to mend their country’s many rifts—without shooting
Safaricom Ltd reports #SafaricomHYResults HY EPS -5.7%
N.S.E Equities - Commercial & Services
Par Value: 0.05/-
Closing Price: 31.25
Total Shares Issued: 40065428000.00
Market Capitalization: 1,252,044,625,000
Safaricom reports 6 months ended 30th September 2020
Half Year Service Revenue 118.406b versus 124.324b -6.00%
Half Year Total Revenue 124.535b versus 129.925b -4.1%
Direct Costs [37.021b] versus [37.112b] [0.2%]
Provision for expected credit Loss [ECL] on receivables [2.404b] versus [366.3m] > 100%
Other Expenses [21.226b] versus [23.732b] -10.6%
Half Year [EBITDA] 63.380b versus 68.369.3b -7.3%
Depreciation and Amortisation [18.412b] versus [18.124b] 1.6%
HY EBIT 44.968b versus 50.245b -10.5%
Half Year Profit Before Tax 44.747b versus 51.324b -12.8%
Half Year Profit After Tax 33.069b versus 35.195b -6.00%
Half Year Earnings Per Share 0.83 versus 0.88 -5.7%
Cash at End of the Period 15.779b versus 23.280b
From the Presentation
Customer Growth +10.2% to 30.31m
Voice declined -6.5%
Mobile Data grew +14.1%