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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Friday 11th of December 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.

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09-NOV-2020 :: The Spinning Top
World Of Finance

"As a consequence of decades of economic mismanagement, sequential resuscitations and constant bailouts—most especially during the past three years—vast portions of the global economy have mutated into a ‘zombified’ state." @mtmalinen

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Paolo Rossi, a hero of Italian football who inspired the national side to victory in the 1982 World Cup, has died aged 64 @AFP

They paid tribute to 'Pablito', the star who was banned for his part in a betting scandal but returned to win the World Cup and the Ballon D'Or the same year.

Rossi's wife Federica Cappelletti announced the death with a post on Instagram alongside a photo of the couple, accompanied by the comment "Forever," followed by a heart.


The Hat Trick was incredible. I can still hear the Italian Commentator ringing in my ears.

However, the method with which they repelled one of the best teams of all time [Brazil 1982] was a hurdle many never overcome.

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Nairobi National Park has a number of rivers and streams that are dammed to create permanent water sources for wildlife. @kenyangeography

The rivers originate from the Ngong Hills area and ensure survival of wildlife during the dry season.

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― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

“I dream that I have found us both again,

With spring so many strangers' lives away,

And we, so free,

Out walking by the sea,

With someone else's paper words to say....

They took us at the gates of green return,

Too lost by then to stop, and ask them why-

Do children meet again?

Does any trace remain,

Along the superhighways of July?” 

― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

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“No matter how the official narrative of this turns out," it seemed to Heidi

Thomas Pynchon in Bleeding Edge “No matter how the official narrative of this turns out," it seemed to Heidi, "these are the places we should be looking, not in newspapers or television but at the margins, graffiti, uncontrolled utterances, bad dreamers who sleep in public and scream in their sleep.”

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Life after Covid-19: What are we going to do now? @FinancialTimes
World Of Finance

Unless you are Jeff Bezos or a shareholder in Zoom, the past 11 months are likely to have inspired a mix of fear, despair, grief and confusion. 

The pandemic has touched every aspect of life and mostly not for the better: bringing death, disease, joblessness and isolation, and deepening social and economic inequalities.

Globalism is under pressure from nationalism, as countries have closed borders, hoarded protective equipment and bartered over vaccines. Geopolitical alliances are being reshaped. The US seems in disarray; China appears emboldened. 

The world sometimes feels as if it is spinning in the wrong direction, although the vaccine rollouts offer a glimpse of hope

For those whose heads are aching at the enormity of it all, three books offer different but surprisingly congruent ways of processing the pandemic and looking ahead to the world that might emerge.

Many will empathise with the title of Ivan Krastev’s slender, European-focused offering: Is It Tomorrow Yet? 

Krastev, who fled to a friend’s house in the Bulgarian countryside in March, notes that epidemics “reset our world in a similar way to wars and revolutions, yet these other things stamp themselves on our collective memory in a manner that epidemics somehow do not.”

Numbers bear him out. The Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 killed between 50m and 100m people, possibly more than the first world war (17m) and second world war (60m) combined. 

It is a staggering toll for a single event, which also saw a third of the world infected. 

Yet, while you can browse perhaps 80,000 books on the first of those wars, there are just 400 or so about the Spanish flu.

That perverse perspective arises not only because it is easier to count those killed in war than those felled by a virus, but also from the narrative of disease. 

It is impossible, Krastev points out, to frame a pandemic “as a clash of good and evil. It lacks a plot and a moral.” 

Dying from illness instead of a bullet is not an exercise in patriotism or heroic sacrifice, and no deeper meaning can be extracted from it.

Nonetheless, he does try to arrive at some meaning by ordering his thoughts into seven paradoxes. 

For example, the rapid jet-enabled spread of the virus shows the downside of globalisation while unifying us in common experience. 

The pandemic has accelerated the trend towards deglobalisation by making countries strive for self-sufficiency, while at the same time exposing more clearly the limits of nationalism. 

The virus has also strengthened a sense of community in many societies while also widening political, social and economic divisions.

We live in an inherently unstable system: everyone is connected but no one is in control

Covid-19 has, Krastev argues, put the future of the European project in the balance. The pandemic revealed the EU’s shortcomings: when Italy begged for urgent medical supplies, no member state responded. 

Even so, this failure is, also paradoxically, spurring closer integration; the bloc, in a pushback against deglobalisation, might well end up with more common policies and greater emergency powers for future crises.

Its future is also constrained by what is happening beyond the continent. When the EU looks towards the US, it sees a broken society that cannot be relied upon (although that might change with new US leadership); neither can it gaze too adoringly at China, which harbours its own hegemonic ambitions. 

He forecasts that the “globalised nature of Covid-19, combined with the realisation that 19th century economic nationalism is no longer an option for small and midsized European nation states, may give rise to a newly configured, EU-centred, territorial nationalism . . . If the world is going protectionist, effective protectionism in Europe is possible only on continental level.”

This is a good primer for the first post-pandemic, post-Brexit dinner party (if we can ever be bothered to go back to them): big ideas in small doses that are sufficiently intriguing to impress companions but not so committed as to offend either nationalists or globalists.

If reading Krastev is equivalent to enjoying a short, informal supper, signing up to Fareed Zakaria is like booking a 10-course dinner with a chef who takes his gastronomy very seriously. 

In Ten Lessons For A Post-Pandemic World, the international thinker, author and CNN host lectures us on how Covid-19 will upend such certainties as markets, globalisation and digital living.

Covid-19, he asserts, is the third major post-cold war shock to hit the global order, after 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. Each was an “asymmetric” threat: a cataclysmic change triggered by the flutter of a proverbial butterfly’s wing

In the case of coronavirus, the wing belonged not to a butterfly but to a bat, possibly somewhere in Hubei province. 

“What began as a healthcare problem in China . . . prompted a simultaneous lockdown of all business across the globe, resulting in a Great Paralysis, the cessation of economics itself.”

That is because we live in an inherently unstable system: everyone is connected but no one is in control. 

The world is always in overdrive, with a relentless acceleration in human development over the past two centuries. 

We are living longer, producing more, consuming more, devouring energy and space on an unprecedented scale — and generating waste and emissions in tandem. 

He describes the pandemic as “nature’s revenge” on our voracious species, as we build roads, clear land, build factories and dig mines.

One of the most interesting chapters, or lessons, examines the role of national governments in managing the disease. 

Zakaria is persuasive that the quality, not quantity, of government, is the key to triumph. Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore coped well, tackling the virus early and limiting any lockdowns

These are “small-state” governments with relatively low public spending. But “big state” countries such as Germany, Denmark and Finland also earn plaudits for steering their national ships comparatively calmly through the viral storm. The common factor, he says, is a “competent, well-functioning, trusted state”.

That phrase cannot, he laments, be applied to America and Britain, who reaped the chaotic consequences of being more anti-government and starving domestic agencies in the name of efficiency and austerity. 

It was a false economy. In the UK, the private sector has struggled to deliver at a time of national crisis, despite enormous sums being thrown its way. 

No wonder Zakaria entitles the lesson that follows “markets are not enough”.

But while there are statistics, quotes and reports aplenty to scaffold his ideas, he is less convincing on digital life and inequality.

There is scant mention of how the pandemic has divided us into the exposed poor and the shielded rich, or the role of the so-called gig economy in perpetuating this schism.

If Zakaria serves up the post-pandemic musings of an affluent, educated global elite, who might speak for the unwashed masses? 

Arise Pope Francis, who has broken with papal tradition by penning, with biographer Austen Ivereigh, a response to a major crisis.

Let Us Dream is part homily and part manifesto for profound social change — and, aside from the quotes from scripture, utterly in tune with the secular post-pandemic narrative. 

“We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis,” Pope Francis warns

“We need economies that give to all access to the fruits of creation, to the basic needs of life: to land, lodging and labour. We need a politics that can integrate and dialogue with the poor, the excluded, and the vulnerable, that gives people a say in the decisions that impact their lives. We need to slow down, take stock, and design better ways of living together on this earth.”

While he offers spiritual soup to the souls of believers, he also discusses fiercely contemporary ideas such as the unsung strengths of female leadership. 

He notes, as others have done, that countries led by women have generally tackled coronavirus more successfully; he cites the perspectives of economists such as Mariana Mazzucato and Kate Raworth, who question the use of gross domestic product as the ultimate measure of economic success. 

He points out the limits of neoliberalism (“ethics and the economy have been decoupled); speaks approvingly of universal basic income; and despairs at the environmental crisis (he is offsetting the carbon emissions associated with the first edition printing, by purchasing credits from water and cooking projects in Guatemala).

We cannot return to the false securities of the political and economic systems we had before the crisis

These are cross-cutting themes that could reasonably crop up in any socially minded discussion of the post-pandemic global order. 

Take, for example, the disapproving observation that some risky, high-reward investments are now being offered with firm guarantees, to ensure a floor for the post-Covid economy. 

The policy benefits the well-to-do with money to spare and will “the policy serves to hypercharge wealth inequality”. 

It brings to the author’s mind a verse from the Gospel according to Matthew: “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” 

These financial guarantees, he concludes, amount to “socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor”.

The lines in the previous paragraph sound like something that Pope Francis, a social justice warrior, might have written — except that Zakaria got there first. 

That is the striking thing about these three books: starting from diverse perspectives, they converge to similar conclusions as to how the world could or should change, whether it is living more harmoniously alongside other species or scrutinising more thoroughly the competence of those who rule us.

Whether any of these idealised futures will actually emerge is another question. 

Vaccines, our best exit strategy, have been sold as a means of restoring normality. 

We are crawling out of this crisis shaken and exhausted — and nostalgic, perhaps, for the way things were. 

Some may long for the post-pandemic world to look exactly like the imperfect world that preceded it.

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In chaos theory, they say the infinitesimal flapping of a butterfly's wings can hypothetically cascade into a fierce tornado @Rainmaker1973

Scientists have actually demonstrated how some of the smallest creatures can generate surprisingly huge, intense ocean currents 

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Ibn Khaldun sought to explain the intrinsic relationship between political leadership and the management of pandemics in the pre-colonial period in his book Muqaddimah
Law & Politics

Historically, such pandemics had the capacity to overtake “the dynasties at the time of their senility, when they had reached the limit of their duration” and, in the process, challenged their “power and curtailed their [rulers’] influence...”

Rulers who are only concerned with the well-being of their “inner circle and their parties” are an incurable “disease”.

States with such rulers can get “seized by senility and the chronic disease from which [they] can hardly ever rid [themselves], for which [they] can find no cure”

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Three-quarters attack rate of SARS-CoV-2 in the Brazilian Amazon during a largely unmitigated epidemic @ScienceMagazine

SARS-CoV-2 spread rapidly in the Brazilian Amazon and the attack rate there is an estimate of the final size of a largely unmitigated epidemic. We use a convenience sample of blood donors to show that by June, one month after the epidemic peak in Manaus, capital of Amazonas state, 44% of the population had detectable IgG antibodies. Correcting for cases without a detectable antibody response and antibody waning, we estimate a 66% attack rate in June, rising to 76% in October. This is higher than in São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil, where the estimated attack rate in October is 29%. These results confirm that, when poorly controlled, COVID-19 can infect a high fraction of the population causing high mortality.

Brazil has experienced one of the world’s most rapidly-growing COVID-19 epidemics, with the Amazon being the worst hit region (1). Manaus is the capital and largest metropolis in the Amazon, with a population of over two million and population density of 158 inhabitants/km2. The first SARS-CoV-2 case in Manaus was confirmed on 13th March 2020 (2) and was followed by an explosive epidemic, peaking in early May with 4.5-fold excess mortality (3). This was followed by a sustained drop in new cases despite relaxation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). The prevalence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 is an estimate of the attack rate in Manaus and provides a data-based estimate of the extent of COVID-19 spread in the absence of effective mitigation.

Given a basic reproduction number (R0) of 2.5–3.0 for Amazonas state, (see (4)), the expected attack rate during an unmitigated epidemic in a homogeneously mixed population is 89–94% (5). When the percentage of infected people exceeds the herd immunity threshold of 60–67% [100 × (1 – 1/R0)], each infection generates fewer than one secondary case (case reproduction number, Rt < 1) and incidence declines. The goal of this study was to measure the SARS-CoV-2 attack rate in Manaus and to explore whether the epidemic was contained (Rt < 1) because infection reached the herd immunity threshold, or because of other factors such as behavioral changes and NPIs. We compare data from Manaus with findings from Sao Paulo, where the first Brazilian COVID-19 cases were detected (2, 6) and the rise and fall in mortality were slower and more protracted.

To calculate infection fatality ratios (IFRs) we used the age-sex and sensitivity-specificity adjusted prevalence in June, as this was following the epidemic peak in Manaus, but before significant seroreversion. In Manaus, the IFRs were 0.17% and 0.28%, considering PCR confirmed COVID-19 deaths and probable COVID-19 deaths based on syndromic identification, respectively; whereas in São Paulo, the global IFRs were 0.46% and 0.72%, respectively. The difference may be explained by an older population structure in São Paulo (fig. S1A). Supporting this inference, the age-specific IFRs were similar in the two cities, and similar to estimates based on data from China (16) (fig. S1B) and a recent systematic review (17). We also obtained similar age-specific IFRs using the seroreversion-corrected prevalence estimates from October (fig. S1).

By 1st October, Manaus recorded 2,642 (1,193/million inhabitants [mil]) COVID-19 confirmed deaths and 3,789 (1,710/mil) severe acute respiratory syndrome deaths; São Paulo recorded 12,988 (1,070/mil) and 20,063 (1,652/mil), respectively. The cumulative mortality proportions were similar in both cities and high compared to other locations – e.g., United Kingdom (620/mil), France (490/mil) or the United States (625/mil), as of Oct 1st (20). The different attack rates in Manaus and São Paulo (76% versus 29% of people infected), despite similar overall mortality rates, are due to the higher IFR in São Paulo. The age-standardized mortality ratio was 2.0 comparing observed deaths in Manaus to those expected projecting the age-specific mortality in São Paulo on the age structure of Manaus. The R0 was similar in the two cities (fig. S7) but cases and deaths increased then decreased more slowly in São Paulo than Manaus where the rise and fall was more abrupt (fig. S7). The lower attack rate in São Paulo is partly explained by the larger population size (2.2 versus 12.2 million inhabitants). As population size increases, the time to reach a given attack rate also increases (21).

In conclusion, our data show that >70% of the population has been infected in Manaus approximately seven months after the virus first arrived in the city. This is above the theoretical herd immunity threshold. However, prior infection may not confer long-lasting immunity (30, 31). Indeed, we observed rapid antibody waning in Manaus, consistent with other reports that have shown signal waning on the Abbott IgG assay (14, 32). However, other commercial assays, with different designs or targeting different antigens, have more stable signal (14), and there is evidence for a robust neutralizing antibody response several months out from infection (33). Rare reports of reinfection have been confirmed (34), but the frequency of its occurrence remains an open question (35). Manaus represents a “sentinel” population, giving us a data-based indication of what may happen if SARS-CoV-2 is allowed to spread largely unmitigated. Further seroepidemiological, molecular and genomic surveillance studies in the region are required urgently to determine the longevity of population immunity, the correlation with the observed antibody waning and the diversity of circulating lineages. Monitoring of new cases and the ratio of local versus imported cases will also be vital to understand the extent to which population immunity might prevent future transmission, and the potential need for booster vaccinations to bolster protective immunity.

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10-MAY-2020 :: #COVID19 and the Spillover Moment

We are witnessing a Spill Over into EM and Frontier Geographies ―

Brazil is the global epicenter of the coronavirus.

In Brazil we have a toxic mix of a „‟Voodoo‟‟ President @jairbolsonaro and a runaway #COVID19

Brazilians aren‘t infected by anything, even when they fall into a sewer

“It‟s tragic surrealism ... I can‟t stop thinking about Gabriel García Márquez when I think about the situation Manaus is facing.” Guardian

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'Utter disaster': Manaus fills mass graves as Covid-19 hits the Amazon @guardian

Day and night, the dead are delivered into the tawny Amazonian earth – the latest victims of a devastating pandemic now reaching deep into the heart of the Brazilian rainforest.

On Sunday 140 bodies were laid to rest in Manaus, the jungle-flanked capital of Amazonas state. On Saturday, 98. Normally the figure would be closer to 30 – but these are no longer normal times.

“It’s madness – just madness,” said Gilson de Freitas, a 30-year-old maintenance man whose mother, Rosemeire Rodrigues Silva, was one of 136 people buried there last Tuesday as local morticians set yet another grim daily record.

Freitas – who believes his mother contracted Covid-19 after being admitted to hospital following a stroke – recalled watching in despair as her remains were lowered into a muddy trench alongside perhaps 20 other coffins.

“They were just dumped there like dogs,” he said. “What are our lives worth now? Nothing.

The city’s mayor, Arthur Virgílio, pleaded for urgent international help.

“We aren’t in a state of emergency – we’re well beyond that. We are in a state of utter disaster … like a country that is at war – and has lost,” he said.

“It’s tragic surrealism ... I can’t stop thinking about Gabriel García Márquez when I think about the situation Manaus is facing.”

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No-one has ever produced a safe and effective vaccine against a coronavirus. Birger Sørensen, Angus Dalgleish & Andres Susrud

What if, as I fear, there will never be a vaccine. I was involved in the early stages of identifying the HIV virus as the cause of Aids. 

I remember drugs companies back then saying there would be a vaccine within around 18 months. Some 37 years on, we are still waiting. Prof ANGUS DALGLEISH @MailOnline

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.2158 

Dollar Index 90.641

Japan Yen 104.03

Swiss Franc 0.8856

Pound 1.3315

Aussie 0.7561

India Rupee 73.65

South Korea Won 1091.725

Brazil Real 5.026

Egypt Pound 15.7106

South Africa Rand 15.0245

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According to @NCoVAfrica Peak Daily Infections was 24th July 2020 and 20,873

9th Dec 2020 Daily Infections 15,310 [26.65% below Peak] 

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Turning to Africa The Spinning Top

So far Africa has dodged the Virus from a medical perspective though it remains in my view a slow burning Fuse and we all know by now ''viruses exhibit non-linear and exponential characteristics'

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South Africa sees sharp rise in virus, part of African wave @AP

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa is seeing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases and bracing for increased hospitalizations and deaths, said the country’s health minister Zweli Mkhize.

“It is important for us to recognize that this now is a second wave,” said Mkhize in a statement. 

“There is going to be exponential growth. This means we must expect faster-rising numbers with a higher peak, possibly, than the first wave.”

South Africa’s new wave is likely to spike so quickly that it could overwhelm hospital capacities in some regions, he warned.

South Africa’s surge highlights that a new wave of the disease is sweeping across Africa, John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday.

South Africa recorded 6,700 new cases on Wednesday night, the country’s highest number of new cases since August. 

South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 4.4 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 25 to 7.7 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 9.

The country has a cumulative total of 828,598 cases of COVID-19, including 22,574 deaths. 

South Africa accounts for more than 35% of all reported cases in Africa, a continent of 54 countries and 1.3 billion people.

South Africa’s cases are expected to increase as people travel around the country for the festive season and fail to adhere to prevention measures such as wearing masks and social distancing, said Mkhize.

Young South Africans are the drivers of the new wave, said Mkhize, pointing out that the largest number of new cases is in the 15-to-19 age group. 

This has been blamed on a large number of young people attending parties, where they consume alcohol and do not wear masks or maintain a social distance.

“This inevitably leads to superspreader events which spill over into the rest of the country as this age group is highly mobile and the majority of the carriers are asymptomatic,” said Mkhize.

Earlier this week South Africa identified rage parties — large, private, end-of-year graduation parties — as superspreader events and ordered those who attended them to immediately go into a 10-day quarantine.

South Africa has eased tough lockdown regulations as it attempts to resuscitate its economy, which was battered by the two-month lockdown in April and May that shut most parts of the economy and caused an economic downturn, increasing unemployment and hunger in the world’s most unequal country.

South Africa has reopened to international travel and lifted restrictions on the sale of alcohol.

However, tougher restrictions have been imposed for the metropolitan area of Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape province, which was identified as a hotspot for the virus.

South Africa is among countries seeking to secure a safe vaccine for its population, with the government’s Solidarity Fund announcing that it has the equivalent of $21 million to purchase the first batch of doses.

The country is also participating in the clinical trials of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca that has been announced to be 70% effective.

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―They fancied themselves free, wrote Camus, ―and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences

―In this respect, our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words, they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences.

A pestilence isn't a thing made to man's measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away.

But it doesn't always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they have taken no precautions.

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Fleeing Ethiopians Tell of Ethnic Massacres in Tigray War @nytimes @Lattif

HAMDAYET, Sudan — The armed men who stopped Ashenafi Hailu along the dirt road dragged him by a noose so they could save bullets.

Mr. Ashenafi, 24, was racing on his motorcycle to the aid of a childhood friend trapped by the Ethiopian government’s military offensive in the northern region of Tigray when a group of men on foot confronted him. 

They identified themselves as militia members of a rival ethnic group, he said, and they took his cash and began beating him, laughing ominously.

“Finish him!” Mr. Ashenafi remembered one of the men saying.

As they tightened the noose around his neck and began pulling him along the road, Mr. Ashenafi was sure he was going to die, and he eventually passed out. 

But he said he awoke alone near a pile of bodies, children among them. His motorcycle was gone.

Mr. Ashenafi and dozens of other Tigrayan refugees fled the violence and settled outside the remote and dusty town of Hamdayet, a community of just a few thousand people near the border, where I spoke to them. 

Their firsthand accounts, shared a month after Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, declared war on the Tigray region, detail a devastating conflict that has become a grisly wellspring of looting, ethnic antagonism and killings.

Many of the refugees have lingered here rather than moving on to the more established refugee camps farther into Sudan, staying closer to home so they can get any news about their towns or missing loved ones. 

But little information is getting out, with mobile networks and the internet blocked for weeks by the Ethiopian government.

Nearly 50,000 have fled to Sudan so far, in what the United Nations has called the worst exodus of refugees Ethiopia has seen in more than two decades

And their accounts contradict the repeated claims from Mr. Abiy, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for ending the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea, that no civilians are being hurt.

The Tigrayans describe being caught between indiscriminate military shelling and a campaign of killing, rape and looting by government-allied ethnic militias. 

Several told me that they saw dozens of bodies along the route as they fled their shops, homes and farms and took to the long road to the border with Sudan, in stifling heat.

As the fighting in Tigray continues, it is degenerating into a guerrilla war that could unravel both Ethiopia’s national fabric and the stability of the entire Horn of Africa region. 

That includes Eritrea, which is allied with Ethiopia against the Tigray and has been shelled by the rebel forces; and Sudan, which has heavily deployed its army along its restive border with Ethiopia even as it has allowed refugees to cross.

The Tigray make up about 6 percent of Ethiopia’s 110 million people, and they were the arbiters of power and money in the country from 1991, when they helped dismantle a military dictatorship, until 2018, when anti-government protests catapulted Mr. Abiy to power.

Mr. Abiy had sought to emphasize national unity and diversity in a multiethnic Ethiopia, even as he began methodically excluding Tigrayan figures from public life and condemning their abuses while they were in power. 

Now, the conflict stands at stark odds with the legacy he was seeking, and with the stability of the entire country.

If Mr. Abiy’s aim was to unite an increasingly divided country, then “this conflict has made that harder to achieve, and so increased the likelihood of serious ongoing political instability,” said William Davison, a senior Ethiopia analyst with the International Crisis Group who was recently expelled from the country.

Adding to the deadly mix are the involvement of rival ethnic militia groups. 

One of them is the Fano, a militia from the Amhara ethnic group. Along with Amhara regional government security forces, Fano took part in the intervention in Tigray, Mr. Davison said.

While Fano is a term loosely used to refer to young Amhara militias or protesters, Mr. Davison added that it is also “the name given to youthful Amhara vigilante groups that become more active during times when there is perceived to be insecurity that is not being managed by the authorities.”

Tigrayan refugees in Sudan said that Fano fighters attacked and maimed them, ransacked their properties and extorted them as they sought to flee. 

Many of the Tigrayans, including Mr. Ashenafi, said that they were afraid of going back and that the experience had left them sleepless and scarred.

After Mr. Ashenafi awoke and saw the bodies around him, he trudged through a nearby forest to reach the home of his friend, Haftamu Berhanu, who took him in. P

hotos taken by Mr. Haftamu and seen by The New York Times showed Mr. Ashenafi lying on his back, white skin peeled away around his neck from the noose.

For days afterward, Mr. Ashenafi could not talk or swallow anything and communicated with his friend through pointing or writing things down.

“It was heartbreaking,” Mr. Haftamu said of the days caring for his friend.

“I didn’t expect in our life that our government would kill us,” Mr. Ashenafi said. “I am frightened so much. I am not sleeping at night.”

Many of the refugees who made it to Sudan have been resettled to the Um Rakuba camp about 43 miles away from the border. 

But many are also staying around a refugee transit point in Hamdayet, hoping to return home or reunite with their families once it is safe.

In this dusty outpost, the refugees convene every morning at the Tekeze River, a natural border between Ethiopia and Sudan, to shower, collect water and clean whatever clothes they brought with them. 

On a recent afternoon, as children dived into the flowing river and Ethiopian music played from a nearby phone, the refugees recounted scenes of horror that they witnessed.

Many told me that they came from Humera, an agricultural town of about 30,000 people near both the Sudanese and Eritrean borders. 

Thousands suddenly fled the town with whatever they could carry when shelling began around midnight from what the refugees said was the direction of Eritrea.

Some gathered first at nearby churches, but after hearing that other churches had been shelled, they started the hourslong journey on foot to Sudan. They said that militia fighters began streaming in.

“The Amhara militia cut people’s heads,” said a Humera resident named Meles, who wanted to be identified by only his first name out of fear of retribution.

Meles, who owned a small cafe, said that the Fano’s reputation preceded them and that just as he feared, he encountered many dead bodies along the way to Sudan. 

As he spoke to me, a crowd gathered near him on the banks of the river, many nodding and verbally affirming his account as he told it.

At least 139 children are among those who arrived in Sudan unaccompanied, many of whom are now at risk of abuse and discrimination, according to the organization Save the Children.

With the Tigray region sandwiched between the Amhara region and Eritrea, which is aligned with the Ethiopian national government, Meles said he was glad that refugees like him had another outlet for escape.

“Thank God there’s Sudan for us to turn to,” he said.

“I had to speak my fluent Amharic to survive,” said Filimon Shishay, a 21-year-old Tigrayan who said he encountered the Fano and had to part with the $5 he had with him. “They hate us,” he said.

There has long been enmity between the Tigray and Amhara. When Tigrayan rebels seized power in 1991, Amharas claimed that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which governed the region, occupied land that historically belonged to them.

“The widespread assumption is T.P.L.F. wanted to annex these areas in order to have a border with Sudan and to tap into the fertile land for economic development,” Hone Mandefro, an Ethiopian analyst and a doctoral candidate in sociology and anthropology at Concordia University in Canada, said in an email.

Mr. Davison of the International Crisis Group said that with Amhara security and militia forces active in Tigray in recent weeks, and with some Amhara administrators put in place there, “it appears to be a de facto Amhara occupation of territory they claim the T.P.L.F. annexed.”

The move is likely to lead to violent Tigrayan reprisals, he said, as may have already occurred in the town of Mai Kadra, where human rights groups have said forces loyal to the liberation front massacred as many as 600 people, most of them Amhara.

Many refugees in Hamdayet blamed politicians, and particularly Mr. Abiy, for pitting civilians against one another. “The Amhara and the Tigray are one,” Negese Berhe Hailu, a 25-year-old engineer, said.

Hadas Hagos, 67, fled her home in Humera — which is part of the larger West Tigray area the Amharas claim — and worried she wouldn’t be able to go back or see the family members she left behind. Other refugees who arrived later informed her that her home had been looted.

“We fought for freedom and democracy,” said Ms. Hadas, breaking into tears as she recounted how she and her family fought against the Marxist regime in the 1980s, and how she lost her brother to the war. “We don’t deserve this kind of life.”

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@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

Ethiopia which was once the Poster child of the African Renaissance now has a Nobel Prize Winner whom I am reliably informed

PM Abiy His inner war cabinet includes Evangelicals who are counseling him he is "doing Christ's work"; that his faith is being "tested". @RAbdiAnalyst

@PMEthiopia has launched an unwinnable War on Tigray Province.

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The fugitive leader of Ethiopia’s defiant Tigray region on Monday called on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to “stop the madness” and withdraw troops

The fight is about self-determination of the region of around 6 million people, the Tigray leader said, and it “will continue until the invaders are out.” 

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10-JUN-2019 :: The "zeitgeist" of the Revolution in Khartoum was intoxicating

As I watched events unfold it felt like Sudan was a portal into a whole new normal.

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Ethiopia’s Wars @LRB @japanizar & @jbgallopin

At the end of November, Ethiopia’s war with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front saw federal troops press on towards Mekelle, the Tigrayan state capital. The TPLF’s fortunes are at their nadir. From 1991 to 2018, the party was the dominant force in Ethiopian politics. 

Tensions with the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, had been building steadily since he sidelined the TPLF from government two years ago, part of a centralising drive that put in question the regional autonomy of Tigray and other federal states, supposedly guaranteed by the constitution. 

For the past few months, there had been talk of possible transfers of territory from Tigray to the neighbouring region of Amhara. 

At the beginning of last month, the TPLF captured the federal army’s Northern Command, describing it as a pre-emptive measure against attack.

Ethiopia’s latest civil war is being closely observed by Ethiopia’s neighbours, Sudan and South Sudan, but also – from further afield – by Egypt. 

For Cairo, water is the issue, and the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. 

On 28 November, Egypt’s president, Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi, arrived in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to meet with his counterpart, Salva Kiir. 

Sisi was accompanied by the head of his intelligence service. 

Egypt had just completed two high-profile joint military exercises in Sudan

At the Marwa air base near Khartoum, the Sudanese military chief of staff had vowed to deter the country’s enemies and protect its borders.

In Juba, Sisi emphasised the need for a legally binding agreement on the minimum outflow from the dam. 

South Sudan has no direct stake in this colossal hydropower project, which could eventually allow Addis Ababa to control flows to Sudan and Egypt: the White Nile, which flows through South Sudan, does not meet the Blue Nile until it reaches Khartoum, nearly 400 km downstream. Sisi was signalling to Abiy: ignore us at your peril.

Tripartite negotiations about the dam have largely stalled since Ethiopia earlier this year rejected demands from Khartoum and Cairo for a legally binding treaty. 

Filling – which will take several years – began in July, without any agreed framework having been reached. 

Egypt was humiliated and apparently powerless to intervene. There were threats of air strikes by the Egyptians during construction, but the dam is now built, the water level has risen, and unilateral military action seems a remote possibility.

Egypt has been the loser in recent regional realignments. 

Its former ally Issayas Afeworki, the Eritrean president – who went to war against Ethiopia in 1998-2000, when the TPLF was in power in Addis Ababa – made peace with Abiy when he became prime minister in 2018. 

The deal left Cairo without an ally in the Horn of Africa. 

Weeks before the outbreak of the current war in Tigray, Issayas visited the Renaissance Dam with Abiy. Egypt could only look on.

When the war in Tigray began, the United Arab Emirates – one of the brokers of the truce between Eritrea and Ethiopia two years ago – favoured firm action by Abiy. 

The UAE, which has a military base at Assab in Eritrea, has since joined the international clamour for dialogue, which Abiy has rejected. 

Cairo now has its eyes on a new approach: cementing relations with Sudan and South Sudan to increase the pressure on Addis. Regime change in Khartoum last year has made this a realistic option.

Among the troops Abiy deployed to Tigray were divisions that had been stationed in a non-demarcated zone of Sudanese land west of the colonial frontier between Sudan and Ethiopia, cultivated by Ethiopian farmers. 

There were skirmishes in the area at least twice this year. The Sudanese immediately advanced into the farmland vacated by the Ethiopian army. 

The war in Tigray entered a new phase after the TPLF was forced to abandon Mekelle at the end of last month. 

When Abiy claimed victory, the TPLF insisted that fighting continued on three fronts around the city. They said they had destroyed eleven tanks and were up against several Eritrean infantry and mechanised divisions as well as the Ethiopian army. 

They also showed footage of a downed Soviet-era fighter jet and a captured pilot. They have since gone eerily quiet about details on the battlefront

On Monday, a contact in Mekelle told us over satellite internet that residents of the city have organised to try to stop looting; on Tuesday, another contact told us Abiy’s soldiers were searching private residences for weapons. 

The electricity, water and phone networks, as well as bank services, are down.

As the fighting intensified and casualties mounted, more than forty thousand refugees fled from Ethiopia to Sudan. But then Abiy’s military redeployed along the frontier, closing off their escape route. 

The Sudanese military and security apparatus has vowed to welcome refugees, but has handed deserters over to Ethiopia’s government, and is otherwise signalling that it is ready to ‘protect the borders’. 

Military clashes between Ethiopia and Sudan are not out of the question.

As for South Sudan, Egyptian gauging stations have monitored the flow of the White Nile and its tributaries since the 1940s. 

In the last few years, Egypt has been rehabilitating its old gauging and pumping stations, installing new ones, and constructing new docks (its headquarters for this work, in Malakal, burned down during the South Sudanese civil war). 

Sisi’s visit to South Sudan in November signalled an expansion, including riverbed dredging and rain-harvest dams, built and funded by Cairo.

Then there is the matter of the Jonglei Canal, first proposed more than a century ago, begun in 1978 and abandoned five years later. 

Bypassing the Sudd wetlands in South Sudan – with potentially catastrophic environmental consequences – it would deliver more water downstream to Egypt and Sudan.

 Many in Egypt see the project as a possible solution to water rights disputes, but it’s unacceptable to a lot of people in South Sudan. 

Many in Juba have historical affinities with Ethiopia and see prospects for cheap electricity in the Renaissance Dam. 

No government in South Sudan could dare resume the Jonglei Canal without riskingmajor upheaval.

Ethiopian diplomats and some South Sudanese officials worry that water and economic projects could serve as cover for the Egyptian intelligence operations. 

Unfounded rumours circulated earlier this year about plans for an Egyptian base at Pagak, near the Ethiopian border. 

As Sisi arrived, there were fantastical claims that some TPLF leaders had fled to South Sudan. 

In the past six months, a number of Egyptian ‘businessmen’ have set up shop in Juba, giving out ‘loans’ that can be repaid in information, under the watchful eyes of their South Sudanese counterparts. Some were pushed back from trips to border areas.

The Sisi-Kiir joint communiqué mentioned military and security co-ordination, but Kiir is reluctant to antagonise Ethiopia

When the TPLF was in power in Addis, it supported South Sudan’s rebels in their fight against Khartoum. 

In recent days, Abiy has sought to conciliate Kiir, criticising Ethiopia’s previous mediation efforts in South Sudan’s civil war, which Kiir saw as favouring his opponents. 

But there’s an old habit in the region (as elsewhere) of supporting rebels in neighbouring states, and if Kiir were to align himself too closely with Cairo, Abiy might look to destabilise South Sudan by courting Kiir’s opponents. 

At uneasy peace with itself only since February, the country can ill afford further internal turmoil.

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Nigerian economy at risk of ‘unravelling’, warns @WorldBank @FinancialTimes

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will send personal incomes in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, back four decades, the World Bank has warned.

While the pandemic is set to create millions of “new poor” in middle-income countries, Nigeria is uniquely vulnerable because of its precarious pre-pandemic economic situation — in which unemployment and inflation were already rising and incomes were falling — and its dependency on oil and remittances, the lender said.

Nigeria has registered 1,184 deaths from Covid-19 and a four-week lockdown hit the informal economy hard. 

With more than half of the country’s population unemployed or underemployed, inflation has risen sharply over the past 12 months while foreign investment has plummeted and the economy is forecast to contract by about 4 per cent this year.

If Africa’s biggest oil producer is to avoid a prolonged recession, it will have to enact a series of potentially politically unpopular reforms, the World Bank warned.

“This is not just any crisis for Nigeria . . . how it responds will set the course for the next few decades,” Shubham Chaudhuri, head of the World Bank’s mission in Nigeria, told the Financial Times. 

“There’s . . . an opportunity to not return to business as usual, but the risk of [the economy] unravelling is real.”

Mr Chaudhuri praised the government’s efforts, spurred by the pandemic-related economic crisis, to remove a fuel subsidy that costs the government billions of dollars a year, raise electricity tariffs and move towards a market-driven exchange rate. 

“For the first time in many years, in the last nine months, the government has made some pretty politically courageous decisions but the key is to keep the momentum on those,” he said.

But without a strong policy response, “Nigeria risks repeating the experience of the 1980s shocks, which set back Nigeria’s development progress by decades”, according to a brief shared by the World Bank.

Unlike the 2015-16 recession, which also followed an oil price slump, Nigeria cannot afford to just “muddle through”, Mr Chaudhuri said, because of the broader global economic crisis.

Mr Chaudhuri’s comments came as the bank released its annual Nigeria development report, which suggested reforms including moving even closer to a market-driven exchange rate, reopening land borders, easing forex restrictions on business, reforming the tax system, fixing the power sector and extending direct cash transfers to the vulnerable and poor. 

“It’s not entirely a doomsday scenario . . . because there is a choice” to enact such reforms, Mr Chaudhuri said.

The World Bank expects 15m to 20m Nigerians, roughly 10 per cent of the population, to be driven into poverty — living on less than $1.90 a day — by 2022 mostly because of the pandemic.

Nigeria will lose 14 years of per capita income in the next two to three years because of Covid-19, going back to 2010 levels, which is the equivalent in real terms of 1980, the lender said. 

The average loss in incomes of other middle-income countries is seven years. 

The bank estimates that government revenues will fall by the equivalent of at least 2 per cent of gross domestic product in 2020 alone as a result of the oil price slump. 

Remittances, which made up about 5 per cent of GDP last year, are set to fall as much as 20 per cent this year.

Domestically, Nigeria is facing rising insecurity and tensions arising from growing dissatisfaction among the soaring population of jobless youth, as exhibited by the unrest following a crackdown on peaceful anti-police brutality protests in Lagos in October. 

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World Bank loans are often contingent upon reforms, and its officials said previously it was “recommending” a more unified, flexible exchange rate.

The Nigerian naira hit 500 per dollar on the black market last month as a dollar scarcity squeezed the economy.

“We recognize how much Nigeria has done,” Shubham Chaudhuri, the World Bank’s Nigeria country director, said during a webinar with journalists. “There needs to be a little bit more.”

Nigeria’s central bank devalued the official rate by 15% in March and weakened the foreign exchange rate for exchange bureaux in November and in March.

But the gap between the official rate and the parallel markets remains large. 

The situation is pressuring the economy and making it difficult for private companies to get the dollars they need to import into Nigeria. 

A Central Bank official previously told Reuters it also could cause remittances to slow and exporters could refuse to repatriate their proceeds.

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5 March 2020 Debt, virus and locusts create a perfect storm for Africa @TheAfricaReport

He told Bloomberg, “Debt is not a problem, it’s very bad debt that’s a problem,”.

The point is this.

SSA Countries with no exception that I can think of have gorged on borrowing and balance sheets are maxed out.

Africa’s sovereign issuance in the Eurobond markets totaled $53bn in 2018 and 2019 and total outstanding debt topped $100bn last year.

Debt burdens have increased and affordability has weakened across most of Sub-Saharan Africa, while a shift in debt structures has left some countries more exposed to a financial shock, said Moody’s in November last year.

Very few of the investments made are within spitting distance of providing an ROI [Return on Investment].

Rising debt service ratios are best exemplified by Nigeria where the Government is spending more than half of its revenue servicing its debt.

More than 50% of SSA GDP is produced by South Africa, Nigeria and Angola.

South Africa reported that GDP in Q4 2019 shrank by a massive 1.4%.

Annual growth at 0.2% is the lowest yearly growth since 2009 and the tape is back at GFC times.

The rand which has been in free fall has a lot further to fall in 2020.

And this is before the viral infection.

Nigeria’s oil revenue is cratering and there is $16bn of ”hot money” parked in short term certificates which is all headed for the Exit as we speak. A Currency Devaluation is now predicted and predictable.

South Africa, Nigeria and Angola are poised to dive into deep recession.

East Africa which was a bright spot is facing down a locust invasion which according to the FAO could turn 500x by June.

It is practically biblical.

“If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people;” – 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

This is a perfect storm. Buckle up, and let’s stop popping the Quaaludes.

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How to Pretend You’re in Dakar Today @nytimes

There is a bar in the Senegalese capital of Dakar that you can only find if someone has pointed the way. It sits on a thin strip of beach, with a wide view of the Atlantic Ocean and the young surfers who chase waves as the sun sets in the distance. It sits below the Mamelles Lighthouse, which offers tours during the day and turns into a nightclub after dark. None of the furniture in the open-air bar matches. The five-minute walk to the cove, down a thin dirt path that snakes from a chaotic intersection — horse-drawn carts and shiny S.U.V.s competing for space on packed roads — feels like passing through a portal between worlds.

Dakar has an aura that seeps into your soul. The sensations —  the smell of grilled fish and spiced coffee, the feeling of an impending downpour, the bone-rattling vibrations from a dozen drums — stay with you long after you leave. When I visited this West African city, as part of my journey around the world as the 52 Places Traveler, I often caught myself thinking of my future. As I walked through markets that seemingly went on forever or sat on the deck of a ferry as it floated away from the mainland to one of the outlying islands, I thought, “I could live here.” And while it is impossible to fully experience without making the trip, there are ways to capture at least a sliver of the magic.

In between the rumble of traffic and the shouts of street vendors, there is always music in Dakar. It blares from cellphones, transistor radios and nightclubs. Shows start at midnight and last until sunrise. On a single day in the city, you will hear politically charged hip-hop; the dizzying pulse of mbalax, a dance music that combines traditional percussion with global influences; the vintage sounds of Cuban rumba put through a West African blender; and much more.

To get a sampling of the city’s musical diversity tune into an episode or two of Afropop Worldwide, the radio program and podcast from Public Radio International. Or, if you are looking to skip the history lesson and just fill your home with the sounds of the city, check out this playlist I put together, covering everything from the songs of national hero Youssou N’Dour to the rapid-fire raps of Sister Fa.

Unsurprisingly, considering the integral role of music in Dakar’s daily rhythms, it is hard to spend any time in Dakar without coming across some of the many dance styles of the region. From modern mbalax blaring out of night clubs to sabar, named for the rattling drums that propel dancers to acrobatic frenzies, there are countless reasons to jump to your feet — and you can do it from home. A number of dance studios around the world have turned to virtual classes, because of the coronavirus pandemic. For starters, check out the Alvin Ailey Extension School, which offers regular online West African dance classes, led by Senegalese dancer Maguette Camara. Just be sure to clear out any fragile items, pets or small children from your rehearsal space; you will be doing a whole lot of kicking, jumping and spinning as you try and keep up with the rhythms of sabar.

Senegalese cuisine can be as simple as a whole thiof fish, a type of white grouper, grilled to perfection on the beach, or as complex as a heavily spiced stew, simmered for hours. Most importantly though, with just a few special ingredients, it can be recreated at home. Dionne Searcey, the former West Africa bureau chief of The New York Times, said that when she wants to feel like she’s back in Dakar, she reaches for one of the cookbooks by Senegalese chef Pierre Thiam. Ms. Searcey’s go-to is yassa poulet, “an onion-slathered chicken dish,” and she serves it with fonio, a couscous-like grain popular across Senegal. Mr. Thiam, who has an entire line of packaged fonio, recommends one dish in particular from his collection “The Fonio Cookbook.” It is a fonio salad — “ideal for a hot day in Dakar,” he said — with lots of parsley and mint, fresh tomatoes and diced mango for “a herbaceous taste.”

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

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