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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
Monday 14th of June 2021

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The Pandemic is a Portal

time I have found has become non-linear

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“Oryx and Crake”

Atwood, who is the daughter of a biologist 

pigs that are genetically altered with human DNA; after the apocalypse, these extra-clever “pigoons” go hunting for Snowman like hounds after a fox.

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Using data of 16 #COVID19 variants from 42 countries estimated growth advantage of Delta compared to Alpha is 57%/week (95% credible interval: 49-66%) @HJWesteneng

Using data of 16 #COVID19 variants from 42 countries in a multilevel multinomial model I compared the growth rate of these variants. estimated growth advantage of Delta compared to Alpha is 57%/week (95% credible interval: 49-66%)

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09-MAY-2021 The Markets The Lotos-eaters
World Of Finance

On 8th March when the Bears had gotten hold of the US 10 Year, I wrote that I expected the 10 Year to target 1.45% well we got real close on Friday before the market reversed 

Ten- year yields initially plunged to a more than two-month low of 1.46%, then reversed to end the day at 1.58%. However, I am resetting my target Yield to 1.25% now.

Given the volume of money Printing and the extraordinary stimulus I have to say that the US Recovery is actually really weak and I believe it will be very short lived and the Penny will drop soon with the Bond Market and the Shorts will be forced to cover.

The Consensus View appears to be that the Global economy is going to accelerate big time and that its going to BOOM! 

I beg to differ

Furthermore The Central Banks are in a corner. 

They have fired a lot of bullets and even if there was a meaningful bounce they cannot raise rates.

Here is why central banks are trapped and cannot raise rates even if inflation rises: @dlacalle_IA Feb 2 

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.2097

Dollar Index 90.532

Japan Yen 109.72

Swiss Franc 0.8988

Pound 1.4106

Aussie 0.7710

India Rupee 73.1665

South Korea Won 1116.82

Brazil Real 5.1154

Egypt Pound 15.6509

South Africa Rand 13.7396

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08-FEB-2021 :: The Markets Are Wilding
World Of Finance

@elonmusk I am become meme, Destroyer of shorts

Mr. Musk can pump [and dump] just about anything with a tweet. he has superpowers.

And on February 4 He tested that hypothesis

No highs, no lows, only Doge @elonmusk Feb 4 

Dogecoin is the people’s crypto @elonmusk Feb 4

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Africa Awaits Covid-19 Vaccine Donations as Cases Surge @WSJ.

In Uganda, hospitals have become so overwhelmed with new coronavirus cases that the sick are dying while waiting for a bed. 

In Namibia, all nonemergency surgery has been canceled to preserve space for Covid-19 patients and military hospitals have been opened for civilian use. 

In South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, intensive-care wards are filling up and hospitals are stockpiling oxygen cylinders as infections surge again.

Across Africa, which has received fewer Covid-19 vaccines than any other continent, countries are confronting a new wave in coronavirus infections without the inoculations that have turned the tide of the pandemic in Europe and North America.

Meanwhile, new, more transmissible virus variants are taking root in several African nations, compounding their struggle to rebound from the continent’s worst recession on record.

“The continent is going through a third wave, no doubt about that,” said John Nkengasong, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“All countries…must arm themselves with treatment facilities. That includes availability of oxygen and other treatment-related commodities.”

Case counts are on the rise in 14 of Africa’s 54 countries, increasing by 26% in the first week of June, compared with the previous seven days, Dr. Nkengasong said

The epicenters of the new outbreaks are in national capitals, where there often is more capacity to record cases. The situation in towns and villages remains largely uncharted.

Kinshasa, a megacity of some 11 million people and capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is under curfew after the WHO detected an exponential rise in cases in May. 

“We are not only overwhelmed, but sometimes we are without water, electricity, oxygen or even beds,” said Augustin Mulumba, a doctor who works on the Covid-19 ward in the Hôpital du Cinquantenaire, a large private hospital in Kinshasa.

Daily infections in South Africa’s most-populous province of Gauteng, home to its political and economic capitals, Pretoria and Johannesburg, have nearly doubled over the past week. 

Epidemiologists warn that the cities may set a record for deaths later this month.

At Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg, Covid-19 patients have to wait up to five days for a spot in the intensive-care unit while beds in other wards are also quickly filling up, a doctor working there said. 

At Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, another large public hospital in Johannesburg, doctors from other departments are being shifted to the Covid-19 ward to help deal with an influx of patients.

Concerned about its struggling economy, the South African government has been reluctant to impose a new lockdown, with indoor dining and gatherings of up to 100 people still permitted.

According to official data, infections in Africa are still just a tiny fraction of the global case load. 

But limited testing capacities and widespread reluctance to seek help at hospitals even during severe illness mean that the true scale of the pandemic on the continent remains hard to assess.

Some doctors and health officials in the hardest-hit countries say this new surge in infections looks more dangerous than previous ones. 

“This new wave is more deadly, more young people are getting infected,” said Medard Rutaro, a surgeon at Mulago Hospital in Uganda. “This is no longer the disease of old people.”

The East African nation of 42 million people saw Covid-19 cases more than double for the second week running, to 1,144, as infections clustered among healthcare workers and school and university students, mostly in the capital Kampala. 

President Yoweri Museveni announced a new lockdown on Sunday, closing schools for six weeks and banning most gatherings, warning that “the intensity of severe and critically ill Covid-19 patients and deaths is much higher in this wave.”

At Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s largest, streams of ambulances are bringing critically ill patients in need of oxygen. With intensive-care units full, patients are forced to sleep on the hospital floor. Doctors here say they have detected a noticeable rise in the number of severe cases among younger people.

Uganda has only received a third of the three million vaccines the Covax program was supposed to deliver by the end of May. 

Covax is no longer receiving shots from its main supplier in India due to an export ban imposed by the government in New Delhi, but says it is working to close a gap of some 250 million vaccine doses by the end of September through donated shots and deals with other manufacturers. 

Some 4,000 Chinese vaccines arrived in December, but were only given to selected Ugandan government officials and Chinese diaspora workers.

Public health officials are also concerned about the appearance of the Delta variant, a strain first detected in India. 

Early data from the U.K. indicates that the variant is between 40% to 80% more transmissible than the Alpha variant that is currently dominant in Europe and the U.S.

It is growing more prevalent in Kampala and Kinshasa, but has only been detected in small numbers in South Africa

Very limited genome sequencing, used to identify variants, in most African countries makes it difficult to understand whether it is driving some of the current surges, said Dr. Nkengasong.

Africa’s current wave is set to exacerbate a historic divergence between economies in the world’s richest and poorest nations.

Unvaccinated and without the help of large government stimulus measures, the continent’s middle class, a key engine of economic, educational and political development, is contracting rapidly, according to the Pew Research Center. It has barely been dented in the U.S. and China.

Leonard Chepkwony, a 53-year-old tour and travel company owner from Nairobi whose business has been effectively dormant since the pandemic shut down the tourism industry, said the latest wave will be even more devastating.

“We were hoping to get back on our feet,” Mr. Chepkwony said. “Many businesses in tourism are just closer to the cliff of total failure.”

Of the 2.2 billion vaccines given globally, fewer than 36 million have been administered in Africa, according to the Africa CDC. 

Three African countries—Tanzania, Burundi and Eritrea—have vaccinated no one. 

Without a boost in supplies, just seven countries in the WHO Africa region will have vaccinated 10% of their populations by the end of September, said the agency’s regional director, Matshidiso Moeti.

In the Seychelles, Africa’s most vaccinated country, there has been a resurgence in cases, likely due to new variants and the relatively lower efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine.

Families in Uganda are already counting the cost. Susan Buwule tried to find a spot for her Covid-stricken mother in every intensive-care unit in Kampala but there were no beds available. 

Her mother died on Monday. “They were all full with Covid-19 patients,” said Ms. Buwule. “The doctors believe she would have survived had she found a bed.”

.@WHOAFRO said the pandemic was now trending upwards in 14 countries and in the past week alone, eight countries had witnessed an abrupt rise of over 30% in cases @guardian 

“The threat of a third wave in Africa is real and rising,” Moeti said.

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12 June 2021: #COVID19 in South Africa 9,319 new cases reported in South Africa at a test positivity rate of 16.6% @rid1tweets

The 7-day average test positivity rate in SA is now up to 15.2%, i.e. 1 positive test for every 6.5 tests conducted 

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Congo president says Kinshasa hospitals 'overwhelmed' by coronavirus @Reuters

“I am going to take drastic measures to deal with this upsurge of the disease. We’re talking about the Indian variant in particular,” Tshisekedi told reporters, referring to the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India and is highly infectious.

“There is a big problem with (the supply of) oxygen in Kinshasa,” said Pascal Lutumba from the tropical medicine department at the University of Kinshasa.

“In Kinshasa, they don’t care about COVID-19, they don’t believe in it, that’s the big issue,” he said, referring to the city’s population.

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The Garden of Africa @mailandguardian @thecontinent_

A cemetery for people who drown in the Mediterranean while seeking a better life was officially opened in Tunisia this week. 

The site is called the Garden of Africa, and is already half full. Many of those buried there are unidentified, and their tombstones carry only vague details. “Woman, black dress, Hachani beach,” reads one, according to AFP. 

The cemetery was built by Rachid Koraichi, an Algerian artist who was moved to act when he discovered migrants’ bodies were being buried near a dump. “I wanted to give them a first taste of paradise,” 74-year-old Koraichi said.

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ZAMBIA Betting the farm on winning @Africa_Conf

As defaults continue and debts pile up, the President reckons his bonanza payment to farmers will win him re-election in August

Just before the start of the three-month election campaign on 12 May, the Patriotic Front (PF) government rushed through at least US$145 million of new loans to fund early procurement of next season's farm inputs.

This borrowing sits awkwardly with Zambia's continuing defaults to foreign creditors and efforts to negotiate an International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal

Its refusal last year to abandon a ten-fold increase in Farmer Inputs Support Programme (FISP) contracts to $500m cost the government its pandemic bailout from the IMF. 

This in turn has hindered Zambia's efforts to restructure nearly $13 billion of external debt.

A bumper harvest this year has helped the justify its huge spending on FISP. 

But agricultural experts say this is largely thanks to good rains, and that rather than increasing yields, FISP is used to buy farmers' votes and fund kickbacks.

Africa Confidential can reveal that a $64m loan from Absa bank was signed on 12 May, the day the cabinet was dissolved. 

The government has also borrowed $131m from formerly state-owned bank Zanaco. 

Last year $50m of this loan was disbursed for the 2021 farming season, while $81m was added on 11 May, just before Finance Minister Bwalya Ng'Andu's last day in office.

Other banks that made loans for last year's FISP contracts may also have lent again to the government for the 2022 season, say banking sources in London.

Central Bank technocrats took a dim view of the Zanaco loan, given that Zanaco had to borrow the funds from the Trade and Development Bank to be able to lend onwards.

The Zanaco loan is to fund a two-year, $131m FISP contract signed last year with Zambian company Neria's Investments Ltd, an inputs supplier whose owners are close to President Edgar Lungu. 

They have been involved in other procurement controversies through their other companies.

Other suppliers include Nyimba Investments, whose owner Gulam Patel is also a long-time Lungu supporter and PF donor (AC Vol 61 No 19, Default hits election plan). 

According to documents seen by Africa Confidential, Nyimba's contract last year was funded with a $52m short-term loan from Stanbic, agreed in September. 

The loan was omitted from the 2020 Ministry of Finance Annual Economic Report, as were all non-concessional loans.

The extreme lengths taken to fund FISP demonstrates the political importance of the scheme to the PF.

As well as taking out expensive short-term loans, Africa Confidential has learned that the government also paid suppliers with treasury bills, selecting those that were close to maturity so that the suppliers could then sell them at a discount to local banks for cash. 

The fact that suppliers sold the T-bills at a discount shows that the contract values were inflated to start with, say insiders. 

Managing Zambia's domestic debt has become a delicate juggling act, and arrears continue to pile up.

The government prioritises paying certain suppliers over other debts and arrears because state procurement is also a source of party campaign funding via kickbacks priced into the inflated supplier contracts, explain finance sources.

FISP is no exception, say insiders. Benefits are also shared along the supply chain, with prices inflated by middlemen and preferential access for the politically favoured.

Last year the government insisted on reverting to a manual distributions scheme instead of its e-voucher system, claiming that the electronic system was experiencing problems. 

It claimed that the manual system was more expensive to administer but was necessary. Government officials say this is not the case; the system worked well – too well, thus preventing corruption because transactions were electronically recorded.

The fallout from last year's FISP procurement has already taken a significant toll on the Treasury and next year's inputs are not an urgent priority, say government insiders. 

As well as the sovereign default, in the middle of a pandemic doctors have been striking over unpaid salaries, while public clinics and hospitals remain short of staff and medicines

The Central Bank is struggling to keep the foreign reserves above $1.1bn despite halting payments to foreign creditors, resorting to heavy domestic borrowing and piling up billions of dollars of arrears, according to government figures.

But the FISP is politically sacrosanct. In non-election years FISP is typically underfunded and poorly administered, but come election time, the government suddenly pumps in money in a bid for the rural vote.

The PF is especially anxious to secure rural votes as it is likely to lose significant support in urban areas, especially in the capital Lusaka  

Here, there is growing support for the opposition United Party for National Development and its leader Hakainde Hichilema.

President Lungu's choice of the controversial former minister Nkandu Luo as his running mate has further hurt the PF's chances, say pundits and PF sources alike. 

As Lungu's Higher Education Minister from 2016-19, Luo angered students by scrapping meal allowances.

In the meantime, the IMF has been kept at arm's length. The PF has tried to make political capital out of the fact they are speaking to the Fund but have made little effort to address the debt crisis, which the IMF insists is a pre-condition for assistance.

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Steal, Burn, Rape, Kill Alex de Waal on Ethiopia’s new famine @LRB

In Tigray in northern Ethiopia a famine is unfolding in the dark. Reporters and aid workers have been unable to access large parts of the region since war broke out in November. 

Satellite imagery and aerial photographs have shown that only a fraction of the land was ploughed in preparation for the summer rains. 

Children are dying of hunger. When villagers are spotted by Eritrean or Ethiopian soldiers they are told: ‘You won’t plough, you won’t harvest, you won’t get any aid. We’ll punish you if you try.’ 

Some news reaches me by phone. I recently spoke to a Tigrayan colleague who had experienced a previous famine. 

The elders in his village were saying that the situation now was as bad as it had been in the worst months of the 1980s.

Even if a massive aid effort gets underway and the Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, allows international agencies to reach people in need, it’s already too late for tens of thousands of Tigrayans, most of them children. 

Two months ago, aid agencies completed spot surveys of villages they could access and reported malnutrition of between 27 and 33 per cent among children under five. 

This is famine-level, but the surveys were already out of date. In early May, the same places were visited again and child malnutrition rates were said to have reached 50 per cent.

At the beginning of the year the UN estimated that 4.5 million people in Tigray – roughly two-thirds of the population – were in need of emergency aid. It has now raised that estimate to 5.2 million. Aid agencies say they can reach 11 per cent of them. 

Abiy tells Western envoys that he is co-operating, but this is far from the case. The starvation of Tigray is a punitive Carthaginian operation. 

The aid agencies are hesitating to call it famine because they’re scared of reprisals by the government in Addis Ababa, which controls their travel permits and threatens their staff. 

They’re also bound by complicated rules of appraisal that don’t allow them to declare a famine unless they have full data to back them up.

Tigray and the neighbouring province of Wollo were the epicentre of the famine of 1984. About six million Ethiopians were affected; the number of deaths is estimated at around one million. 

Another famine, eleven years earlier, denied and ignored by Haile Selassie’s government, led to hundreds of thousands of deaths. 

In response to these crises, a pioneering generation of scientists developed the practices used today to keep malnourished children alive, to prevent outbreaks of deadly communicable diseases and to read the warning signs of impending distress. 

In a paper from 1976, John Rivers of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine described the shift from severe poverty to famine as like freezing water turning to ice: it’s not just a lower temperature, but a change in state. 

During the early stages of a food crisis, the graph of excess deaths resembles the foothills of a mountain range. Then comes a sudden, precipitous rise. Within a short period – sometimes only a few weeks – the community’s ability to provide the bare minimum of sustenance collapses. Food stocks run out. 

There are no wild grasses and berries left in the woods or on the mountain slopes. People have sold their last goats and chickens, their jewellery and even their cooking pots, usually for a pittance. The markets are empty; there’s no work to be had.

This is what happened in Tigray and Wollo. The result, filmed by Mohammed Amin for Michael Buerk’s BBC report in October 1984, shocked the world. 

Six weeks later, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee summoned the directors of Oxfam and Save the Children to a hearing. 

Why, the committee chairman, Anthony Kershaw, wanted to know, had the government not been forewarned? 

Hugh Mackay, the overseas director of Save the Children, pointed out that his agency had repeatedly alerted the British embassy in Addis Ababa. 

It was a curious fact, he added, that ‘people will not believe a famine until they see it.’ 

But Kershaw kept coming back to the question of what Save the Children had or hadn’t done until Mackay silenced him with a summary of the official UK response, which was excluded from Hansard: ‘They did fuck all, sir.’

Although it was little acknowledged at the time, the 1984 famine wasn’t simply caused by drought: starvation was also a counterinsurgency strategy. 

Ethiopia’s military government, headed by Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, was fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. 

The Tigrayans suffered terribly, but their anger at Mengistu only strengthened their determination to resist. 

The TPLF won a military victory in 1991 and, leading a coalition known as the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, became the dominant force in government for the next 27 years. 

There are many legitimate criticisms of their rule, notably its failure to institute democracy, but one achievement is undisputed: the establishment of a national system for food security. 

This began with rehabilitating eroded hillsides and building small dams for irrigated gardens; it expanded to include micro-credit schemes and a ‘productive safety net programme’, providing cash credits, food and other essentials to farmers to allow them to stay on their land. 

The system worked successfully in 2015-16, when drought and harvest failure threatened a nationwide food crisis. The government responded promptly and effectively, with a relief programme that reached more than ten million people, many of them in Tigray, the most drought-prone region. 

Ethiopia’s annual economic growth of about 10 per cent took a dip, but the country emerged from the biggest threat for decades without loss of life.

International relief agencies have a complex system for early warning and response. It’s known as the Integrated Phase Classification system, or IPC. 

It has five levels, from Phase One (food secure) through to Phase Four (emergency) and Phase Five (famine). 

In October last year, almost all of Tigray was shaded yellow for Phase Two (stressed). Now the maps of the humanitarian crisis show the region in red: Phase Four. Famine occurs when three thresholds are reached: 

‘At least 20 per cent of households face an extreme lack of food, at least 30 per cent of children suffer from acute malnutrition, and two people for every ten thousand are dying each day due to outright starvation or to the interaction of malnutrition and disease.’

The IPC system is designed to diagnose the severity of a food crisis as it is occurring. In the emergency phase, children will be dying of hunger and disease. 

When a large population is in a state of emergency for months or years, the figures can build up staggeringly without triggering a Phase Five classification. 

Between 2014 and 2018, only two counties in South Sudan suffered ‘famine’, but across the country about 200,000 people died of malnutrition and infection; of those, 99 per cent were outside the two famine zones. 

By using the term ‘famine’ to describe nothing less than an absolute state of food insecurity, the IPC classification system has had the unintended effect of implying that anything short of it is acceptable. 

But there is another, more fatal flaw: the descriptions don’t work when a government is using starvation as a weapon.

Starvation is a crime of material deprivation. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines it as a war crime, consisting in the destruction or removal of ‘objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population’: not only food, but water, medical supplies and care for children. 

It’s a crime best perpetrated without media access, by severing communications and rigidly controlling information systems such as the IPC. 

It’s hard to cover up a famine completely, but it’s not hard to delay responses and ensure that when it does become public it’s already too late.

A recent alert from the US Famine Early Warning System included the line: 

‘The reduction in household access to cash income has resulted in a widespread food security Emergency in the region and has likely led to even more severe consumption gaps for worst-affected households.’ 

Decoded, this means: ‘Everything tells us that there must already be pockets of famine.’ 

The Ethiopian government is running its own IPC analysis on Tigray with data gathered by phone survey, and is due to report soon. 

But internet and phone networks have been shut down across Tigray, except in and around the main towns, so its results won’t cover the rural areas where people are actually starving. 

It wouldn’t be surprising if Ethiopia declares itself free of famine. If the UN or international donors give any credibility to such a claim, they will be complicit in the concealment of what is in effect a major famine already.

Abiy has other ways to tighten the curtain around his starving citizens. In May he declared the TPLF a terrorist organisation. 

The common word for the TPLF in Ethiopia is woyane, ‘rebel’ or ‘revolutionary’, referring back to the guerrillas of the 1970s and 1980s, and before that to a rebellion in 1943. In practice, woyane refers to any Tigrayan suspected of sympathy with the TPLF. 

But given that the party won more than 90 per cent of the vote in Tigray’s regional elections in September, that means pretty much everyone. 

For aid workers, this means no travel beyond the first checkpoint out of town, no distribution, no food security surveys, no contact of any kind.

In Somalia a decade ago, the US government designated the militant group al-Shabaab a terrorist organisation too. 

This cast a shadow over aid agencies trying to give support to the hungry. Any relief worker in Somalia who even inadvertently assisted al-Shabaab – for example by paying a fee at a checkpoint – risked prosecution under the Patriot Act. 

Relief workers clamoured for action as indicators pointed to imminent famine. But it was only when excess deaths rose sharply, and the UN officially declared a famine, that the Obama administration exempted emergency aid workers from prosecution. 

Around 200,000 people had already died. Afterwards, aid workers quietly adopted a principle they call ‘no regrets’ programming. It’s simple: if you have reason to fear the worst, respond at once, bend the rules and ask for forgiveness later.

To understand the rapid spread of hunger in Tigray we need to revisit the war, which broke out on the night of 3 November last year. 

There are four belligerent parties: the Federal Government of Ethiopia; its coalition partner, the government of Eritrea; the regional government of Amhara, which shares an administrative border with Tigray; and the TPLF, which was in control of Tigray until the war began. 

In September, Tigray had defied the government in Addis Ababa by going ahead with regional elections, which had been delayed in part because of the pandemic. In response, funding to the region was cut. 

The first shots were fired when Tigrayan special forces and militia stormed federal government army bases in the region, an assault the TPLF claim was a pre-emptive mission to seize weapons as the government amassed its forces. 

Within hours a well co-ordinated military offensive against Tigray had begun.

When his forces entered the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, on 28 November, Abiy announced that ‘not a single civilian had been killed.’ This wasn’t the case

He declared the ‘law enforcement operation’ a success: all that remained was to round up fugitive TPLF leaders. This didn’t happen. 

He also assured the world that Eritrea hadn’t sent its army into Tigray. This was also untrue. If the war had ended when Abiy said it had, there would have been only modest disruption to Tigray’s harvest. 

A swift military advance down the main roads with limited damage to infrastructure would have been a minor setback to the region’s economy.

But in those first weeks something else was already happening. The Ethiopian media relentlessly denigrated Tigrayans: they were ‘daytime hyenas’ or a ‘cancer’. 

Tigrayans were purged from the army and government service. On the ground, killing and looting began as soon as the Tigrayan forces retreated. 

Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea’s president, has been stonily silent on this: his modus operandi is to say nothing and expect the world to accept the new arrangements. 

His army of brutalised young conscripts are terrorising the area. An Eritrean soldier who deserted the front line told me they had been ordered to ‘crush’ Tigray. Eritrean forces, he said, were encouraged to steal, burn, rape and kill.

This is more or less what has happened. Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have looted shops, farms, factories and houses. 

They have burned crops and granaries, rustled cattle, slaughtered plough oxen and crushed the chicks of poultry farmers underfoot. 

They have cut down orchards and ripped up water pipes and pumps, many of them paid for with UK aid. They have ransacked the region’s hospitals and clinics. 

The militias in Amhara have occupied and ethnically cleansed the western lowlands, where hundreds of thousands of poorer Tigrayans from the highlands travel for seasonal work on sesame farms. 

Having suspended banking services when the war began, the government refuses to unfreeze the accounts of 450,000 Tigrayans in the microfinance scheme, robbing them of access to precious savings.

The most thoroughly documented massacre took place in the city of Axum, where an estimated 750 civilians were murdered by Eritrean troops. 

There are credible reports of hundreds more mass killings, including a video recording by an Ethiopian soldier that shows a unit rounding up and shooting more than a dozen young men before pushing the bodies off a cliff; some of the victims were still alive. 

Soldiers and militiamen have raped Tigrayan women and girls. More than five hundred survivors of gang rape have been reported to clinics. 

Everything we know about the reluctance of survivors to come forward, and the dangers of reaching a hospital while a war is raging, suggests that there are many more such victims. 

Despite the media blockade, there’s more than enough material to warrant an international criminal investigation.

Last year the TPLF’s leaders were full of bravado, insisting that they could resist all comers. Tigrayans were aghast at their reckless miscalculations. 

When the coalition forces closed in on Mekelle, the leadership fled to the mountains. Since then, they have cranked out statements that resemble their Marxist-Leninist tracts from the 1970s, praising the valour of the youth and honouring the martyrs who have perished. 

The TPLF has no international office; there is no regular phone communication and no internet link with their commanders in the field. 

They have issued almost no statements for the international community – though they did release an eight-point peace proposal in February, which was ignored.

The Tigrayan figureheads who have re-emerged since the start of hostilities are retirees from the former guerrilla war against Mengistu’s regime: men in their sixties who left public life twenty years ago. 

Among them is the veteran TPLF leader and former Ethiopian army chief of staff, General Tsadkan Gebretensae, often considered the best African military strategist of his generation. 

This time last year he was running a brewery; now he is overall commander of the resistance. Tens of thousands of young men, outraged by the atrocities and destruction, have volunteered for the Tigray Defence Forces, as the new Tigrayan army calls itself.

Thirty years ago, after winning the war with Mengistu and capturing Addis Ababa, Tsadkan reflected on the Tigrayan victory over the largest army in sub-Saharan Africa. ‘War is primarily an intellectual activity,’ he told me. 

Today, his old comrades are walking with sticks but undimmed. In December and January they were in headlong retreat, fighting a defensive war. 

They found temporary refuge in the steep escarpments of southern Tigray, beyond the reach of tanks and artillery. 

In February they broke out of the encirclement, destroying five Eritrean and Ethiopian divisions – a deployment of more than 12,000 troops. 

By the end of April, after another round of fighting in which they saw off co-ordinated assaults by 25 Eritrean and seven Ethiopian divisions – about 80,000 troops – the TDF had achieved parity with their major adversary, the Eritreans. ‘We were biting the dust, now we are on our feet,’ Tsadkan said this week.

The war is still the main event. The military balance is uppermost in the minds of Abiy and Isaias, who have redoubled their efforts to crush Tigray. 

Abiy has promised that Eritrea will withdraw its troops. But if it did, his own army would lose control of Tigray, and he would have to negotiate with the TDF as an equal partner. 

That would spell the end of his dream of being the glorious leader of a unified Ethiopia. For his part, Isaias has gambled everything on the war, and believes that if he doesn’t destroy Tigray his regime will collapse. 

Both countries are buying drones and other sophisticated armaments, but for now their most reliable weapon is hunger: they aim to starve Tigray into submission and keep it permanently dependent on an international aid pipeline that they can switch on and off at will. 

On 3 June they rejected international calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, proclaiming that a final victory was within their grasp. Reports from the ground speak of yet another build-up of troops.

Until a few weeks ago, Tigrayans were hopeful that famine could still be averted through a combination of emergency aid and stores of seed and fertiliser. 

Now that the rains are falling it’s too late. If Eritrea could be forced to withdraw through a UN Security Council resolution, they argue, Tigray wouldn’t starve. 

But the Eritreans are digging in: towns are being encircled with trenches. Last week, the UK special envoy for famine prevention, Nick Dyer, tweeted: ‘Just back from Tigray. The humanitarian crisis is worsening and the risk of famine conditions growing.’ 

But famine is no longer a risk, as another senior diplomat wrote privately: it’s a ‘mathematical certainty’. 

With their arms twisted by the Ethiopians, it seems likely that the UN and donors will stick with circumlocution and euphemism. If this isn’t a famine then the word has no meaning.

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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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Police fired teargas and detained several demonstrators in the Nigerian cities of Lagos and Abuja on Saturday during protests over the country’s worsening security situation.

Anger over mass kidnappings-for-ransom, a decade-long Islamist insurgency and a crackdown on protesters in Lagos last October has fuelled demands for the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to do more to tackle violence and insecurity. 

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Once again, @MBuhari is shooting Nigeria in the foot @mailandguardian @thecontinent_

In April, Twitter announced that it is setting up its African headquarters in Accra. The location took everyone by surprise. Ghana’s tech industry is vibrant, but it is small compared to other major hubs on the continent – most notably Lagos, which is booming with innovative, entrepreneurial start-ups. 

But insiders at Twitter told The Continent that Nigeria was never really an option. The government is too unpredictable, they said. The rules can change at any time.

With little explanation, the Nigerian government banned the social media platform. It accused Twitter of “activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

The ban came just days after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that violated the platform’s policy on abusive behaviour (the tweet threatened to deal with protesters in the south- east of the country “in the language they understand”, which was widely interpreted as a threat of violence).

There is little doubt that it will make investors think twice before putting their money into Nigeria – and they will demand higher returns on investment to do so.

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With broadband penetration rising from under 20% five years ago to above 40% since May 2020, Nigeria’s ICT sector is the fastest growing in the country, rising 6.31% in the first quarter of 2021 @mailandguardian @thecontinent_

“The truth is that regulatory risk has been the chief concern for us investors for a while,” Tokunboh Ishmael, a former board chair at the Africa Venture Capital Association, told The Continent.

With its estimated two million users in Nigeria, Twitter is an important platform for businesses.

“A government that’s consistently hostile to technology sends a message that its economy is less credible as a destination for important future-focused investments of time and money,” Omame 

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Kenya gets $750 mln @WorldBank loan to help recovery from COVID-19 effects @Reuters

The World Bank said the concessional loan will have a 3.1% annual interest rate. 

On Thursday, Finance Minister Ukur Yatani presented to parliament the 2021/22 budget, with a deficit of 7.5% of gross domestic product, reduced from 8.7% for the current fiscal year ending this month.

The finance ministry forecasts a economic growth of 6.6% this year, recovering from 0.6% in 2020 when sectors like tourism and related services collapsed due to restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The World Bank forecasts Kenya's economy will grow 4.5% this year, and 4.7% in 2022.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who took the helm in 2013, has overseen a jump in public borrowing. 

Total debt stands at 70% of GDP, up from about 45% when he took over - a surge that some politicians and economists say is saddling future generations with too much debt.

The government has defended the increased borrowing, saying the country must invest in its infrastructure, including roads and railways.

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
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June 2021

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