|Thursday 29th of April 2021
US Yields: @PriapusIQ
World Of Finance
On the balance of Probabilities - Short rates will in fact go lower before they go higher.
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
The Pandemic is a Portal
Dreaming of escape and travel and of portals through which I would pass like I imagined there was a portal at the bottom of my garden in Mombasa through which I could pass and return.Itamaraty Palace Spiral Staircase designed by #Oscar Niemeyer icekev
This strange dream like sequence of non linear time has been the overwhelming experience for what feels like an eternity now.
‘You’re a mutant virus, I’m the immune system and it’s my job to expel you from the organism.’ OCTOBER 30, 2014 BY DOMINIC CUMMINGS The Hollow Men II
Law & Politics
Complexity makes prediction hard. Our world is based on extremely complex, nonlinear, interdependent networks (physical, mental, social).
Properties emerge from feedback between vast numbers of interactions: for example, the war of ant colonies, the immune system’s defences, market prices, and abstract thoughts all emerge from the interaction of millions of individual agents. Interdependence, feedback, and nonlinearity mean that systems are fragile and vulnerable to nonlinear shocks:
‘big things come from small beginnings’ and problems cascade, ‘they come not single spies / But in battalions’.
Prediction is extremely hard even for small timescales. Effective action and (even loose) control are very hard and most endeavours fail.
Blofeld: Kronsteen, you are sure this plan is foolproof?
Kronsteen: Yes it is, because I have anticipated every possible variation of counter-move.
Politics therefore suffers from a surfeit of narcissists.
The occupants of No10, like Tolstoy’s characters in War and Peace, are blown around by forces they do not comprehend as they gossip, intrigue, and babble to the media.
The MPs and spin doctors steer their priorities according to the rapidly shifting sands of the pundits who they are all spinning, while the pundits shift (to some extent unconsciously) according to the polls.
The outcome? Everybody rushes around in tailspins assembling circular firing squads while the real dynamics of opinion play out largely untouched by their conscious actions.
In terms of a method to ‘manage’ government, it is not far from tribal elders howling incantations around the camp fire after inspecting the entrails of slaughtered animals.
It makes no sense because it is not based on the real world. Because of this systemic dysfunction, the rest of us get repeatedly ‘Macked’.
6 AUG 18 :: The Indian Ocean Economy and a Port Race
Law & Politics
Professor Felipe Fernández-Armesto explains ‘’The precocity of the Indian Ocean as a Zone of long-range navigation and cultural exchange is one of the glaring facts of history’’ made possible by the ‘’reversible escalator’’ of the monsoons.
The Indian Ocean Economy preceded the Atlantic Ocean Economy, where the Europeans only learnt how to ‘’crack the code’’ of the Atlantic winds [and a new ‘Western’ culture arose on both sides of the ocean] long after the Indian Ocean.
“The origin of SARS-CoV-2 is being seriously questioned” @DecrolyE H/T @gdemaneuf
Nearly a year after the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus was identified, researchers have yet to determine how it “jumped species” to infect humans.
Virologist Étienne Decroly discusses the various hypotheses, including that of an accidental leak from a laboratory.
At a time when researchers are racing against the clock to develop viable vaccines and treatments, why is it so important to understand the genealogy of the virus behind the Covid-19 pandemic?
Étienne Decroly:1 After SARS-CoV in 2002 and MERS-CoV in 2012, SARS-CoV-2, which was quickly identified as causing Covid-19, is the third human coronavirus responsible for a severe respiratory syndrome to have emerged in the past 20 years.
We are now quite familiar with this family of viruses, which circulate primarily among bats, and whose zoonotic transfer occasionally triggers epidemics among humans.
It is therefore crucial to understand how this pathogen crossed the species barrier and became easily transmissible from human to human.
It is essential to study the evolutionary mechanisms and molecular processes involved in the advent of this pandemic virus in order to better anticipate potential outbreaks of this type, and to develop therapeutic and vaccinal strategies.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, when we knew very little about the virus, it was very quickly suspected to be of animal origin. Why was this possibility immediately favoured, and has it since been confirmed?
É.D.: The zoonotic origin of coronaviruses, which infect nearly 500 species of bat, was already well documented from previous outbreaks.
In nature, different bat populations share the same caves, and various viral strains can contaminate the same animal simultaneously.
This situation facilitates genetic recombination between viruses and their evolution, allowing certain strains to develop the capacity to cross the species barrier.
Genome sequence comparisons of viral samples from different patients infected by SARS-CoV-2 have revealed an identity rate of 99.98%, indicating that the strain emerged in humans very recently.
It was also soon discovered that this genome is 96% identical to that of a bat virus (RaTG13) collected in 2013 from the animals’ guano, whose sequences have only been known since March 2020.
In addition, one fragment of this genome proved to be totally identical to another, made up of 370 nucleotides, sequenced in 2016 from samples collected in 2013 at a mine in China’s Yunnan province where three miners had died of severe pneumonia.
Furthermore, analyses of other known human coronaviruses show only 79% genetic identity between SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2, and only 50% for MERS-CoV.
Simply put, SARS-CoV-2 is genetically closer to virus strains that were previously transmitted only among bats.
It did not descend from known human strains and only recently acquired the ability to leave its natural animal reservoir, which is most likely bats.
If it has been determined that Covid-19 came from bats, why is there still such controversy over its origins?
É.D.: Since no case of an epidemic caused by direct bat-to-human transmission has yet been demonstrated, it is thought that the transfer to humans more probably took place via an intermediate host species in which the virus could evolve and move towards forms likely to infect human cells.
Such an intermediary is usually identified by examining the phylogenetic relations between the new virus and those that contaminate animal species living near the outbreak zone.
This method made it possible to determine that the civet was probably the secondary host of SARS-CoV in the early 2000s, and the dromedary that of MERS-CoV ten years later.
The discovery, in the genome of a coronavirus infecting pangolins, of a short genetic sequence coding for the recognition domain of receptor ACE-2, related to the sequence that allows SARS-CoV-2 to penetrate human cells, first suggested that a possible intermediary had been found, but the rest of its genome is too dissimilar to SARS-CoV-2 to be a direct ancestor.
SARS-CoV-2 could thus have resulted from multiple recombinations among different coronaviruses circulating in pangolins and bats, leading to an adaptation that enables transmission to humans.
In this case, a secondary cause of the Covid-19 pandemic would have been contact with the intermediate host, possibly an animal sold in the market in Wuhan (China).
However, this hypothesis raises many questions. First of all, the geography: the viral samples from bats were collected in Yunnan, nearly 1,500 kilometres from Wuhan, where the pandemic began.
There is also an ecological issue: bats and pangolins inhabit different ecosystems, so it is difficult to imagine how their viruses could have recombined.
Most importantly, it has been noted that the identity rate between the SARS-CoV-2 sequences and those from pangolins reaches a mere 90.3%, which is far lower than what is normally observed between strains infecting humans and those contaminating secondary hosts.
The genomes of SARS-CoV and the civet strain from which it descended, for example, are 99% identical.
Could you tell us more about the cellular receptor’s recognition sequence and the mechanism that allows the virus to penetrate cells?
É.D.: That has to do with the biological characteristics of coronaviruses. Their genome contains an S gene coding for the spike protein, which enters into the composition of the envelope and gives the coronavirus its characteristic “crown” shape.
The spike protein plays a fundamental role in the virus’s infection capacity because it contains a domain, called RBD, which has the property of binding specifically to certain receptors (ACE2) on the surface of infectible cells.
It is the establishment of this link that then allows the pathogen to penetrate the cell.
The RBD domain’s affinity for ACE2 receptors in a given species is a determining factor in the virus’s infection capacity for that species.
In humans, this receptor is widely expressed and can be found, for example, on the surface of pulmonary and intestinal cells.
Analyses of coronavirus databases have made it possible to determine that the genetic sequence coding for the RBD domain of SARS-CoV-2 is very close to that of the coronavirus infecting pangolins.
This observation suggests that the spike protein of the CoV infecting these animals has a strong affinity for the human ACE2 receptor, which possibly enabled that pathogen to enter human cells more easily than the bat virus.
However, for reasons mentioned above, most researchers now think that the pangolin probably played no role in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2.
The prevalent hypothesis today is that it was more likely a convergent, independent evolution of the RBD domain in both virus strains.
Are there any indications of other candidates for the role of intermediate host?
É.D.: In zoonoses, secondary hosts are usually found among livestock or wild animals that come into contact with the human population.
In this case, despite research on viruses found in the animal species sold at the Wuhan market, no intermediary virus between RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2 has been singled out so far.
Until one is identified and its genome sequenced, the question of the origin of SARS-CoV-2 will remain unanswered.
For lack of convincing evidence concerning the last animal intermediary before human contamination, some sources are suggesting that the virus could have crossed the species barrier following a laboratory accident or even be man-made.
Do you think that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a laboratory?
É.D.: The hypothesis cannot be ruled out, given that SARS-CoV, which emerged in 2003, has escaped from laboratory experiments at least four times.
In addition, there’s the fact that coronaviruses were a major area of study in the laboratories near the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak zone, where researchers were investigating, among other things, the mechanisms involved in crossing the species barrier.
However, at this time, the analyses based on the phylogeny of the complete virus genomes yield no clear conclusions on the evolutionary origin of SARS-CoV-2.
There are three main scenarios for explaining how the latter acquired its epidemic potential.
First of all, it is a zoonosis. Covid-19 is caused by the recent breaching of the species barrier by a coronavirus.
In this case, there must be another virus with greater similarity than RaTG13 in a domestic animal or livestock species, but, as previously mentioned, no such strain has yet been found.
The second scenario is that it could be a coronavirus different from SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV that adapted to humans several years ago and circulated relatively unnoticed until a recent mutation made it more transmissible from an individual to another.
To confirm this hypothesis, we would have to analyse virus samples from people who died of atypical pneumonias in the outbreak zone before the pandemic broke out.
Lastly, SARS-CoV-2 may have descended from a bat virus isolated by scientists collecting samples, which then adapted to other species during research on animal models in the laboratory – laboratory from which it then accidentally escaped.
Isn’t there a risk that this last hypothesis may uphold the conspiracy theories about the Covid-19 pandemic?
É.D.: Studying the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is a scientific process that cannot be equated with a conspiracy theory.
At the same time, I would like to underline the fact that, as long as no intermediate host has been identified, the scientific community cannot rule out the possibility of an accidental leak.
As of today, no scientific study has produced any clear evidence to confirm this. Nonetheless, the fact remains that further analyses are needed to reach a conclusion.
The question of the natural or synthetic origin of SARS-CoV-2 cannot be made contingent on a political agenda or communication strategy.
It deserves to be examined in light of the scientific data at our disposal.
Our hypotheses must also take into account what virology laboratories are capable of doing at this stage, and the fact that the manipulation of potentially pathogenic virus genomes is a common practice in certain laboratories, in particular for studying how viruses cross the species barrier.
Indeed, many conspiracy websites echo the assertions of Luc Montagnier, who explained that SARS-CoV-2 is a “chimera virus” created in a Chinese laboratory, a cross between a coronavirus and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Is this a serious theory?
É.D.: In any case, it is no longer taken seriously by specialists, who have refuted its main conclusions.
Nonetheless, it is based on an utterly serious observation that is important for understanding the infection mechanism of SARS-CoV-2: it has been discovered that the gene coding for the spike protein contains four insertions of short sequences that are not found in the most genetically similar human coronaviruses.
These insertions probably give the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 exceptional properties.
Structural studies indicate that the first three insertions are located on exposed domains of the S protein and are thus likely to play a role in how the virus evades the host’s immune system.
The fourth insertion, which is more recent, produces a site sensitive to furins, protease enzymes produced by the host cells.
It has now been clearly demonstrated that furin cleavage of the spike protein induces a conformational change that is conducive to the recognition of the ACE2 cellular receptor.
Researchers investigating the origin of these insertions have reported in a pre-publication that these sequences of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein show unsettling similarities with fragment sequences of the HIV-1 virus.
Strongly criticised for its methodological shortcomings and errors of interpretation, the article was deleted from the bioRxiv site.
This postulate would have remained insignificant, had it not been revived by Luc Montagnier, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on HIV.
In April 2020, he claimed that these insertions did not result from natural recombination nor occurred accidentally, but from deliberate gene manipulation, probably in the course of research to develop HIV vaccines.
These assertions were once again refuted by biostatistical analyses, which showed that the similar sequences in HIV and SARS-CoV-2 are too short (10 to 20 nucleotides out of a total of 30,000 for the genome) and that the resemblance is most likely coincidental.
Meanwhile, faced with the difficulty of understanding the origin of this pathogen, we have conducted phylogenetic analyses in collaboration with bioinformaticians and phylogeneticists.
Their findings show that three of the four insertions observed in SARS-CoV-2 can be found in older coronavirus strains.
Our study clearly shows that these sequences appeared independently, at different times in the evolutionary history of the virus.
This data invalidates the hypothesis of a recent and intentional insertion by a laboratory of those three sequences.
That leaves the fourth insertion, which produces a furin protease cleavage site in SARS-CoV-2 that is not found in the other viruses of the SARS-CoV family.
Consequently, the possibility cannot be ruled out that this insertion results from experiments designed to allow an animal virus to jump species to humans, since it is well known that this type of insertion plays a key role in the propagation of many pathogens in humans.
How can we know for sure?
É.D.: The SARS-CoV-2 genome is a combinatory puzzle and the recombination mechanisms of the animal viruses that led to its emergence remain a mystery.
To understand its genesis, many more samples from wild and domestic species need to be collected.
The possible discovery of animal diseases with a very strong similarity to SARS-CoV-2 would be a key element for confirming its natural origin.
In addition, more in-depth bioinformatic analyses could reveal possible traces of genetic manipulation, which would conversely suggest an experimental origin.
In any case, whether the virus is natural or not, the very fact that this question can now be seriously considered calls for a critical review of the reconstruction tools and methods being used in today’s research laboratories, and of their potential use in “gain-of-function” experiments.
But aren’t those the only tools that can help us to understand and combat these viruses and the epidemics they cause?
É.D.: Indeed, but we must understand that the paradigms of virus research have changed radically in recent years.
Today, any laboratory can obtain or synthesise a gene sequence. It’s possible to build a functional virus from scratch in less than a month using sequences available in the databases.
In addition, gene manipulation tools have been developed that are fast, easy to use and inexpensive. They enable spectacular progress, but at the same time multiply the risk and possible severity of an accident, in particular in gain-of-function experiments on viruses with pandemic potential.
Even if it ultimately turns out that the Covid-19 epidemic is the result of a “classic” zoonosis, incidents of pathogens escaping from laboratories have been documented in recent years.
One of the best-known cases is the Marburg virus disease, which originated from contamination by wild monkeys. The 1977 flu pandemic is another example.
Recent genetic studies suggest that it was caused by the leak of a virus strain, collected in the 1950s, from a laboratory.
More recently, several such accidental leaks from studies of SARS-CoV have been reported in the literature. Fortunately, none of them caused a major epidemic.
International standards require that any research, isolation or culturing involving potentially pandemic viruses, including respiratory ones, must be conducted under secure experimental conditions, with irreproachable traceability in order to prevent any zoonotic transmission.
However, accidents can always happen. It is important to consider the potential risk of such experiments, especially if they target gain of function or infectivity.
Are you in favour of a moratorium or ban on this type of research?
É.D.: I do not advocate an outright ban. The point is not to “sterilise” research, but to examine the benefit-to-risk ratio more rigorously.
Perhaps a conference should be organised to evaluate the need for a moratorium or more suitable international regulation.
Considering the risks of infection arising from the techniques used in virus research today, civil society and the scientific community must urgently re-examine the practice of gain-of-function experiments and the artificial adaptation of viral strains in intermediary animal hosts.
In 2015, aware of this problem, the federal agencies in the United States froze funding for all new studies involving this type of experiment.
The moratorium ended in 2017. In my opinion, these high-risk practices should be reconsidered, and monitored by international ethics committees.
Lastly, researchers in these fields must also be more sensitive to their own responsibility whenever they are conscious of the possible dangers incurred by their work.
There are often alternative experimental strategies that can achieve the same purpose while greatly reducing the risks.
Aren’t those strategies already used?
É.D.: In theory, yes. In reality, we often fall short of the goal, especially because we scientists do not receive sufficient training on these issues.
And because the climate of competition that reigns in the world of research encourages fast, frantic experimentation that does not really take ethical questions into account, nor weigh a project’s potential risks.
In the master’s programme that I teach on viral engineering, I have been giving, for about ten years, a theoretical exercise which consists in imagining a process that would give HIV the capacity to infect any cell in the body (and not just lymphocytes).
While most of the students are able to come up with an effective method for building a potentially dangerous chimera virus, they focus exclusively on the effectiveness of the technique, without ever questioning the potential consequences of its implementation.
My goal here as a teacher is to make them aware of the issues involved and show them that in many cases it is possible to build experimental systems that are just as effective but offer better control of the biological risks.
Starting early in the educational process, we need to train future biologists to always assess the risk and social relevance of their research, however innovative it may be.
1. CNRS senior researcher at the AFMB (Architecture et Fonctions des Macromolécules Biologiques – CNRS / Aix-Marseille Université) and a member of the Societé Française de Virologie.
01-MAR-2020 :: The Origin of the #CoronaVirus #COVID19
“If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.”― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow
“There's always more to it. This is what history consists of. It is the sum total of the things they aren't telling us.”
“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.”
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – “Where I was working we [had] a lot of patients showing up. We were trying, really, to save them but we couldn’t even talk openly about COVID because of @MagufuliJP ” said Dr Juma @VICENews
Instead, Magufuli and his cabinet pushed Tanzanians towards steam therapy and healthy drinks to combat the virus.
Juma worked on a COVID ward from March to November last year before moving out of the country.
According to him, the colleagues he left behind say despite the lack of verified information about the virus, wards are still overflowing.
“COVID is still there and it is still killing people,” he told VICE World News.
In the capital and beyond, daily life in Tanzania is largely normal and as unrestricted as it was under Magufuli, a trend that could see a devastating third wave in the country where a novel “variant of interest” was found in Angola in a traveller from Tanzania with more than 30 mutations – a global record.
Many Tanzanians have embraced government-sanctioned herbal remedies like vegetable smoothies with ginger and lemon and steam inhalation with leaves like eucalyptus.
In the Moshi region of Tanzania, residents reported a huge upsurge in the number of funeral convoys coming from Dar Es Salaam in recent months.
VICE World News visited the town of Njia Panda, in Moshi, where funeral convoys congregate after long drives from various parts of the country, and spoke with several residents who claim they have seen an unprecedented number of deaths since the pandemic started.
VICE World News visited the town of Njia Panda, in Moshi, where funeral convoys congregate after long drives from various parts of the country, and spoke with several residents who claim they have seen an unprecedented number of deaths since the pandemic started.
“If no one believes [COVID] is in Tanzania, they should just come to Njia Panda and see for themselves. We have never seen so many funerals,” said local resident Grace Kisangure.
Reverend Bonventure Kyessi is among the few vocal voices who want the government to put up stringent containment measures to stop the scourge.
Since the pandemic started, he’s lost his sister, her husband, and both of his parents to what he describes as breathing complications.
He suspects it was COVID but the family was never informed of the cause of death, in line with government policy across the country.
Ethiopia’s vicious deadlock @EthiopiaInsight by René Lefort
The much-hyped democratic transition is not only dead but buried deep. It would need a miracle to exhume it in the near future.
Last year, Tigray’s leaders underestimated their weaknesses.
The region’s security forces were swept away in the conventional conflict and largely unprepared to shift to guerrilla warfare after Mekelle was captured on 28 November.
Even the grassroots party-state apparatus has vanished.
In a 27 March phone discussion with Alex de Waal, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) veteran Mulugeta Gebrehiwot, who has joined the armed struggle, said: “the former administration of the TPLF has collapsed… The administrators just ran away.”
He added that four and half months after the war started, “there is a zonal army that is organized in several places,” which means this is not the case everywhere in Tigray.
The Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) and TPLF leadership have since avoided being wiped out, thanks to the resistance against the “invasion” which has been spontaneously and autonomously built from both the civilian and militia grassroots and among scattered TDF units.
The Tigrayans then came back to their age-old structuration: the villages’ self-organization.
“The farmers in each locality asked [the administrators] not to return back; they said ‘we don’t need you, we will choose our own,’” said Mulugeta.
“So, at the village level, they have a committee of seven, sometimes without any former cadre.”
In Tigray, the power pyramid was top-heavy. That top has been broken and is under reconstruction. At this stage, the most solid part of the pyramid lies at its bottom.
The main Tigrayan war force now is the village-level popular resistance and the TDF military apparatus, which has been progressively regrouped from the remnants of the regional security forces and defected Tigrayan federal soldiers.
This resistance will not be crushed even if the top leaders of the “junta” are killed or captured.
Sadly, it took Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed five months to realize that this war will be “difficult and tiresome,” something that was entirely foreseeable.
The question now for his government is: the “law enforcement operation” aimed at eliminating the TPLF leadership; if the war will continue even after this objective is achieved, what are the war’s other aims?
On the other side, the Tigrayans will have to choose between three endgames.
They will never accept less than full self-rule inside the federation, as stated in the constitution.
But they could also decide for independence, “probably the most viable option,” according to Getachew Reda, or for the “Agazi project,” pushed by the radical opposition parties in Tigray, to build a trans-border Tigrayan nation-state, like the European nation-state building in the middle of 19th century.
Many Tigrayans remember that TPLF won the war against Derg not because of military might but as a result of the Derg’s exhaustion-induced unraveling of its army.
They could expect the same will happen this time as they are reinforcing their armed forces and because time is on their side as a result of their higher resilience
It is also apparent that the scorched-earth policy of the intervening forces has made many Tigrayans thirsty for revenge.
In this context, how uncompromising might they be if they are presented with a ceasefire deal?
Also, assuming they stay in the war zone, who will negotiate on their behalf?
Time is needed for the emergence of a new representative Tigrayan leadership.
Potentially, this will include young, fresh local frontrunners, well-known civilians, and representatives of the Tigray Defence Forces.
Time will also be needed for the popular endorsement of the strategy this leadership will devise because the Tigrayan civilian population is in a position to demand a strong say.
The referendum Getachew Reda implied cannot be organized overnight.
Ethiopia’s civil war in Tigray is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conflicts ravaging the country.
It has put in the shadows another dirty conflict in Oromia.
Given that the region ranks well above Tigray when it comes to population, size, and wealth, the intensifying insurgency/counter-insurgency occurring there is more critical.
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) has waged a blitzkrieg over the last few months.
Starting in Wollega and expanding quickly into Arsi and Bale, “OLF/Shane rebels are now present in Amhara region,” stated Agegnehu Teshager, president of Amhara regional state.
Agegnehu probably wanted to exaggerate the threat so as to make his appeal for federal government intervention more pressing.
Be that as it may, the OLA has now reached the Shewan part of Oromia, near Addis Ababa.
If it continues to expand as fast as it did during the last few months, it could become strong enough to temporarily blockade the capital, if it decides to do so.
Leader ‘Jaal Marro’ has said the OLA will prevent elections taking place in Oromia.
The OLA’s final goal is known: complete self-rule of Oromia, at the very least.
But its strategy to achieve this is uncertain, and so is its willingness and conditions to come to the negotiation table.
More local confrontations, categorized usually as “ethnic” or “communal violence”, are spreading and escalating across the country.
The last one occurred in the eastern part of the Amhara region (South Wollo, Oromo Special Zone, and North Shewa), which resulted in more than 300 deaths until now, tens of thousands of refugees, and mass destruction.
It involved local Amhara and Oromo population and militia, the Amhara Special Forces, and the federal army.
OLA stated that those who fought, the Oromo farmers, only carried “AK-47s as part of their tradition” and denies it was involved in these fights. But several Amhara witnesses said Oromo forces used “heavy artillery.”
While more than half of the country is under a de facto state of emergency managed by martial law (“Command Post”), basic order is still far from prevailing in these zones.
Barely a week passes without a massacre, or pogrom, with dozens of victims.
At the heart of many clashes are border conflicts, which hit all regions with no exception.
The borders have historically always fluctuated, and are still under negotiation in many places.
The last one has been between Afar and Somali region, which led to “at least hundred deaths.”
To prepare for such territorial disputes, the regional states have pursued militarization since late 2017, when rifts inside the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) moved the country into the unknown.
In addition to their regional police and militia, they bolstered their “Special Forces,” paramilitaries.
A foreign military expert estimates they consist of around 30,000 men in Oromia and little bit less in Amhara.
To put into context, the total number of special force members in these two regions is perhaps around half the total number of Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) members before the beginning of the Tigray war.
The Pandora’s Box was opened when Amhara region annexed, without any legal basis, large territories in western and south-eastern Tigray. This set the distressing precedent that it is possible to take contested land with brute force.
Additionally, the arbitrary hegemony of the executive branch expands constantly, at least where it holds sway. The law is more and more flouted.
The freedoms gained in the months after Abiy came to power are vanishing.
The right to demonstrate is respected highly selectively, freedom of expression is regressing, journalists have been jailed, and self-censorship prevails for all.
If the situation remains the same, the elections planned for June will be at best meaningless, and, at worst, increase tensions to the point that they could be canceled.
Birtukan Mideksa, chair of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE), stated that “only a week before the end of the voter registration period, out of the 50,000 polling stations planned to be established as per the electoral map, only 25,151 are currently registering voters.”
As a result of such concerns, the board has just extended voter registration for two weeks.
These elections are largely perceived as being so artificial or useless that the population and the local authorities are apathetic.
In particular, they don’t coerce people to register, or aren’t as effective at doing so, as in the past.
The main representatives and structures of one of the two major political currents— the proponents of true ‘multinational federalism’—such as the Oromo Liberation Front, Oromo Federalist Congress, and TPLF have been side-lined one way or another.
The main competitor to the Prosperity Party in Amhara, the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA), stated recently “the massive genocide perpetrated to terrorize our people (Amhara) is directly supported and led by the government structure.”
Its election participation looks increasingly doubtful. Different wings of the anti-ethnic federalism camp would therefore be the only ones really competing, though not in some areas, such as parts of Oromia.
It’s unlikely that the NEBE will help. In an interview with The Reporter, Birtukan stated she is satisfied with what the board is doing as the electorate have alternatives to choose from.
Her goal is “to hold a different, participatory and representative election”. She hasn’t mentioned the phrase “free and fair elections.”
Most probably, the elections, if held, will not give Abiy the domestic legitimacy he runs after but reduce once more his credibility—and they will polarize Ethiopians even more for sure.
The ruling machinery in place for years has shifted from the EPRDF umbrella to Prosperity Party (PP) aegis. The latter was supposed to be a national, non-ethnic party.
However, while the former consisted of a coalition of four established regional parties, PP reproduces the same structuration disguised in “regional branches.”
But unlike EPRDF, PP hasn’t been able to expand its effective authority below the wereda level in many regions.
While EPRDF was a cohesive and disciplined party-state entity, by will and rather by force, it is common for PP leaders at the wereda and zonal level to turn a blind eye to, or even assist, fights against the federal and regional governments and get embroiled in inter-communal violence.
The last meeting of the army and security leadership pointed the finger at “those who are embedded inside the government’s structure…conspiring to dismantle the country”.
Furthermore, PP is deeply divided, especially between its Oromo and Amhara branches, but also within other chapters.
The two hurled public abuse at each other about the fights in the Oromo Special Zone in Amhara.
The Oromo branch accused Bahir Dar of the attacks, using OLF-Shane as a pretext.
Agegnehu, the Amhara president, issued a stern warning to the federal government to seek an “immediate solution” to stop the killings of Amhara, while one of the leaders of Amhara-PP, Demeke Mekonnen, is the Deputy Prime Minister.
Ethiopia’s vicious deadlock @EthiopiaInsight by René Lefort [continued]
The most worrying aspect of the situation is that the cornerstone of Ethiopian politics remains unchanged: Any power center aims to become hegemonic, and then to increasingly assert its hegemony.
In both cases, the use of raw force is still the highway to reach these goals. Armed conflict is therefore unavoidable.
What is happening now could be the premise of the nth remake of a common Ethiopian historical episode: after the death of a ‘Big Man,’ different armed contenders fight until one clear winner emerges.
Before, this confrontation was a raw power struggle. Today, the confrontation is also a path the contenders embark upon to ultimately decide between opposing political visions.
The most revealing display of this continuity has been the conflict between the Tigray and federal governments.
By putting preconditions for dialogue that the other side obviously would not accept, they essentially chose war, and indeed prepared for it.
Now, Abiy offers little other than his intention to crush the “criminal clique.” The TPLF requests that Tigray’s government is restored and say they will fight until “the invaders will surrender”, which implies the departure of ENDF along with Eritrean and Amhara forces— in other words, Abiy’s capitulation.
The expectations for a “democratic transition” during the mid-2010s were sadly irrational. The Qeerroo and Fano didn’t shout “freedom!” or “democracy!”, but “down down Woyane!”.
The former have disappeared or have been co-opted, including into the Oromia Special Force. The latter won fame for their inhumanity in the Tigray war.
The urban middle class was considered as the spearhead of democratization. At best, they remain silent or deliberately passive, but the great majority supports the war.
Indeed, it seems like many consider that the atrocities committed against Tigrayan civilians are justified by the supposed privileges Tigrayans benefited from during TPLF’s time and the party’s unproven alleged involvement in recent ‘ethnic’ conflicts across Ethiopia.
Very lonesome and rare are those who are ashamed that “so many Ethiopians are not disquieted by the abhorrent, war-crimes riddled campaign prosecuted in their name”.
Even the damage to Al-Nejashi mosque and Debre Damo monastery “could not pique the conscience of the religious leaders. Not even a beep… They could not pass the political moral test in the Tigray region civil war”, writes a “theologian by training”.
Addis Fortune adds: “Leaders of the main religious denomination were complicit in the war… They have lost the courage of their faith to speak out against the atrocities.”
The precarious religious modus vivendi is also shaken. As if it wanted to increase the religious tensions even more, the government maneuvers to gain control over the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.
This revives the tensions between authorities and Muslims in 2010’. Growing ‘ethnic clashes’ foretell growing religious antagonisms.
Of course, fear of the ruling power prevails and contributes to this absence of disquiet.
But the Orwellian regime propaganda would not achieve its goal of stirring up hysterical resentment if its audience was not so receptive.
In light of the civil war in Tigray and growing conflicts in Oromia and elsewhere, it’s hard to see which force could become strong enough to block, or even to restrain, nationally or regionally, the gruesome ongoing armed dynamics, whether from the political parties, the civil society, or the diaspora.
Wherever you look, if the possible gates to exit from the crisis exist, they are not realistically within reach.
Power is now multipolar, dispersed between four main forces:
(1) TPLF/TDF; (2) OLA; (3) the Amhara leadership with its growing presence in the military command and the security services, but outflanked by more radical groups such as NaMA and Fano; (4) the Oromia-PP leadership, whose members’ position varies depending on the degree of ethnic federalism they advocate—the last two are supposed to be Abiy’s political base.
The first two don’t seem to coordinate even if their political objectives are very close.
The last pair are linked by a tactical alliance that cannot last given that Amhara-PP struggles for a pan-Ethiopianism while Oromia-PP aims for a strong ethnofederalism.
Also, they both desire a preeminent role in Addis Ababa. This constrains Abiy who has to divide himself—and thus diminish himself—to try and please them.
The signs of mounting antagonism are evident all around. And it does not seem like this escalation will stop.
Instead, it could potentially bring Ethiopia into the eye of the cyclone—a full-fledged civil war.
In addition, Isaias Afeworki stepped into Ethiopian affairs again. His main goal is the same since the end of the 1970s: to become the godfather of the Horn.
Given Eritrea’s smallness, he could succeed only by weakening Ethiopia, the historical pillar of this region, or by having a strong say in Ethiopia’s affairs through close cooperation.
The conflicts in Ethiopia are therefore a godsend for him. At this stage, it seems like the ENDF and its Amhara allies will not be able to contain the Tigrayan guerrilla movement, or engage successfully in fights on other fronts, without the Eritrean army’s involvement.
The Western powers and some intergovernmental organizations call for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops. But when Abiy promised they will leave, he put his credibility at stake: the last word belongs to Isaias.
In addition, Eritrea’s autocrat does not want to face a second military defeat after his 2000 debacle by withdrawing his troops from Tigray before they reach their objective: to annihilate the TPLF and its armed wing.
The more the conflicts and the disunity of the leadership amplify, the more room Isaias has to intervene.
The three groups that support Abiy—Asmara, the Amhara/urban elite, and sections of the Oromo elite—do so as long as he helps them achieve their respective agenda.
It now seems he is being pushed more and more to the first two, increasingly driving his Oromo allies away, which strengthens those who oppose him, including armed groups.
For years, the call for a “national inclusive dialogue” to tackle Ethiopia’s age-old structural problems has been presented as the panacea to overcoming the crisis. This was unrealistic, illegitimate, and damaging.
Unrealistic, because if this dialogue was possible, it would have been put in place during the euphoric 2018 spring.
The visions at stake are too antagonistic to reach a middle way. In any case, this would need compromises.
But who would make the unavoidable concessions when each participant could claim its vision is predominant without any objective measurement?
Illegitimate, because this “dialogue” would be essentially in the hands of the political leaderships and frontrunners of the civil society.
But the fate of the country cannot be fixed by a small circle through a “grand elite bargain.”
Damaging, because there is a significant opportunity cost to the international community misallocating its energies by pursuing this unrealistic objective.
In line with Ethiopian history, a victory of one of the armed camps could temporarily stabilize Ethiopia under an authoritarian regime, but any sustainable and in-depth solution requires negotiations.
National negotiations should start very modestly with how to proceed, a “process-focused dialogue”.
Step-by-step, the ultimate goal of the first main phase should be to organize credible elections, which is not the case with the upcoming polls.
A credible vote is compulsory for an objective—and democratic—assessment of the weight of the diverging visions, and then to layout an indisputable basis for tackling the “structural problems” through a “grand elected elite bargain”.
Recently, the international community doesn’t focus on the “national inclusive dialogue” as strongly as before.
It opts for vaguer—and more realistic—recommendations.
The G7, for example, asked for “the establishment of a clear inclusive political process that is acceptable to all Ethiopians… which leads to credible elections and a wider national reconciliation process”.
The dynamics of the crisis are first and foremost endogenous. Its strength renders it very difficult for the international community, meaning mainly the Western powers, to reorient it in a more positive direction.
They should aim for a two-phased objective. At this stage, their goal should be to be prepared to limit damage mainly by scaling up their humanitarian aid as an intensification of the fights is probable and a sincere dialogue does not seem to be within sight.
For a more distant one, to get to the start of a dialogue, for which they should always push and could position themselves as credible mediators, hoping that the realization will eventually prevail that the current struggle leads only to mutual destruction.
Their main tool should be increasingly making it clear that biting sanctions are a threat that will be made if necessary.
Contrary to common belief, the Asmara regime would also be in extreme difficulty if it was brought back to its previous seclusion and “self-reliance.”
Isaias’ view may be that it helps him sustain dictatorship—but it would also cause such turmoil in his entourage and the public that his position would be endangered.
Back in Ethiopia, a combination of a growing militarization of the internal situation and of the growing impact of the international sanctions could become unbearable for the conflicting parties and so lead them to a U-turn to escape a mortal deadlock.
In this regard, the Gulf countries could be a key actor. It is not by chance that EU envoy Pekka Haavisto stopped in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi before landing in Addis Abeba.
Indeed, the risk that Ethiopia becomes a fighting field for foreign countries, as in Libya or Syria, shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Abiy recently implicitly condemned “counter-productive interference” by the US and the EU.
After having praised the supportive role of Russia in Africa, he added, “we must revisit our traditions and certify our friendship and renew our time-tested solidarity.”
Finally, Abiy’s leadership record, three years after he took office, is disastrous.
He promised unity, togetherness, and forgiveness, but Ethiopia has never been so divided.
He also said in the speech about solidarity with Russia that “identity-based politics” is one of Ethiopia’s “enemies within.”
This pits him even more against a political current whose proponents are convinced it is dominant in the country.
It is well past the time for external actors to turn over a new leaf and cease to see Abiy as almost the only Ethiopian leader to deal with.
The multipolarity appeals for multidirectional dialogues.
Abiy’s premiership owes more to appearance than to his actual power. His allies could make him pay a high price for the vicious deadlock he has led the country into.
But these are at best medium-term objectives. The most pressing ones are to tackle the humanitarian crisis mainly in Tigray, try to reach ceasefires in Tigray and in Oromia, and break up the government information blockade so as to reveal the true magnitude of the horror taking place in Ethiopia.
‘The genie out of the bottle’ @AfricanBizMag
“I don’t think he’s the person who can deliver that development. I don’t think the regions want him to deliver or have the faith in him to deliver it,” says Aly Khan Satchu
With ‘the genie out of the bottle’, Abiy is fast losing ground ahead of the poll, says Satchu.
“Everybody else is going to start wanting more freedom within the constitution. It’s impossible for the state to manage a guerrilla war up there and at the same time manage to control the rest of the country. If he put more resources into Tigray he’s going to lose more control of the other regions.
“There’s no hope for him. If he has a fair election he will lose full stoP''
@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.
U.S. Keen to Complete Free-Trade Talks With Kenya, Blinken Says @bpolitics
The U.S. will carry on negotiating with Kenya for its first free-trade agreement with a sub-Saharan economy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
President Joseph Biden’s administration is “looking forward to continue the ongoing discussions with regard to our FTA,” Blinken said Tuesday in a virtual meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Washington is keen on “seizing some of the opportunities that are out there, expanding trade and investment,” Blinken said.
.@NationMediaGrp releases FY 2020 PBT -90.75% Earnings here
N.S.E Equities - Commercial & Services
Par Value: 2.50/-
Closing Price: 17.00
Total Shares Issued: 188542286.00
Market Capitalization: 3,205,218,862
Nation Media Group reports FY 2020 Earnings through 31st December 2020 versus through 31st December 2019
Full Year Turnover 6.8128b versus 9.0509b -24.72%
FY Gross Profit 5.6648b versus 7.2368b
FY Profit before Income Tax and Exceptional Items 460.9m versus 1.3328b -65.41%
FY Exceptional items [341.0m] versus [36.4m]
FY Profit Before Tax 119.9m versus 1.2964b -90.75%
FY Profit After Tax 47.9m versus 856m
FY Total Comprehensive income for the year 135.5m versus 862.6m
FY EPS 0.2 versus 4.5
Cash and Cash Equivalents 2.8742b versus 2.5590b
a drastic decline in advertising revenues particularly between April and June 2020
overall performance improved in the second half of the year
TV and digital revenue grew substantially while print advertising and circulation volumes commenced recovery
Group's flagship digital brand Nation.Africa launched in July 2020 continues to register impressive growth in our journey towards becoming a modern, reader revenue driven content company and a keader in the mobile publising landscape in Africa
.@BritamEA reports FY 2020 Loss before Tax 9.697b Earnings here
N.S.E Equities - Finance & Investment
Closing Price: 6.88
Total Shares Issued: 2523486816.00
Market Capitalization: 17,361,589,294
BRITAM reports FY 2020 Earnings through 31st Dec 2020 versus 12 months through 31st Dec 2019
FY Gross Earned premiums 28.199619b versus 27.131870b
FY Net Earned Premiums 23.145633b versus 23.109892b
FY Interest and Dividend Income 9.397384b versus 7.713830b
FY Net Income [Loss] from investment Property [1.470336b] versus [0.747036b]
FY Net unrealised fair Value Gains [Losses] on financial assets [2.466634b] versus 4.300055b
FY Commissions earned 1.218404b versus 0.999870b
FY Total Income 30.152948b versus 36.446252b
FY Insurance Claims and loss adjustment expenses 21.080743b versus 17.131739b
FY Amount recoverable from reinsurers [2.431371b] versus [1.689234b]
FY Net Insurance benefits and Claims 18.649372b versus 15.442505b
FY Interest Payments/ increase in unit value 2.759170b versus 3.889475b
FY Operating and other expenses 13.455260b versus 8.794161b
FY Commissions Expense 3.802160b versus 3.461322b
FY Total Expenses 39.027509b versus 31.822130b
FY Profit [Loss] before share of the [Loss] of associate [8.874561b] versus 4.624122b
FY Share of [Loss] of Associate [0.823049b] versus [53.099m]
FY Profit [loss] before Income Tax [9.697610b] versus 4.571023b
FY Profit [Loss] for the year [9.111539b] versus 3.542625b
FY Total other comprehensive income [Loss] [2.567583b] versus 1.878031b
FY Total comprehensive income [Loss] for the year [11.679122b] versus 5.420656b
FY EPS [3.62] versus 1.41
Cash and Cash Equivalents 7.498000b versus 7.575311b
Group reported a Loss before tax of 9.7b compared to a Profit before tax of 4.6b in 2019
Of this Loss, 2.3b related to a fair valuation loss due to poor equities performance and 2.0b related to property impairments
Unfavourable operating environment adversely impacted our investment in associate HF Group PLC contributing to the Group results
a share of loss at 0.823b and a reduction in the value of this investment by 0.603b
Results were further depressed by a provision for investment losses of 5.2b in Wealth Management Fund LLP
The Operating results were better than 2019
Gross Earned Premiums [GEP] and Fund Management Fees was up 4.2% to 28.8b from 27.7b in 2019
International General Insurance business recorded an increase in GEP of 50% contributing 28% of Group's gap and a Profit before Tax 0.832b versus 38m
Group's total underlying operating costs also declined by 6.4%
Total Assets for the group closed at 137b +9.4% from 2019
Assets under Management closing at 250b