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Satchu's Rich Wrap-Up
 
 
Tuesday 01st of February 2022
 
Morning
Africa

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Early morning on Popocatépetl (5426m), from the summit of nearby Iztaccihuatl, above Mexico City. @NicholasCoghlan
Misc.


It was from the pass between these two great volcanoes that in 1519 the Spanish conquistadors first glimpsed fabulous Tenochtitlán, as the Aztec capital was known.

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My Struggle: Book 5 Karl Ove Knausgard
Misc.


I had hitchhiked to Florence with Lars that summer, we stayed there for a few days, caught the train down to Brindisi, the weather was so hot it felt as though your head was on fire when you poked it through the open train window. 

Night in Brindisi, dark sky, white houses, heat as in a dream, big crowds in the parks, young people on mopeds everywhere, shouting and noise.

As I passed I drew the air deep into my lungs because from a grille set in the pavement came the smell of chlorine, and with it all the pleasant memories of my childhood unfolded like flowers in the first rays of sun after a night of slumber.

The next moment a car came round the bend and transformed the darkness into an inferno of light, which lingered on the retina for several seconds after the car had passed, and I walked on blindly until my eyes had got used to the night again, and the road and the trees reappeared.

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China eyes 'armed unification' with Taiwan by 2027: key academic @NikkeiAsia
Law & Politics


Chinese President Xi Jinping will employ force to unify Taiwan with China by 2027, an influential Chinese academic who advises Beijing on foreign policy told Nikkei.
Jin Canrong, a professor in Renmin University's School of International Studies, notes that the People's Liberation Army already has a posture superior to that of the U.S. to deal with a contingency involving Taiwan.
He is known as one of China's most vocal hawks, and his online comments are followed by many.
Xi has set Taiwan unification as a goal but has not indicated a timeline. 

Jin said: "Once the National Congress of the Communist Party of China is over in the fall of 2022, the scenario of armed unification will move toward becoming a reality. It is very likely that the leadership will move toward armed unification by 2027, the 100th anniversary of the PLA's founding."
This echoed a view expressed in March 2021 by Adm. Phil Davidson, the since-retired commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee with regard to Taiwan: "I think the threat is manifest during this decade -- in fact, in the next six years."
On whether the U.S. would have a military response to a Chinese move to take the island, Jin said that "China already has the capability to unify Taiwan by force within one week" and that "the PLA can defeat any U.S. force within 1,000 nautical miles of the coastline."
The PLA is believed to have a strategy of keeping U.S. naval vessels out of the waters around China -- and thus refining its ability to launch missile attacks against American forces there.
Jin pushed back against the view in Japan that, in the words of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, "a Taiwan emergency is a Japan emergency."
"Japan should absolutely not intervene in a Taiwanese emergency," he said. 

"The U.S. already cannot win against China on this. If Japan intervenes, China will have no choice but to defeat Japan as well. [Japan] must realize that a new change is occurring."
Jin is skeptical that peaceful unification can be achieved, saying: "It will difficult with Democratic Progressive Party President Tsai Ing-wen in power. If [an opposition] Kuomintang candidate wins the presidential election in 2024, relations will improve, but the Kuomintang has no support."
As for what Taiwan should do, Jin said it should enter into discussions on unification: 

"The only choice they have is to talk to mainland China as soon as possible. The longer it takes, the more disadvantageous it becomes for Taiwan," he said.
On Sino-American relations this year, Jin was pessimistic.
"It will be a more difficult year than 2021," he said. "China will have its party congress in the fall, and the U.S. will have its midterm elections in November. With such a weighty political schedule, the rivalry between the countries is likely to be very clear."
In addition, Taiwan will hold local elections in November. "China could be a target of criticism during those elections," Jin said. "This will also affect China-U.S. relations."
The U.S., the U.K. and others have announced diplomatic boycotts of the Winter Olympics, which begin this week in Beijing. But Jin dismissed this as unimportant. 

"Every country, including the U.S., is sending players," he said. "Many foreign companies are sponsoring the event. The fact that some countries are not sending high-ranking officials is not an issue."
In 2022, China and Japan will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations. Jin criticized the Japanese side, saying: 

"The Chinese government hopes to stabilize relations on the 50th anniversary. However, Japan has become too conservative, including former Prime Minister Abe's comments on the Taiwan issue, and the situation has become difficult."
The economy will be the top issue at the National People's Congress in March, said Jin, who expects the government's annual growth target to remain at 6%.
"There is a very important party conference this year," he said. "It does not look good to have low goals."

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24-JAN-2022 :: The Charge of the Light Brigade
Law & Politics


President Putin's Russia is oftentimes compared disparagingly on a GDP basis [the GDP comparison is made with Italy] and Russian power projection dismissed out of hand.

For example, @MittRomney described #Russia as a gas station parading as a country.
Sun Tzu pronounced ''“Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.”
The Charge of the Light Brigade BY ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON
Half a league, half a league, 

Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred. 

“Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!” he said. 

Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!” 

Was there a man dismayed? 

Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered. 

Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, 

Theirs but to do and die.

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

In fact My Trade of the Year in the Markets would be to buy The Russian Ruble and the Stock Market. Of course, Timing is everything.

Returning to ''geopolitical'' scenario, it is clear that looking through the deluge of hashtags, Russia has largely triangulated Europe. 

The Gas dependency is real and the asymmetry of military forces very real. 
Putin sees this optimal window of opportunity to test the readiness of US for bilateral talks with Moscow but also the red line for future concessions if Washington really intends to get Russia out of China’s orbit in the long term. Moscow has put its conditions on the table. tweeted @vtchakarova.

and added ''Amid bifurcation of the global system, think of Machiavelli: „There’s nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, then to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.“ Because this is what Russia’s doing now''
Will the West deal? Anyone who follows international affairs and who appreciates that outside the Yemen its no longer a Unipolar World has to understand ''The Great Balancer'' has to be accommodated.

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The Man Trying to Take Down Boris Johnson It’s “an unpleasant but necessary job,” says Dominic Cummings @Dominic2306 It’s like sort of fixing the drains. @NYMag
Law & Politics


There is a joke in British political circles that Dominic Cummings exists to destroy prime ministers. 

After his organization Vote Leave won the Brexit referendum in 2016, David Cameron resigned. Cameron’s successor, Theresa May, stepped down when her Brexit deal was derailed. Now it appears to be the turn of Boris Johnson

Cummings’s former boss. Cummings was his most senior adviser — his de facto chief of staff — and the architect of the Tories’ 2019 landslide victory in the general election. 

A year later he lost a power struggle with Johnson’s third wife, Carrie, and left 10 Downing Street, the seat of British power, with a cardboard box in his arms.
Now, Johnson is flailing. There has been a series of leaks about his staff breaking the lockdown rules they created during the early months of the pandemic while, in the country they governed, people died alone, without loved ones for company. 

(Cummings himself was accused of breaking lockdown rules by leaving London for the north of England in April 2020 for, he says, security reasons.) It often seems as if Johnson and his team did nothing but party

There was a party for Johnson’s birthday; a party where invitees were encouraged to “bring your own booze!”; a party the night before the queen buried Prince Philip, her husband of 73 years, at a socially distanced funeral.
As a result of Partygate, as it is known, Johnson’s polling is in free fall, his Conservative Party is in open revolt, and his premiership is hanging by a thread. 

He is the subject of two inquiries: one by a civil servant, and one by the police. 

He has been accused of lying to Parliament about the parties, a resigning offense, and it is believed that, even if he hangs on, his party will drop him before the general election in 2024. 

It is also believed that Cummings, who earlier this year used his Substack to break the story of one illicit gathering at Downing Street in May 2020, is the source of some of the most damning leaks that have appeared in the British press.
Removing Johnson from power, Cummings tells me over Zoom, is “an unpleasant but necessary job. It’s like sort of fixing the drains.” 

He speaks slowly in a northern English accent. Cummings is half-myth in British politics — he gives very few interviews — but the man who faces me is slender and wan. 

His testimony is incredible because it is unfiltered. There have been whistleblowers before, but not one like this.
The charismatic Johnson, he says, was needed to deliver Brexit and defeat the leftist Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in the election of 2019. 

“But after that,” he asks, “what’s the point of him and Carrie just rattling around in there and fxxking everything up for everyone and not doing the job properly?”
Cummings is not from the usual class of Conservative power brokers. He grew up middle class in Durham. His father worked on oil rigs, and then became a farmer. 

Cummings studied ancient and modern history (Pericles and Bismarck) at Oxford. 

Upon graduating in 1994, he could have gone into banking or politics, but instead he moved to Russia because his history tutor, the maverick Norman Stone, told him, “Now’s the time to be in Moscow. It’s completely insane.” 

He co-founded an airline, was chased out by the Russian mafia, did not work for the security services (people do ask), and returned to England, where he worked on the ultimately successful campaign to keep the pound. 

It was his introduction to the political class, and his awakening.
“Everyone had all these ideas,” he says. “The public thinks this. The public thinks that. I went off and did all this research — polling and focus groups and stuff — and it turned out that what people thought in Westminster was kind of normal opinions was not actually true at all.” 

He was delighted by his discovery: “I rushed off, excited, to tell them. To say, ‘Look, I found all this out and it turns out that we’re all completely wrong. This is what people think.’ 

And instead of people being happy and updating their opinions they were very cross and just rejected it. And that was a very big shock to me.” 

He was 28. “That’s when I started to realize this terrible thing: A lot of senior people don’t really understand what they’re doing — at a quite fundamental level. I realized the whole business is full of people who don’t have a clue what they are doing and aren’t actually interested in learning, which is very weird to me.”
Cummings has never been a member of any political party. That his politics are opaque adds to his mystery and explains why he is so widely reviled in Westminster. 

Remainers hate him for taking them from Europe. Brexiteers hate him for not being a true believer in the cause. 

He attacks the Tory right and the Labour left. His tactics — invoking the possibility that Turkey would join the E.U. to bring racists to Vote Leave’s side, suspending Parliament to help force Brexit through — are considered immoral by his enemies. 

(The suspension of Parliament was also later judged illegal.) 

He seems attached to no creed. He is the best political operative in Britain, and since he left Downing Street he has been a chaos maker.
Privately, many people say they like Cummings. Benedict Cumberbatch, who played him in Brexit: Uncivil Wars, a dramatization of the referendum campaign, clearly did. 

He made him awkward and obsessive, both vulnerable and tough. 

“Why does no one like me?” Cumberbatch-as-Cummings asks his wife. But his bluntness makes enemies. 

Cummings has called David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, “thick as mince” and “lazy as a toad.” 

The media is fascinated by his attacks on Johnson in particular. Camera crews surround the north London house he shares with his wife, a journalist, and their young son, or follow him through the streets.
He believes that gifted people are repelled by politics. “When you talk to them, increasingly their attitude is: Politics is a shitshow, government’s a shitshow, we don’t want to get involved with that, you’re dealing with clowns, you don’t build anything.” 

Instead, “a lot of these people prefer to build their own kind of walled garden where they can feel like they’re building something that’s worthwhile and creating wealth and doing their own thing and thinking increasingly: How do I insulate myself from politics and government? All of which is a very bad thing.”
Politicians, meanwhile, are obsessed with the media and little else

“People just don’t understand the extent to which they are dominated by what’s going to appear on TV tonight what’s going to appear in the papers tomorrow,” he says

Johnson is an example of a man who governs — or performs — for the media. In Cummings’s telling, he is an imbecile

“In January 2020,” Cummings says, “I was sitting in No. 10 with Boris and the complete fuxxwit is just babbling on about: ‘Will Big Ben bong for Brexit on the 31st of January?’ 

He goes on and on about this day after day. Eventually I say to him: ‘Who cares? What are you talking about? Why are you babbling on about Big Ben? It’s completely ludicrous. We won the election a few weeks ago. We have an eighty-seat majority. You are literally only in this study because for six months we actually had a plan that focused on the country, not on the stupid media. And that’s why we won, despite all the pundits saying we are idiots, we didn’t know what we are doing. Now we have proved them wrong, we have an eighty-seat majority, we don’t have to worry about their babbling.’” 

He looks aghast: “‘Why the fxxk are we sitting around having these meetings about what will the Sun do tomorrow about Big Ben?’”
Cummings says he wanted to tackle the problems of the state: productivity, skills, schools, NHS management, national security, defense procurement. 

He once told a journalist, “I guess I’m plagued by worries of disaster more than is normal.” 

But he says that when he pressed this on Johnson, “He looked at me as if I was completely insane. And that was an instant tension. He sees his job as just to babble to the media every day. I saw the job as actually thinking about what’s important. And the truth is, almost all MPs agree with him and think I’m” — and his voice trails off and he sounds wondering — “stupid.”
What is Johnson interested in? Monuments, says Cummings. (Johnson’s childhood nickname for himself was World King.) 

Johnson thinks: “What would a Roman emperor do? So, the only thing he was really interested in — genuinely excited about — was, like, looking at maps. Where could he order the building of things?” 

Cummings says Johnson fantasizes about “monuments to him in an Augustine fashion. ‘I will provide the money. I will be a river to my people. I will provide the money that builds the train station in Birmingham.’ Or whatever. ‘And it will have statues to me, and people will remember me after I am dead like they did the Roman emperors.’”
This Johnson is incurably trivial, lazy, and self-absorbed. Ideally, Cummings says, Johnson would have understood the need to delegate actual governance to others. “And after the election he didn’t want to play that role. Our relationship got increasingly bad because he was saying to me, 

‘Why you spending your time off doing all these things instead of with me?’ And I was saying, ‘Well, because you’re spending more time in stupid meetings talking about Big Ben bongs and I’ve got no interest in that.’ I was trying to have proper meetings about important stuff, trying to drive the government agenda on.”
Much has been made in the British press about Cummings’s battles with Carrie Johnson, a 33-year-old former director of communications for the Conservative Party, who began her affair with Johnson when he was still married to his previous wife. 

“Of course,” Cummings tells me, “Carrie’s in his ear, saying to him: ‘All the media is portraying you as a puppet, you’re the one who won the election, you should be the one who seems in charge. It’s all very damaging that you’re seen as a sort of buffoon who Cummings boots around.’ She wanted rid of me, and I also didn’t want to stay in that kind of dysfunctional environment. So, the whole thing just kind of snowballed.”
“It’s perfectly reasonable,” he adds, “for a prime minister’s girlfriend, wife, husband, boyfriend, whatever to have views about things. The problem was that she went into her own parallel briefing operation from the flat to the media, which is completely disastrous for government communications, particularly in a pandemic. 

She’s very forceful” — he laughs — “and he hasn’t got the balls to say to her, ‘Listen, I’m prime minister and this is what I’m doing.’ She thinks that she understands a whole bunch of things about politics and communications and whatnot.” He pauses: “She doesn’t.”
Is it fair though? What he’s doing to Johnson now? He looks at me as if I am a child. “What’s fairness got to do with anything? It’s politics. All this is not fair. The fact that someone wins an election doesn’t mean that they should just stay there for years, right? If you’ve got a duffer, if you think someone can’t do the job, or is unfit for the job. My basic approach to it was there was a world in which he accepted his limitations and accepted that No. 10 could work in a certain way with him there as prime minister. But if he’s not going to do that and if he’s just going treat the place like his own …”
He stops for a moment, then says, “You know, as he said to me, ‘I’m the fuxxing king around here and I’m going to do what I want.’” 

Cummings speaks slowly and deliberately: “That’s not okay. He’s not the king. He can’t do what he wants. Once you realize someone is operating like that then your duty is to get rid of them, not to just prop them up.”
What’s next? “Instead of shoving him out the door?” he asks. He won’t say. Perhaps he will build himself a walled garden. 

Then he says he will reread Anna Karenina. “I read all sorts of different crazy stuff,” he says, “and then I write about it on my blog. That suits me for the moment.”

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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 @Dominic2306 The Hollow Men II
Misc.


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’.

T.S Eliot said in The Hollow Men
http://bit.ly/2DbxreV

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom.

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The plan is to tokenise human behaviour and place it on blockchain ledgers run by algorithms. And the spreading of global fear is the perfect ideological stick to herd us toward this outcome. FABIO VIGHI
Misc.

And yet, not all is lost. Despite the unstoppable convergence of science and capitalism in establishing a watertight belief-system that excludes dissent, our successfully paranoid universe will fail to totalise its structure.
Paradoxically, the current crackdown on humanity may be the best chance yet for radical opposition to the coming regime of capitalist accumulation and its relentless emergency blackmail.

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Inflation Will Hurt Both Stocks and Bonds @Nouriel
World Of Finance


Rising inflation in the United States and around the world is forcing investors to assess the likely effects on both “risky” assets (generally stocks) and “safe” assets (such as US Treasury bonds). 

The traditional investment advice is to allocate wealth according to the 60/40 rule: 60% of one’s portfolio should be in higher-return but more volatile stocks, and 40% should be in lower-return, lower-volatility bonds. 

The rationale is that stocks and bond prices are usually negatively correlated (when one goes up, the other goes down), so this mix will balance a portfolio’s risks and returns.
 During a “risk-on period,” when investors are optimistic, stock prices and bond yields will rise and bond prices will fall, resulting in a market loss for bonds; and during a risk-off period, when investors are pessimistic, prices and yields will follow an inverse pattern. 

Similarly, when the economy is booming, stock prices and bond yields tend to rise while bond prices fall, whereas in a recession, the reverse is true.
But the negative correlation between stock and bond prices presupposes low inflation. 

When inflation rises, returns on bonds become negative, because rising yields, led by higher inflation expectations, will reduce their market price. 

Consider that any 100-basis-point increase in long-term bond yields leads to a 10% fall in the market price – a sharp loss. 

Owing to higher inflation and inflation expectations, bond yields have risen and the overall return on long bonds reached -5% in 2021.
Over the past three decades, bonds have offered a negative overall yearly return only a few times. 

The decline of inflation rates from double-digit levels to very low single digits produced a long bull market in bonds; yields fell and returns on bonds were highly positive as their price rose. 

The past 30 years thus have contrasted sharply with the stagflationary 1970s, when bond yields skyrocketed alongside higher inflation, leading to massive market losses for bonds.
But inflation is also bad for stocks, because it triggers higher interest rates – both in nominal and real terms. 

Thus, as inflation rises, the correlation between stock and bond prices turns from negative to positive. 

Higher inflation leads to losses on both stocks and bonds, as happened in the 1970s. 

By 1982, the S&P 500 price-to-earnings ratio was eight, whereas today it is above 30.
More recent examples also show that equities are hurt when bond yields rise in response to higher inflation or the expectation that higher inflation will lead to monetary-policy tightening. 

Even most of the much-touted tech and growth stocks aren’t immune to an increase in long-term interest rates, because these are “long-duration” assets whose dividends lie further in the future, making them more sensitive to a higher discount factor (long-term bond yields). 

In September 2021, when ten-year Treasury yields rose a mere 22 basis points, stocks fell by 5-7% (and the fall was greater in the tech-heavy Nasdaq than in the S&P 500).
This pattern has extended into 2022. A modest 30-basis-point increase in bond yields has triggered a correction (when total market capitalization falls by at least 10%) in the Nasdaq and a near-correction in the S&P 500. 

If inflation were to remain well above the US Federal Reserve’s target rate of 2% – even if it falls modestly from its current high levels – long-term bond yields would go much higher, and equity prices could end up in bear country (a fall of 20% or more).
More to the point, if inflation continues to be higher than it was over the past few decades (the “Great Moderation”), a 60/40 portfolio would induce massive losses. 

The task for investors, then, is to figure out another way to hedge the 40% of their portfolio that is in bonds.
There are at least three options for hedging the fixed-income component of a 60/40 portfolio. 

The first is to invest in inflation-indexed bonds or in short-term government bonds whose yields reprice rapidly in response to higher inflation. 

The second option is to invest in gold and other precious metals whose prices tend to rise when inflation is higher (gold is also a good hedge against the kinds of political and geopolitical risks that may hit the world in the next few years). 

Lastly, one can invest in real assets with a relatively limited supply, such as land, real estate, and infrastructure.
The optimal combination of short-term bonds, gold, and real estate will change over time and in complex ways depending on macro, policy, and market conditions. 

Yes, some analysts argue that oil and energy – together with some other commodities – can also be a good hedge against inflation. But this issue is complex. 

In the 1970s, it was higher oil prices that caused inflation, not the other way around. And given the current pressure to move away from oil and fossil fuels, demand in those sectors may soon reach a peak.
While the right portfolio mix can be debated, this much is clear: sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, endowments, foundations, family offices, and individuals following the 60/40 rule should start to think about diversifying their holdings to hedge against rising inflation.

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29-NOV-2021 :: Regime Change
World Of Finance


A REGIME CHANGE IS UNDERWAY [in the markets]
There is no training – classroom or otherwise.. that can prepare for trading the last third of a move, whether it's the end of a bull market or the end of a bear market. 
There's typically no logic to it; irrationality reigns supreme, and no class can teach what to do during that brief, volatile reign. Paul Tudor-Jones

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.123760
Dollar Index 96.59
Japan Yen 115.0320
Swiss Franc 0.925745
Pound 1.34486
Aussie 0.705875
India Rupee 74.55155
South Korea Won 1205.23
Brazil Real 5.3047
Egypt Pound 15.710900
South Africa Rand 15.385700

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Ethiopia’s bonds have rallied 6 cents on the dollar since Jan. 26, That brings returns this year to 13% @markets
Africa


Ethiopia’s bonds are the best-performing sovereign debt in emerging markets this year, after a rally sparked by the government’s decision to end a state of emergency as a 15-month conflict with rebels eases.
The bonds have rallied 6 cents on the dollar since Jan. 26, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said that the security threat had diminished. 

That brings returns this year to 13%, the best performance out of 80 developing nations tracked by Bloomberg. 

Last year, the securities lost 28%, the worst performance after El Salvador.
Ethiopia’s government declared a nationwide state of emergency in November after clashes between the federal army and the dissident Tigray People’s Liberation Front escalated. 

The drawn-out fighting had hammered investor confidence in what was once one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and sparked a sell-off in the nation’s bonds.
In recent weeks, the 15-month conflict has shifted in Abiy’s favor, with Tigrayan forces on the retreat and the United Nations saying there is a “demonstrable effort to make peace.” 

Last week, Fitch Ratings Inc. affirmed Ethiopia’s long-term foreign currency debt rating at CCC. 

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Africa currencies Jan '22 performance @ill_dduor
Africa

+17.3% m/m rise in global oil price gave legs to Angolan Kwanza and Nigerian Naira
South African rand benefitting from undervaluation
Fiscal dislocations weighing on Ghana cedi and Zambian Kwacha

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What is Nigeria’s government for? @FT @davidpilling
Africa


On the British Airways flight between London and Nigeria’s administrative capital of Abuja, one of the airline’s most profitable routes, nearly all the space is taken up with flatbeds. 

The unfortunate few making their way to a crunched economy section at the back must trudge through row after row of business class.
Evidently, there is plenty of money to be made in Abuja’s corridors of power. 

Nigeria’s economy may be flat on its back, but the political elite flying to and from London will spend the flight flat on theirs, too.
Next year, many of the members of government will change, though not necessarily the bureaucracy behind it. 

Campaigning has already begun for presidential elections that in February 2023 will draw the curtain on eight years of the administration of Muhammadu Buhari, on whose somnolent watch Nigeria has sleepwalked closer to disaster.
Buhari has overseen two terms of economic slump, rising debt and a calamitous increase in kidnapping and banditry — the one thing you might have thought a former general could control. 

Familiar candidates to replace him, mostly recycled old men, are already counting their money ahead of a costly electoral marathon. It takes an estimated $2bn to get a president elected. Those who pay will expect to be paid back.
There are some promising candidates. If Yemi Osinbajo, the technocratic vice-president, were miraculously to make it through the campaign thicket and emerge as president, the hearts of Nigerian optimists would beat a little faster.
But that may be to underestimate the depth of Nigeria’s quagmire. The problem is not so much who leads the government as the nature of government itself.
Nigeria’s administration is fuelled by oil — though not its economy; more than 90 per cent of output is generated from non-oil activities. 

But for decades, the business of government — whether military or, since 1999, democratic — has been to control access to oil revenues and earn patronage by spreading petrol-dollars to federal and state supplicants.
Outside oil, government raises a petty amount of revenue, proportionally much less than other African states. 

Since the provision of services is so dire, no one who can afford to pay taxes is willing to do so. Nigerians with money opt out of the system. 

They send their kids to private school, attend private hospitals, employ their own private security and generate their own power. 

The state borrows ever more heavily to fund what little capital expenditure there is and service mounting debts. 

Like a giant leech at the top of the body politic, government is essentially there to fund itself.
This thwarts the aspirations of millions of highly capable Nigerians. 

Officials extract “rent” by controlling access to business opportunities. The objective thus becomes to slow down investment not speed it up.
Almost all the energy, drive and wealth creation in Nigeria happens outside government. 

New unregulated businesses in the booming tech sector, fashion, design and the creative arts are flourishing. 

Every day, tens of millions of Nigerians somehow get by, despite the efforts of those supposedly looking out for them.
As is said of India, Nigeria grows at night while the government sleeps — hardly surprising that some libertarian tech entrepreneurs want the government to withdraw and leave the private sector in charge.
In reality, the government is not too big. It is too small. The federal budget — not counting money transferred to states — is about $30bn, derisory for a population of more than 200m people. 

Only trust in government — and a willingness to pay taxes — can redress this balance.
Nigeria desperately needs an administration whose energies go not into preserving its own privilege but into providing public goods — basic education and health, rule of law, security, power, roads and digital infrastructure. 

It must remove distortions and subsidies that direct entrepreneurial activity from production to arbitrage.
The chances of a corrupt system reforming itself are slim. 

But if Nigeria’s ruling class cannot manage it, any remaining faith Nigerians have in their system of government will evaporate. That way lies disaster.

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18-FEB-2019 #NigeriaDecides
Africa


We dream of a new politics
That will renew the world
Under their weary suspicious gaze. There’s always a new way,
A better way that’s not been tried before.

Mr. Mbeki said “They are aware that the rest of the world is busy with bigger issues, In Africa, things are most likely to get worse before they get better.”

Time to Big Up the Dosage of Quaaludes


Nigeria matters and it has not posted positive GDP growth above its population growth for a number of years. Essentially Baba Go Slow’s Nigeria is in reverse gear 

Turning to Africa


any Early Warning System would be warning a Tsunami is coming

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Morocco, Songhai, Bornu and the quest to create an African empire to rival the Ottomans. @rhaplord
Africa


The Sahara has for long been perceived as an impenetrable barrier separating “north africa” from “sub-saharan Africa”, the barren shifting sands of the 1,000-mile desert were thought to have constrained commerce between the two regions and restrained any political ambitions of states on either side to interact; a “desert barrier” theory that was popularized by German philosopher Friedrich Hegelwho is largely responsible for the modern conceptual separation of “North” and Sub-Saharan” Africa. But the theory was increasingly challenged by African historians following the uncovering of evidence of extensive trade between north Africa and west Africa dating back to the roman era and flourishing under the Islamic period, added to this evidence were the records of expansionist states on either side of the desert, that exerted their control across the barren terrain to establish trans-Saharan empires that are counted among some of the world's largest states of the pre-modern era; beginning with the Almoravid and Almohad empires of the 11th and 12th century who extended from southern Mauritania to Morocco to Spain, and in the 13th century with the Kanem-bornu empire which emerged from southern chad near north-eastern Nigeria, conquering the regions in Chad to central Libya upto the city of zeilla, a few dozen kilometers near the Mediterranean.

The era which best revealed the fictitiousness of the desert barrier theory was the 16th century, this was the apogee of state power in the entire western portion of Africa with three vast empires of Songhai, Kanem-Bornu and Morocco controlling more than half the region’s surface area, their ascendance coincided with the spectacular rise of the Ottoman empire which had torn through central Europe and north Africa, and thrusting western Africa directly into the theatre of global politics and enabling the rise of powerful African rulers with internationalist ambitions whose actions had irreversible consequences for Africa in the early modern era.

This article provides an overview of western Africa in the 16th century, the expansionism, diplomacy and warfare that defined the era’s politics and the outcome of Africa’s most ambitious political experiment.

The rise of the Saadian dynasty of Morocco: conflict with the Ottomans, defeat of the Portuguese and plans of a west-African conquest.

The region of Morocco has been home to a number of indigenous and foreign states since antiquity, and its fortunes were closely tied with both Mediterranean politics and west African trade, but by the early 16th century this region was at its weakest point with several competing kingdoms controlling the major cities, European powers controlling many of its sea ports and stateless bands roaming the desert, one key player during this period of disintegration were the Portuguese. The Portuguese had reoriented some of the west African gold trade south, and in the 15th century set their sights on colonizing morocco ostensibly as a holy war (crusade) that sought to establish a foothold in north Africa, after seizing the port city of ceuta, they gradually expanded their reach along the coast of Morocco south, upto the port city of Agadir 500km south, the reigning Wattasid dynasty only controlled the city of Fez and the surrounding regions upto the city of Marrakesh while the rest of the country was engulfed in internecine warfare.But by 1510, some of the warring groups in the sous valley (south-central Morocco) united under the leadership of Mohammad Ibn abd ar-Rahman; an Arab who claimed sharif status (ie: of the lineage of prophet Muhammad) and was the founder of the Saadi dynasty in an attempt to reverse Portuguese gains, his forces attacked the port city of Agadir, although this initial attempt ended in failure, it taught him the need to professionalize and equip his forces by relying on a standing army with fairly modern artillery rather than feudal levees on horseback.His successors; the brothers Ahmad al-Araj and Muhammad al-shaykh, managed to seize Marrakesh and hold it firmly despite Wattasid attempts at taking it back in 15254 by the 1540s, Muhammad al-Shaykh had flushed the Portuguese out of Agadir who fled the neighboring coastal cities of Safi and Azemmour as well, al-Shaykh now employed the services of “new Christians” in the city to manufacture his own artillery, which brought him into conflict with his brother who had advanced north to conquer the Wattasids but failed, al-Araj tuned on al-Shaykh in a civil war that resulted in al-Araj’s defeat and exile, al-Shaykh then advanced onto Wattasid lands in 1545 and by 1549 seized their capital Fez making him the sole ruler of Morrocco. Rapidly advancing west from its conquest of Mamluk Egypt was the fledging Ottoman empire which had in the few decades of the early 16th century, managed to control vast swathes of land from Arabia to central Europe and Algeria, and in 1551, its armies invaded Morocco, routing the Saadian army and killing Mohammed al-Shaykh's son in the first battle, in 1553, they reached Fez, ousting al-Shaykh and re-installing the Wattasids, only for him to return in 1554 and routing the Turks and their puppet dynasty whom he imprisoned. During this time, the Saadis were also making forays south into the southern Sahara with one that reached the city of Wadan in 1540 after a failed request by Ahmad al-araj to the Songhai emperor Askiya Ishaq I (r. 1539-1549) for the Taghaza salt mine, added to this strife was the cold relationship between the Morrocans and the Ottomans which increasingly soured and by 1557, the Turks sent assassins to al-Shaykh's tent and he was beheaded.

Al-Shaykh was succeeded by Abu Muhammad Abdallah who consolidated his father's gains and reigned peacefully until he passed in 1574, his death sparked a succession crisis between al-Maslukha who was proclaimed sultan and Abd al-Malik his uncle who fled to exile to the ottoman capital Constantinople, the latter took part in an Ottoman conquest of Tunis in 1574, and in return was aided by the ottoman sultan to retake his throne in Morocco, and on the arrival of his force at the capital Fez in 1576, al-Maslukha fled to Marakesh from where he was forced to flee again to the domain of King Phillip II of spain.when al-Maslukha's request for the Spanish king to aid his return to the Moroccan throne was turned down, he turned to the Portuguese king Sebastian, the latter had since built a sprawling empire in parts of the Americas, Africa and Asia and welcomed the idea of a Moroccan client state, and in 1578, Sebastian invaded morocco reaching several hundred miles inland at al-Kasr al-Kabir where he arrived with the exiled former sultan al-Maslukha to battle the armies of the reigning sultan al-Malik, but the Portuguese were defeated and their king killed in battle, as well as al-Maslukha and al-Malik himself in what came to be known as the “battle of the three kings”, thousands of Portuguese soldiers were captured by the Moroccans, all of whom were ransomed for a hefty sum by the new sultan Ahmad al-Mansur.The death of the Portuguese king eventually started the succession crisis that led to Spain subsuming Portugal in the Iberian unification under king Philip II. The ottomans had aided al-Malik who in return recognized the ottoman ruler Murad III as caliph and Morocco was thus formally under Ottoman suzerainty. But not long after his ascension, al-Mansur had the Friday prayer announced in his own name and minted his own coins as an outward show of his own Caliphal pretensions; actions that prompted his neighbor the Ottoman pasha of Algiers to persuade Murad to pacify Morocco to which al-Mansur quickly sent an embassy to Constantinople with what al-Mansur viewed as a gift but what Murad saw as an annual tribute, amounting to 100,000 gold coins, this “gift” halted Murad's attack on Morrocco in 1581, but was continuously paid over the following years.


While its hard to qualify morocco under al-Mansur as a tributary state of the Ottomans, this hefty annual payment was to an extent fiscally constraining. And while al-Mansur praised the Ottoman sultan with high titles in his correspondence, he tactically avoided recognizing him as caliph and instead emphasized his own sharif lineage which he buttressed with an elaborate intellectual project in morocco to shore up his rival claims as the true caliph,he also became increasingly deeply involved in European politics in order to counter the Ottoman threat, particularly with the queen of England Elizabelth I who was looking for an alliance against Spain, the latter of which he may have hoped to invade and restore old Moroccan province of Andalusia, Morocco’s ties with England were further strengthened after al-Mansur witnessed the English queen's annihilation of the Spanish navy in 1588, and went as far as hoping a collaboration with her to seize Spain's possessions in the Americas and “proclaim the muezzin on both sides of the Atlantic”. In one of his correspondences with her around 1590, he wrote to Elizabeth that "we shall send our envoy as soon as the happy action of conquering Sudan is finished"  “Sudan” in this case, referring to the region under the Songhai empire.Its was during this period around 1583 that the Moroccan sultan resumed his southern overtures to Taghaza (in northern Mali) and the Oasis towns of Tuwat (in central Algeria) preceding the invasion of Songhai as well as establishing diplomatic contacts with the empire of Kanem-Bornu.

The empire of Kanem-bornu: Mai Idris Alooma (r.1570-1603) between the Ottomans and the Moroccans

Kanem-Bornu was in the times of al-Mansur ruled by the Mai Idris Alooma, an emperor of the Seyfuwa dynasty that was centuries older than the Saadis, at its height between the 13th and 14th century, the empire of Kanem (as it was then known), encompassed vast swathes of land from zeilla in north-eastern Libya and all the lands of southern Libya (Fezzan) which were controlled at its northern capital Traghen, down to the the western border of the Christian Nubian kingdoms (in a region that would later occupied by the wadai kingdom); To its west it reached Takkedda in Mali and the controlled the entire region later occupied by the kingdom of Agadez, down to the city of Kaka west of Lake chad and into the territory known as Bornu in north-eastern Nigeria, ending in its capital Njimi in Kanem, a region east of Lake chad.Kanem's success largely owed to its ability as an early state with centralized control and military power that could easily conquer stateless groups all around its sides radiating from its core in the lake chad basin, these conquered territories were brought under its control albeit loosely, but in the late 14th century the empire’s model of expansionism was under threat with the rise of independent states which begun with its own provinces; its eastern district of Kanem rebelled and carved out its own state whose rulers defeated and killed several of the Bornu kings that tried to pacify it, by the 15th century however, the Bornu sultan Mai Ali Gaji (r. 1465-1497AD) and Mai Idris Katakarmabi (1497-1519) defeated the Kanem rebels, and established a new capital at Ngazargamu.

During this upheaval, Kanem had lost parts of its western territories to the resurgent Songhai empire and much of the Fezzan was now only nominally under its fealty, it was ruled a semi-independent Moroccan dynasty of the Ulads (unrelated to the Saadis) whose capital was the city of Murzuk in 1550 although they were militarily and commercially dependent on Kanem bornu. The rulers of Bornu placed greater attention on the lands to their south and east particularly the city-states of the Hausalands and the cities of the Kotoko which were now brought more firmly under the empire’s suzeranity  By 1577, the ottomans had conquered much of Libya including the Fezzan, which was strongly  protested by Mai Idris who sent a number of embassies to the sultan Murad III in the late 1570s to recover the region but which amounted to little its within this context that Idris Alooma approached the Moroccan sultan in 1583 requesting arquebuses an offer that may have included a proposed alliance between Morocco and Bornu in the former’s conquest of Songhai.

The empire of Songhai: from the glory days of Askiya Muhammad to the civil strife preceding its fall to the Moroccans

Songhai was the largest west African empire of the 16th century and one of the continent's largest in history, it was the heir of the highly productive and strategic core territory of the Niger river valley in which the preceding empires of Ghana and Mali in the 8th and 13th century were centered and from where they launched their expansionist armies south into the savannah and forest region and north into the desert regions, carving out vast swathes of land firmly under their control. Like the Kanem empire, Ghana and Mali's imperial expansion succeeded largely because the regions into which they was expanding were mostly stateless at the time and relatively easy to conquer, and Songhai brought this expansionist model to its maximum; carving out a region lager than 1.6 million sqkm by the early 16th century, but the increasing growth and resistance of the smaller peripheral states effectively put a roof on the extent of Songhai’s expansion to its west and south and it soon shared a border directly with the empires of Kanem-Bornu to its east and the Saadian Morocco to its north. Songhai was at its height in the early 16th century under its most prolific emperor Askiya Muhammad (r. 1493-1528), the latter had within the first two decades of the 16th century conquered dozens of kingdoms stretching from Walata in southern Mauritania to Agadez in Niger, and from the Hausalands in northern Nigeria to the region of Diara in western Mali, as well as incorporating the desert region of northern Mali upto the town of Taghaza The Askiya had also been on the Hajj to mecca in 1496 and met with several scholars and corresponded with the Mamluks in Egypt as well as the Abbasid Sharif who invested him with the title of Caliph, he therefore may have had internationalist ambitions although he didn't follow them up with embassies to any state unlike his neighbors. in 1529, the ageing Askiya who was more than eighty years, was deposed by his son and a succession crisis embroiled Songhai that saw four Askiyas ruling in the space of just 20 years, but even in the midst of this, Askiya Ishaq I (r. 1539-1539) could strongly rebuff a Moroccan request for the control of the Taghaza salt mine, responding to the reigning sultan Ahmad al-Araj’s request for taxes accrued from Taghaza that "the Ahmad who would hear news of such an agreement was not he, and the Ishaq who would give ear to such a proposition had not yet been born", Ishaq then sent a band of 2,000 soldiers to raid the southern Moroccan market town of Banī Asbah

The ascension of Askiya Dawud in 1549, whose reign continued until 1582, was followed by a period of consolidation and recovery from the centrifugal threats that had grown during the succession crisis, Dawud resumed Songhai's expansionism with a successful attack to its south-eastern neighbor Borgu and a failed attack on Kebbi (both in north-western Nigeria) between 1554 and 1559, he then moved south west to chip-away on parts of the faltering Mali empire in 1550 and 1570, sacking the Malian capital and pacifying Songhai provinces in the region near the sene-gambia region, he also campaigned into the deserts to his west and north as well as the region of Bandiagra (in central Mali) which was by then controlled by the Bambara In 1556, the reigning Morrocan sultan Muhammad al-Shaykh developed interest in the Taghaza mine, allying with a local rival claimant to the Songhai governor of the town to kill the incumbent, although this brief episode didn't amount to much as the Moroccans soon withdrew, Decades later in the 1580s, the Moroccan sultan al-Mansur would request one year's worth of tax from Taghaza and it was sent (on only one occasion) 10,000 mithqals of gold by Askiya Dawud and the two rulers maintained cordial relationships After Askiya Dawud's passing in 1582, Songhai was once again embroiled in succession crises that saw three emperors ascending to the throne in just 9 years, in the midst of this, around 1585/1586, al-Mansur had sent a spy mission south to Songhai ostensibly as emissaries with gifts but these spies had been returned to Morocco with more gifts, soon after, al-Mansur sent two failed expeditions to capture the city of Wadan with 20,000 soldiers and the town of Taghaza with 200 arquebusiers, both of these cities were under Songhai control, al-Mansur also sent expeditions into the south-central Algerian cities of Tuwat and Gurara that were also unsuccessful. The reigning Askiya of songhai al-Hajji Muhammad (r. 1582-1586) was later deposed by his brothers led by Muhammad al-Sadiq (a son of Dawud) in favor of Askiya Muhammad Bani (r.1586-1587) whose rule was disliked by the same brothers that had installed him and they again fomented a rebellion against him, raising an army from the entire western half of the empire and marching onto the capital city Gao to depose him, but Askiya Bani died before he could fight the rebels and Askiya Ishaq II (r. 1588-1591) took the throne, it was then that the rebellious army approached Gao in 1588 and faced off with the Royal army, they were defeated by the Askiya Ishaq II in a costly victory with many causalities on both sides, a purge soon followed across the empire that sought to remove Muhammad al-Sadiq's supporters after which, the Askiya resumed campaigning in the south west to pacify the region when the Moroccan armies arrived

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Morocco, Songhai, Bornu and the quest to create an African empire to rival the Ottomans. @rhaplord [continued]
Africa


Diplomacy and minor skirmishes: Morocco, Kanem-Bornu and Songhai in a web of political entanglement with the Ottomans

i) Morocco:

The years between 1580 and 1591 were a period of intense diplomatic exchanges between Morocco, Kanem-Bornu, Songhai and the Ottomans, the earliest exchanges had been initiated by the two immediate Ottoman neighbors of Morocco and Kanem-Bornu especially to Murad III (r. 1574-1595), the Moroccans were more vulnerable in this regard than Kanem-Bornu and had in 1550 been directly invaded by the Turks who occupied fez in 1554but the Moroccan sultan was unrelenting and when two embassies in 1547 and 1557 from Suleiman I reached morocco to request Muhammd al-shaykh's recognition of ottoman suzerainty (by reading including Suleiman's name in the Friday sermons and sticking coins bearing his face) the proud Moroccan sultan replied :  “I will only respond to the sultan of fishing boats when I reach Cairo; it will be from there that I will write my response.” not long after, assassins crawled into al-Shaykh's tent and severed his head, sending it to Constantinople. The succession crisis that ensued after his successor's death in 1574 brought to power the ottoman sympathizer al-Malik who owed his throne to Murad III, he mentioned Murad's name in the Friday prayer, issued coins with his face and paid him annual tribute, but on the ascendance of al-Mansur in 1578, Morocco's suzerainty to Ottomans was gradually reduced such that by the 1580s, he was virtually independent and begun requesting several rulers to recognize him as caliph instead, as well as establishing ties with European states, all inorder to create a rival caliphate centered on Morocco whose lands would stretch from Spain to Mali, and across the Atlantic into the Americas.


ii) Kanem-Bornu

In the years after they had secured the submission of morocco and thus completed the conquest of North africa, the Ottomans turned south and in 1577 invaded the region of the Fezzan, a region that was at the time ruled by the Ulad dynasty who had been a nominal client-state of Kanem-Bornu; the Ulads themselves had strong connections to the Hausa city of katsina as well as Kanem-Bornu and they fled after to both following each ottoman attack Although Bornu and the ottomans had been in contact prior to the latter's southern advance; the Mais of Kanem-Bornu had initiated contact with the Ottomans in the late 1550s with the pasha of Tripoli Dragut (r. 1556-1565) to request for acqubuses, but the invasion of the Fezzan by the Pashas who succeeded Dragut created a diplomatic rife between the two states and the Kanem-Bornu Mai Idris Alooma sent an embassy to protest this encroachment to which the Murad III responded "You are well aware that it is not one of the precepts of our mighty forefathers to cede any part of the citadels which have been in their hands" the correspondence he had with him however, seems to acknowledge that the Ottomans had gone further south than they should have but he resolved to retain the Fezzan regardless of this, he nevertheless ordered the pasha of Tunis to remain in good terms with Kanem-Bornu, and allow the safe passage of its traders, pilgrims and emissaries Idris acquired several guns (arquebuses) as well as Turkish slaves skilled in the handling of these firearms, its unlikely that the ottomans handed them to him in sufficient quantities, rather, its said that Idris had captured the guns and the Turkish slaves from a failed Ottoman invasion into Kanem-Bornu Although the guns performance wasn't sufficiently decisive in the long run, they tilted the scales in favor of the Kanem armies in certain battles  but since he had only acquired insufficient numbers of them, Idris sent an emissary to al-Mansur in 1582 with a letter requesting for guns and other military aid for Kanem’s campaigns, to which al-Mansur asked that the Kanem sultan mention his name in the Friday prayers and recognize him as caliph, an offer seemingly accepted by the Kanem ambassador in Marakesh (not Idris himself); the ambassador also said he hoped that al-Mansur would be guaranteed Kanem-bornu's aid to conquer songhai, although scholars have questioned the authenticity of this last account, which was entirely written by al-Mansur’s chronicler and seems to contradict the reality of how the war with Songhai later played out in which Kanem-Bornu wasn’t involved, although Kanem’s non-interference in the Songhai conquest may have been because al-Mansur didn’t send the guns Idris had requested.34 But its clear that Kanem-Bornu was well aware of the capacity of al-Mansur in the production of his own fire-arms as well as his rivalry with the Ottomans, Kanem-bornu may have also had less-than-cordial relationships with Songhai which had attacked some of its south-western vassals.


iii) Songhai

Songhai had in 1500 conquered the Tuareg kingdom of Agadez and again in 1517, sacking the capital and imposing an annual tribute of 150,000 mithqals of gold (about 637kg)  but this region may have earlier been under the orbit of the Kanem-bornu rulers who, despite their decline in the late 14th-15th century, considered it as part of their sphere of influence, its not surprising that in 1570s, Idris Alooma sent three expeditions against the Tuareg kingdom of Agadez and the later Mais of Kanem-bornu continued these attacks for much of the 17th century, a time in which Agadez seems to have remained firmly under the control of Kanem-Bornu which likely felt relieved from the Songhai threat36, added to this was the Askiya's invasion of the Hausa cities of Zaria, Kano and Katsina between 1512-1513, all of which had since the mid-15th century, been firmly under Kanem-bornu's suzerainty, this invasion would not have gone unnoticed by the Kanem rulers, especially after the rebellion of a Songhai general, Kotal Kanta who ruled from Kebbi, seized most of the Hausalands and routed several Kanem and Songhai attacks on his kingdom until his death in the 1550s afterwich Kanem-Bornu returned to reassert its authority over some of the cities but was only partially successful as Kebbi and Katsina remained outside its orbit37, by the 1590s, Kebbi seems to have returned to Songhai's orbit and there are letters addressed to its ruler from al-Mansur who requested that the Kanta pays allegiance to him as caliph (accompanied with threats to invade Kebbi), but these were rebuffed and Kebbi aided Songhai in its fight against the Moroccans38. Needless to say, when the Moroccan sultan was making plans to invade Songhai, the Kanem-Bornu Mais likely hopped this would eliminate their western threat.

The fall of Songhai and its aftermath: a pyrrhic victory

In 1590, an royal slave of the Askiya fled to Marrakesh where he claimed he was a deposed son of Dawud and a contender to the Songhai throne, he met with al-Mansur and provided him with more information about Songhai (supplementing the information received by al-Mansur’s spies), the Moroccan sultan then sent a request for reigning Askiya Ishaq II to pay tax on the Taghaza salt mine claiming the money was his on account of him caliph, and saying that his military success had protected Songhai from the European armies (in an ironic twist of fate given since he was about to send his own armies against Songhai, and it was a rather empty excuse given than European incursions were infact defeated in the Sene-gambia region more than a century before this); the Askiya rebuffed his request, sending him a spear and a pair of iron shoes knowing al-Mansur’s intent was war. Al-Mansur’s declaration of war was initially opposed in Morocco where the sultan al-had developed a reputation of a very shrewd politician who was known to be harsh to both his subjects and courtiers; once saying that "the Moroccan people are madmen whose madness can only be treated by keeping them in iron chains and collars", his courtiers and the ulama of Morocco objected to his invasion claiming that even the great Moroccan empires of the past had never attempted it, but al-Mansur assured them of success of his fire-arms and said that those past dynasties were focused on Spain and the Maghreb, both of which are now closed to him to which the notables agreed to his conquest.

In 1591, al-Mansur sent a force of 4,000 arquebusiers and 1,500 camel drivers south, under the command of Jawdar, they were met by a Songhai army about 45,000 strong, a third of which was a cavalry unit, the Askiya's army was defeated but a sizeable proportion retreated to Gao and then eastwards to the region of Dendi from where it would continuously mount a resistance.A 17th century chronicler in Timbuktu described the aftermath of Songhai’s fall; "This Saadian army found the land of the Sudan at that time to be one of the most favoured of the lands of God Most High in any direction, and the most luxurious, secure, and prosperous, but All of this changed; security turned to fear, luxury was changed into affliction and distress, and prosperity became woe and harshness". Jawdar sent a letter to al-Mansur about the Askiya Ishaq's escape and the Songhai ruler’s offer of 100,000 mithqals of gold and 1,000 slaves for the Moroccans to return to their land, al-Mansur was however insistent on the Askiya's capture, sending a new commander named Pasha Mahmud with 3,000 acqubusiers to complete the task. He arrived in Timbuktu in 1591, deposed jawdar and once in Gao, he built boats to cross the river and attack the Askiya in Dendi, the pasha fought two wars with the Askiya both of which ended with the latter's retreat but failed to meet al-Mansur's objective.

Askiya Ishaq was deposed in favor of Aksiya Gao who became the new ruler of Dendi-Songhai but he was later tricked by Mahmud into his own capture and death a few months after his coronation, and the Dendi-Songhai court installed a new ruler named Askiya Nuh who was successful in fighting the Moroccans, killing nearly half of the arquebusiers sent to fight him44. Having failed to conquer Dendi-songhai, the Pasha Mahmud tuned his anger on the Timbuktu residents, he seized the the scholars whom he shackled and had their wealth confiscated, but squandered much of it between his forces and sent a paltry 100,000 mithqals of gold (500kg) to al-Mansur (a measly sum that compared poorly with the 150,000 mithqals Songhai received from Agadez alone). On reaching Marakesh, the Timbuktu scholars and informants of al-Masnur reported pasha Mahmud's conduct and al-Mansur sent orders for him to be killed and the scholars were released not long after, Pasha Mahmud then went to Dendi to fight Askiya Nuh with a force of over 1,000 arquebusiers but was defeated and his severed head was sent to Kebbi to be hung on the city walls.45

In the 30 years after their victory in 1591, the al-Mansur continued to send arquebusiers to fight the Askiyas totaling up to 23,000 men by 1604, only 500 of whom returned to Marakesh, the rest having died in battle, some to diseases and the few hundred survivors garrisoned in the cities of Djenne, Timbuktu and Gao46. By 1618, the last of the Moroccan pashas was murdered by his own mutinous soldiers47 (who would then be known as the Arma), these Arma now ruled their greatly diminished territory independently of Morocco which had itself descended into civil war, this territory initially comprised the cities of Djenne, Timbuktu and Gao but the hinterlands of these cities were outside their reach, by the 1649, the cities Timbuktu and Gao were reduced to paying tribute to the Tuareg bands allied with the Agadez kingdom48, and by 1670s both Djenne and Timbuktu were paying tribute to the Bambara empire centered at Segu49, Gao was reduced from a bustling city of 100,000 residents to a forgotten village slowly drowning in the sands of the Sahara, the great city Timbuktu shrunk from 70-100,000 to a little over 10,000 inhabitants in the 18th century, the vast empire that al-Mansur dreamt of fizzled, Morocco itself was plagued by six decades of civil war after his death with 11 rulers ascending in just 60 years, more than half of whom were assassinated and deposed as each ruler carved up his own kingdom around the main cities while bands roamed the surrounding deserts and europeans seized the coastal cities, while minor raids to the region of Adrar in (western Mauritania) were resumed intermittently by the Moroccans in the 18th century50 when the Alwali dynasty reunified Morocco, the Moroccan overtures into west-Africa on the scale of the Songhai invasion were never repeated and its activities were constrained to propping up bands of desert warriors in the western Mauritania51.  west-Africa's political landscape had been permanently altered as new states sprung up all around the southern fringes of the former Songhai territory, and several scholarly and commercial capitals rose such as Segu, Katsina, Kano and Agadez boasting populations from 30,000-100,000 residents in the 18th century.


Conclusion : Assessing the legacy of one of Africa’s most powerful rulers

The Moroccan armies of al-Mansur lacked the capacity to incorporate the large Songhai territory into their empire despite their best efforts and the commitment of the sultan to his grand objectives, their soldiers usually found themselves on the defensive, holed up in garrison forts in the cities in which even the urban residents, the scholars and attimes their own soldiers considered them unwelcome. The over 23,000 Moroccan soldiers the al-Mansur sent to their graves in Songhai reveal the commitment that the sultan had to his Caliphal empire, a grandiose vision which flew in the face of the political realities he was faced with, since his own army numbered no more than 30-40,000 at its height, the loss of tens of thousands of his best armed men was a large drain to his internal security as well as the state purse. Once the shock factor of the guns had worn off, the Armas were rendered impotent to the attacks of the Askiyas, the Tuaregs, the Bambara, the Fulani who repeatedly raided their garrisons in the cities where they were garrisoned, and in less than a few decades, upstart states armed with just spears and arrows, and bands of desert nomads reduced the hundreds of well-armed soldiers to tributary status. A similar experience with guns had been witnessed by Idris Alooma of Kanem-Bornu, as well as the atlantic African states like Esiege of Benin who soon learned that the new weapons were never decisive in warfare (at least not until the late 19th century). Al-Mansur's ambition to create a  western caliphate that would rival the Ottomans exceeded the resources he possessed to accomplish this goal, and in the process set back the regions of Morocco and the Songhai for nearly a century52.
In 1593, al-Mansur finished the construction of a dazzling new palace of el-Badi, partly with the wealth taken from Songhai, but in 1708, a different Moroccan sultan from a different dynasty tore it down in an act of jealousy; like his dream of a trans-Saharan, trans-Atlantic empire; the legacy of al-Mansur lay desolate, in a pile of ruins.

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
 
 
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February 2022
 
 
 
 
 
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