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Law & Politics
From the ill-conceived Brexit referendum onward, Britain’s governing
class has embarrassed itself. The Remain campaign was complacent, the
Leave campaign brazenly mendacious, and as soon as the result was
known, most of the loudest advocates for severing ties with the
European Union ran away like naughty schoolboys whose cricket ball had
smashed a greenhouse window. Negotiations have revealed the pitiful
intellectual limitations of a succession of blustering cabinet
ministers, the leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition doesn’t
appear to want to oppose, and the prime minister has engineered her
own humiliation by starting the countdown to Brexit without a plan
that could command wide support, resulting in the heaviest
parliamentary defeat in history. Despite breaches of campaign finance
limits and lingering questions over the source of the Leave campaign’s
financing, not to mention growing evidence tying it to the same web of
influence operations that promoted Trump’s candidacy, there is no
equivalent to the Mueller inquiry to bolster public confidence that
the organs of state are capable of warding off corruption.
Britain is a country under self-inflicted stress, gripped by fear of
the unknown. Remainers and Leavers—two tribes that have taken on the
mythic stature of Roundheads and Cavaliers in a second civil war—are
clinging together like drowning swimmers, each side convinced that the
other is provoking an epochal disaster, neither side understanding why
the other won’t submit to its version of reason and allow itself to be
guided back to the surface. As the deadline approaches and the clock
runs down toward the “No Deal” outcome that was supposed to be
unthinkable, the divided nation faces what is, by any standards, a
major political crisis. However, as British people like to remind one
another, we are supposedly at our best in a crisis.
On December 16, the former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab tweeted,
“Remainers believe UK prosperity depends on its location, Brexiters
believe UK prosperity depends on its character.” Faith in Brexit does
indeed seem to correlate with belief in the existence of national
character, an innate and invariant set of shared qualities that
apparently includes an aptitude for governance. On December 30 an
editorial in London’s Sunday Times spluttered:
After more than four decades in the EU we are in danger of persuading
ourselves that we have forgotten how to run the country by ourselves.
A people who within living memory governed a quarter of the world’s
land area and a fifth of its population is surely capable of governing
itself without Brussels.
The many unanticipated problems with Brexit are diagnosed by the
Sunday Times writer as a loss of confidence, perhaps accompanied by a
faulty memory—something happening not just to people but to “a
people.” The implication of the indefinite article, with its baggage
of Romantic Nationalism, is clear. Britons, as Rule Britannia
triumphantly puts it, “never, never, never shall be slaves.” The
underside of nostalgia for an imperial past is a horror of finding the
tables turned. For the more unhinged Brexiteers, leaving the EU takes
on the character of a victorious army coming home with its spoils. In
December 2017 Edward Leigh, a rosy-faced Tory backbencher, suggested
in the House of Commons that an important negotiating point should be
that the British “take back control of our fair share of [the EU’s]
art and wine and not leave it for Mr. Juncker to enjoy.”
The battle over Europe has been fought not over the technicalities of
the “Irish backstop” (maintaining the open border between Northern
Ireland and the Republic of Ireland), NHS funding, or traffic flow
through Dover, let alone harmonized airline regulations or the trading
benefits of a Canada-plus model (along the lines of the one Canada
signed with the EU in 2016, following seven years of negotiation), but
through Spitfires, Cornish pasties, singing “Jerusalem” on the last
night of the Proms, and what the Irish historian and journalist Fintan
O’Toole calls “the strange sense of imaginary oppression that
underlies Brexit.” O’Toole’s Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics
of Pain is an acid and entertaining examination of what he calls,
after the scholar Raymond Williams, the “structure of feeling” that
has made the project of leaving the European Union politically
One prong of O’Toole’s approach is psychological. He quotes Herbert
Spencer on self-pity as a person’s pathological “dwelling on the
contrast between his own worth as he estimates it and the treatment he
has received.” This disparity is founded on an underlying narcissism:
“One who contemplates his own affliction as undeserved necessarily
contemplates his own merit…there is an idea of much withheld and a
feeling of implied superiority to those who withhold it.” The other
prong is historical. Starting from “the sheer exhilaration of being
English for a young, white, privileged man during and after the war,”
O’Toole tells the familiar story of an imperial decline that has
gradually ratcheted up the tension between this “deep sense of
grievance and a high sense of superiority.” As early as 1962, the
travel writer James Morris lamented the passing of a “feeling of happy
supremacy,” which meant that “frank pride of country has all but gone
by the board, and patriotism is very nearly a dirty word.”
04-FEB-2019 :: Venezuela, Iran, DR Congo
Law & Politics
I started my week interviewing the Portuguese Writer Maria João Lopo
de Carvalho about Luís de Camões and her book which followed his c16th
journey from Portugal to Macau via boat which stopped at the Cape of
Good Hope, Mozambique, Mombasa, Malindi, Oman, Hormuz. Goa, Sri Lanka,
Malacca and was introduced to the poetry of Camões [whom I am now
— Time changes, and our desires change. What we
believe—even what we are—is ever-
changing. The world is change, which forever
takes on new qualities.
And in that intrepid spirit of Camões and of casting our eyes wider
and toward far horizons, I wanted to to look at three fluid and fast
Lets start with Destination Caracas Venezuela. Here years of sanction
warfare [The Star Aug 2018 @realDonaldTrump seems to be relishing his
financial warfare strategies. Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela is being
attacked by remote-controlled drone] accompanied with rank
mismanagement has brought the country to that Hunter S. Thompson brink
"The Edge... There is no honest way to explain it because the only
people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over,"
Hunter. S. Thompson.
If one accepts that access to oil ''defined 20th-century empires and
the petrodollar agreement was the key to the ascendancy of the United
States as the world’s sole superpower'' America’s war machine runs on,
is funded by, and exists in protection of oil. Threats by any nation
to undermine the petrodollar system are viewed by Washington as
tantamount to a declaration of war against the United States of
America. The Chavez Revolution was always a rebellion in the
Superpower's back yard and the machine was eventually going to bring
it to heel by hook or by crook.
The Oriental Review's Andrew Korybko headlines his Article ''A
Venezuelan Coup Could Challenge OPEC+ And Build “Fortress America”
Russia and China aren’t capable of directly defending Venezuela even
though they’ve voiced their support for international law, and their
real national interests rest with ensuring that Caracas repays its
billions of dollars of loans to them and respects the energy and
military deals that were previously signed despite not having any way
of guaranteeing that will happen if Maduro is overthrown. Therefore,
the most likely international outcome of his ouster would probably be
that the Washington-backed coup “authorities” would declare those
deals null and void, after which they’d likely open up the world’s
largest oil deposits in the Orinoco Belt to US companies. The
long-term repercussions are that the US could challenge Russia and
Saudi Arabia’s OPEC+ alliance and advance its “Fortress America”
geopolitical project in the Western Hemisphere
Maduro is I am afraid going down just like Muammar went down and as did Saddam.
Last week also marked 40 Years of the Islamic Revolution where the
mercurial, enigmatic and often cryptic Ayatollah Khomeini returned
from exile to Tehran and upended the once fabulous Peacock Throne of
Shah Reza Pahlavi who spent his final days looking out to sea in
Panama because none of his erstwhile allies would give him safe haven.
For 40 Years, The US has sanctioned Iran and as long as he fought the
Ayatollah Saddam lived. As much as Chavez's Bolivarian revolution was
to American hegemony, so has been Khomenei's and now Khamenei's Iran.
Barack Hussein Obama tried to recalibrate things but that was a
momentary counter-trend moment. Clearly, the US has ratcheted up the
pressure but the Theocrats have held firm and Europe threw them a bone
last week with the Special Purpose Vehicle designed to facilitate
''essential'' [Food, medicines and the Like] commerce via trading in
What explains Tehran's resilience? It is a Prize that remains beyond
Washington's grasp, for now.
Finally, events in the DR Congo. Whilst Oil and the Petro-Dollar
Economy underpinned US Power Projection, the DR Congo with an
estimated 66% of cobalt [possibly the new Oil] supplies might well
represent the Future. In an extraordinary Plot Twist, President Kabila
invested a losing candidate Félix Tshisekedi with the Presidency and
the US hardly raised a murmur.
“I think the most startling thing is how quickly we have shifted from
a discussion about the integrity of the electoral process to sweeping
all these very serious and credible allegations of electoral fraud
under the carpet,” said Jason Stearns of the Congo Research Group.
Maybe, Dan Gertler is the Puppeteer in Washington? The White House is
Venezuela's @jguaido Wants China to See @NicolasMaduro Is Bad for Business @business
Law & Politics
“I will be very clear: all agreements that have been signed following
the law will be respected,” Guaido said in a written interview. “If
previous agreements were signed by adhering to the due process of
approval by the National Assembly, they will be accepted and honored.”
"We want to establish a transparent relationship with China and put an
end to the plundering of our resources that has prevailed under
Maduro’s government, which has ultimately also affected Chinese
investors,” he said. “China’s development projects in Venezuela have
been falling as they have been affected and destroyed by corruption or
Beijing has invested more than $62 billion in Venezuela, mostly
through loans, since 2007. Last year, it imported 3.6 percent of its
oil supply from the country, down from just over 5 percent in 2017. In
the throes of a financial crisis last September, Maduro flew to
Beijing to win a $5 billion credit line from his “big sister” China.
Chinese technology giants Huawei Technologies Corp. and ZTE Corp. have
invested heavily in the country.
@NicolasMaduro must be praying for the US to intervene in Venezuela @guardian
Law & Politics
one thing alone could save the Maduro regime in Venezuela. That is
western intervention. Nothing unites a country like a sovereign enemy
on its borders. Venezuelans may hate their president, Nicolás Maduro,
but they also hate the US. China may be exasperated, but it is
Maduro’s ally, and would have to help him if the US attacked. So the
US, and everyone else, should leave Venezuela alone. Unintended
consequences of outside intervention scream down the ages. Only Donald
Trump seems deaf.
China just quietly wrote off a chunk of Cameroon's debt. Why the secrecy? @CNN
When top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi met Cameroon President Paul Biya
in the capital Yaounde last month and wrote off a chunk of the African
country's debt, the deal very nearly went unnoticed.
China issued no press release, and the Cameroon government did not
mention the debt cancellation in its write-up of Yang's visit.
It was only when a Chinese news report later alleged that Beijing had
written off 3 trillion Central African CFA francs ($5.2 billion) of
Cameroon's debt during Yang's trip that the existence of a deal
The figure was incorrect. Five billion dollars is close to the amount
Cameroon has borrowed from Beijing since 2000, according to the China
Africa Research Initiative (CARI), and exceeds the amount the country
is believed to still owe.
But while the news report was wrong, its release did force the Chinese
government to speak publicly about what type of deal had been reached.
Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told
CNN: "China agreed to waive the interest-free inter-governmental debt
that Cameroon had not paid back by the end of 2018."
That debt was worth $78.4 million. Cameroon's total debt is 5.8
trillion Central African CFA francs ($10 billion), about a third of
which is owed to China, according to the International Monetary Fund.
In short, this was a tiny slice of Cameroon's liability to China.
So why the initial secrecy?
There is also this to consider: African nations have borrowed $143
billion from China since 2000, according to CARI figures. Beijing's
leniency toward Cameroon could prompt other heavily leveraged nations,
such as Ethiopia, Djibouti and Zambia, to expect similar treatment.
But 85-year-old Biya, who has ruled Cameroon for 36 years, is
increasingly looking like an "inappropriate partner" from a business
standpoint as China faces growing scrutiny on the continent, says
Chris Roberts, a political scientist at the University of Calgary.
"Cameroon in every way, shape or form is getting worse by the day in
every metric," says Roberts. "This regime has dismantled whatever
foundations it had for a stable economy."
Cameroon's existing port of Douala was overworked, run down and
restricted by its location on a sediment-filled estuary.
When completed in 2035, Kribi will be the biggest deep-water port in
the region. It will handle exports of Cameroon's bauxite, iron ore and
other minerals and could also serve the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum
Development and Pipeline Project, which pumps oil from landlocked Chad
The Kribi port will also extend the reach in West Africa of China's
Maritime Silk Road, an initiative that Senegal signed on to last year.
It is an important part of President Xi's massive multinational One
Belt One Road economic development plan.
"The Gulf of Guinea is strategic for China," says Xavier Auregan, a
specialist on China-Africa relations in Francophone nations,
explaining that a foothold there strengthens its interests in West
Africa from the Ivory Coast to Gabon.
"Cameroon is one of the countries that can bring together the energy
infrastructure of ... West Africa."
China's activity in Cameroon is not restricted to the new port: It was
responsible for 90% of road construction and restoration in the
country as of 2014, and Chinese companies have built dams and
hydroelectric power facilities there.
"China sees the geostrategic and long-term vision of the importance of
Cameroon in that region," says Roberts.
In short, as long as China needs a maritime foothold in West Africa,
Cameroon's debt burden may be lightened for a while longer.
Indian Ocean Island States [because of the economic exclusion zone]
are currently being the most generously treated by China.
Ex-Bashir Aide Says Change Possible as Protests Rock Sudan @bpolitics
A former top adviser to embattled Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir
sees a “new spirit” in widespread protests that he said may bring
great change to the economically troubled North African nation.
Ghazi Salaheddine Atabani, who quit the ruling party after 2013
protests, said events such as the fall of the Soviet Union are proof
that long-standing political systems can suddenly change. While his
Reform Now party hasn’t urged people to join the street protests or
for al-Bashir to end his 30-year rule, it’s calling for a transitional
government that includes opposition groups.
“There seems to be a new national spirit, a yearning for the future,”
Atabani, 67, said in an interview in the capital, Khartoum. “Somehow
hope is beginning to creep again into the hearts and minds of the
Sudanese. So things will never be the same -- it’s going to be
different, and we have to brace ourselves for that, a new phase in our
“This is a growing phenomenon, it’s not receding,” Atabani said of the
demonstrations. “It has been embraced by the society -- people receive
the protesters and supply them with food and drink and support them in
“There is a very severe economic situation and what they got from the
leadership was just insensitive answers, callous steps taken without
any reference, without any kind of sensitivity towards the people,” he
While the government may garner “bits and pieces” of financial support
from abroad, “you can’t go on begging forever,” he said. “You can’t
make changes in the economy unless you make changes in politics.
Describing al-Bashir personally as “a very pleasant person” with an
“unlimited supply of jokes,” Atabani said that in the past he’d
lobbied the president to permit strengthening parliament and building
the nation’s institutions to give oversight of the presidency. His
suggestions went unheeded.
"One day we were able to support who we wanted and the next they came back like before with guns and whips and batons." @business
The bitter reality of Zimbabwe’s political transition offers lessons
for countries such as Venezuela, where Nicolas Maduro is clinging to
power in the face of mass protests and economic collapse. For if you
think it’s easy to fix a broken state after the decades-long reign of
one brutal leader, Zimbabwe shows that’s not the case.
“They say one thing, talk of freedom and openness, let it happen for a
while, then with no warning, it’s back to the old tactics they always
used,” said Tabvura.
When Mugabe was deposed by the military in late 2017, citizens spilled
onto the streets in celebration. Yet pledges of economic recovery and
political freedom made by their new leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, have
come to nothing.
Fifteen months into his rule the economy is in the worst state since
2008. Fuel prices are the world’s highest, basic goods are scarce and
Mnangagwa has presided over the most brutal suppression of urban
protests since independence in 1980. Mugabe, now 95 and in ill health,
has left a legacy of a dysfunctional economy and a ruling party at war
He took over a country that, like Venezuela, was blessed with
resources. Zimbabwe produced grain surpluses, tobacco rivaling the
quality of that produced in Virginia, had Africa’s second-largest
industrial sector and a functional road and rail network, a rarity on
the continent. Where Venezuela boasted oil, Zimbabwe’s potential was
boosted by platinum and chrome reserves second only to South Africa
and a host of other metal and mineral deposits.
“It had a phenomenal agricultural industry and had Zimbabwe kept that
pace of development and growth you would probably have seen it develop
into a significantly powerful neighbor for South Africa,” said Aditi
Lalbahadur, a researcher at the South African Institute of
Mnangagwa has adopted the mantra of “Zimbabwe is open for business”
and has attempted to lure investment from the west as well as the
country’s traditional partners, Russia and China. But his attempts
have been stymied by a currency crisis that’s triggered a resurgence
of inflation and is causing many of the few remaining businesses to
Complicating his job is resistance from within the ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front. Many of its leaders, some of
them influential members of the military, are opposed to changing the
In addition to being distrustful of the west, which the party blames
for helping to orchestrate last month’s fuel-price riots, some in the
leadership benefit from preferential access to hard currency, control
of the lucrative fuel-import trade and opportunities to smuggle
diamonds, party officials said, asking not to be named discussing
sensitive political matters.
Mnangagwa, who appointed former armed forces leader Constantino
Chiwenga as his deputy, was caught unaware as soldiers, or men in
military uniform, killed six people in August and 12 last month when
they fired live ammunition, the officials said. Both times the
president condemned the use of excessive force but hasn’t followed
through by punishing the perpetrators.
Mnangagwa’s allies blame Chiwenga and other military officials for the
violence. Repeated calls to Chiwenga’s office have gone unanswered,
and he hasn’t spoken publicly about the issue.
The conundrum the former spy chief, known as the crocodile, faces is
that Chiwenga led the coup that put him in power and the military
ultimately guarantees his position. Even so, that means his trips to
Davos and New York to kick start an investment drive and win support
from lenders such at the International Monetary Fund have achieved
“The international community is not convinced that Zimbabwe has
changed,” Lalbahadur said.
Mnangagwa himself faces credibility problems when he speaks of
openness and chastises the military. He was minister of state security
in the mid-1980s when a military crackdown saw an estimated 20,000
people from the Ndebele minority killed. And in 2002 a United Nations
panel urged that he be slapped with sanctions because of his alleged
involvement in looting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the
Zimbabwean army had been deployed.
Mugabe turned a blind eye to the activities of military leaders who
operated money-making schemes under his rule, including securing one
of the world’s biggest diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe and
spiriting away most of its output.
Economic and political reform would end such operations, but the
current situation isn’t sustainable. Zimbabwe abandoned its currency
in 2009 after inflation reached 500 billion percent and now mainly
uses the dollar. Hard currency is scarce with little foreign exchange
coming in after Mugabe’s violent land reform program decimated the
farming industry and threats of nationalization, or local control,
halted mining investment.
The issuing of so-called bond notes, securities the government insists
are tied to the dollar but aren’t accepted outside the country, has
created a black market that’s stoked inflation. Up to a quarter of the
population has left the country.
Mnangagwa’s Oxford-trained finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, faces the
choice of paying off $2 billion in arrears that need to be settled
before the country can win new loans from multilateral lenders or
purchase essential imports such as gasoline and wheat. Talks are
ongoing to secure a $1.2 billion loan from South Africa, but it
doesn’t have cash to spare.
As in Venezuela, the increasingly desperate situation is fanning
unrest -- teachers are poised to strike following earlier industrial
action by state doctors -- and confronting the leadership with hard
choices. Mnangagwa can purge his opponents from government and risk a
coup, or he can stick with the status quo and face further protests
and a deepening economic crisis.
After 25 years of turmoil, “the problems in Zimbabwe are long-term
systemic,” said Lalbahadur. “Zimbabwe’s pressing concern is an
economic one, but it is intertwined with a political one.”
Witches, The Economist @TheEIU predict victory for @atiku in 2019 poll
The Association of white witches in Nigeria (AWWN) has predicted that
the presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP),
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, would beat the incumbent President, Muhammadu
Buhari of APC in the February 16 presidential election.
Spokesman of the association, Dr. Iboi Okhue, disclosed over the
weekend that, the victory of the former vice president was sealed in
two meetings held at Obudu Mountain in Obudu local government area of
Cross River state and the Zuma Rock in the Federal Capital Territory,
FCT, Abuja late last month respectively.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Africa, a research unit of
London-based The Economist Magazine also last weekend predicted that
Abubakar would win the election. The EIU Africa said last Friday that
the margin of victory was getting narrower as the election approached,
but that Atiku and his political party would win the historic
Little known Kenya firm buys Tanzanian cashew nuts for $180m @The_EastAfrican
Tanzania will earn $180.2 million from its stock of cashewnuts after
it entered into an agreement with a little known Kenyan-registered
firm, Indo Power Solutions Ltd, for the purchase of 100,000 tonnes of
the product last week.
The deal was signed on January 30 between the Cereals and Other
Produce Board director Hussein Mansour and Indo Power’s chief
executive Brian Mutembei.
Indo Power is not known to trade in or process cashewnuts. There is
currently no company in the region with the capacity to process
100,000 tonnes. The capacity of Tanzania’s factories to process
cashews stands at around 50,000 tonnes a year.
Indo Power will directly pay the central bank for the raw cashewnuts
and shipment of the cargo to Kenya will begin this week, after the
payments are made.
Mr Kakunda said there was another 113,000 tonnes of cashewnuts in
warehouses and the government was negotiating with 18 potential
Tanzania produced about 240,000 tonnes of cashewnuts during the
2017/2018 season, of which the government bought 213,000 tonnes for
which it paid farmers Tsh416.4 billion ($180.2 million). Indo Power
has offered Tsh418 billion ($180.89 million).
28-JAN-2019 :: A lot now depends on whether this was a one off or not.
‘’Terror’s response is a narrative that has been developing over
years, only now becoming inescapable. It is our lives and minds that
are occupied now. This catastrophic event changes the way we think and
act, moment to moment, week to week, for unknown weeks and months to
come, and steely years. our world, parts of our world, have crumbled
into theirs, which means we are living in a place of danger and rage’’
“I used to think it was possible for an artist to alter the inner life
of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory,”
Don DeLillo, Mao II.
The truth of the matter is more people die on the roads everyday.
Terror is a mind game. The response was professional and effective.
tHe city moved forward. I extend my condolences to all who lost their
lives. A lot now depends on whether this was a one off or not.