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Op-Ed

Gone! Omar al-Bashir and his failed identity politics

Ethnicity and religion have been the driving force of Sudan’s politics, until now

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Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans as they gather in a street in central Khartoum on April 11, 2019, immediatly after one of Africa's longest-serving presidents was toppled by the army. - Organisers of protests for the ouster of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir rejected his toppling by the army Thursday as a "coup conducted by the regime" and vowed to keep up their campaign. (Photo by AHMED MUSTAFA / AFP)

Ethnicity and religion have framed Sudan’s politics since its independence in 1959. The country’s two civil wars have been understood as conflicts between the predominantly Arab, Muslim North and the largely African, Christian South.

President Gaafar Nimeiry deepened the crisis when in 1983 he decreed sharia would be national law. President Omar al-Bashir cemented the divide with his own aggressively Islamist policies which included harbouring Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. His patent objective was to create an Arab Islamist state but it was met with an equally direct response from the South; a fight for their independence.

The narrative of a Christian South being persecuted by a Muslim north was set and the international community helped to amplify it. The US, facilitated by the bipartisan, congressional “Sudan Caucus”, was especially active in keeping the peace process on the global agenda.  A peace agreement was eventually signed with the backing of President George W. Bush, an evangelical Christian himself.

South Sudan’s independence did not bring an end to the ethno-religious troubles of the country. Atrocities committed in Darfur again received significant international media attention with Hollywood stars like George Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt shining a light on the issue.

Declaration of war

The coin has two faces and the other side of this one is economic.

Decades of corruption, sanctions, economic ineptness, loss of oil income to South Sudan and the final nail, IMF austerity prescriptions, left Sudan’s economy in tatters.

With 80% of the oil going to South Sudan in 2011, al-Bashir was adamant about retaining the remaining 20%, which lies in South Kordofan, one of three contested regions along with Darfur and the Blue Nile.

Faced with the certain secession of the south, a defiant al-Bashir declared in 2010, “If South Sudan secedes, we will change the constitution, and at that time there will be no time to speak of diversity of culture and ethnicity…Sharia and Islam will be the main source for the constitution, Islam the official religion and Arabic the official language.”

This was clearly not to be countenanced by people already engaged in armed struggle for their cultural, religious and economic freedom.

Kamal Kambal, of Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad, responded by saying “this is the reason why the southerners want to break away.” He reiterated that the Nuba (of South Kordofan) had been fighting side by side with the south “to prevent the imposition of sharia law and Arabic culture”.

“For us, this statement is a declaration of war,” Kambal concludes.

By the time protests broke out in December 2018, al-Bashir’s ethno-religious incitement was a well-established tactic that he must have credited, at least partially, for keeping him in power all those years. So after failing to repress the protests with teargas and live ammunition, Omar al-Bashir pulled out a familiar weapon, ethno-religious division.

‘We are all Darfur!’

In late December a group of 32 Darfurian men were arrested, tortured, and paraded on state media as a Mossad-trained terror cell. Bashir accused the men of planning to bomb the protests they had apparently instigated. No doubt expecting that the well-worn trope of the hyper-aggressive, dangerous and anti-Islamic Darfurian would do its work.

It did not. The Darfurian men were all identified by their university mates as fellow students and the protests took up a new chant, “You racist egomaniac, we are all Darfur!”

This latest uprising against Sudan’s political establishment has been more Sudanese, in the truest sense, than any other before. The protests first began in the countryside, not in Khartoum. They have not been confined to middle class professionals and unemployed students.

Reports emerged of tea sellers in Khartoum – typically women at the bottom of the societal rung – sharing their daily earnings to defray each woman’s losses as they took turns to attend the protests. People’s transportation costs were crowdfunded online to allow them attend marches and sit-ins.

Images of the protests have shown Sudanese – Arab, Afro-Arab, Arabised Afro, African, Muslim, Christian, Civilian, Military, Men, Women – standing side by side; and on the same side of the country’s historic moment irrespective of their differences.

On Thursday April 11, they won. Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule came to an end.

It is only the first victory though. The road to true revolution will be long and perhaps winding but the Sudanese people, together, have begun that journey.

In the end, under the right (or wrong) conditions, people will revolt and longstanding tricks will lose their hold as they did under al-Bashir.

All politicians under-serving their people, should take note.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

Op-Ed

Nigeria’s economic growth cools in Q1, Pound rattled by political risk

Growth in the largest economy in Africa slowed to 2.01% during the first quarter of 2019

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Nigeria's economic growth cools in Q1, Pound rattled by political risk

Growth in the largest economy in Africa slowed to 2.01% during the first quarter of 2019, thanks to external risks and contraction in the Oil sector.

Although the non-Oil sector grew by 2.47%, the Oil sector, which remains the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner, shrank by 2.40%. While Nigeria remains on a quest to break away from the chains of Oil reliance, the nation remains exposed to external shocks and this was reflected in the latest GDP figures.

Will the deceleration in growth momentum pressure the Central Bank of Nigeria to cut interest rates in an effort to jumpstart the economy? This is a question on the minds of many investors.

Sterling struggles to nurse wounds as political risk continues to bite

The return of domestic political turmoil in the United Kingdom has led to a flurry of selling momentum for the British Pound, which fell over 300 pips during the previous trading week.

The selling momentum returned once again in the early hours of Monday morning and the news flow circulating around UK Prime Minister Theresa May needing to state her leaving date, coupled with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn stating that Brexit discussions have broken down makes it doubtful for buyers to be tempted back into the GBP-USD.

Taking a look at the technical picture, the GBPUSD remains firmly bearish on both the daily and weekly charts. There have been consistently lower lows and lower highs, while the MACD has crossed to the downside. The solid weekly close below 1.2820 has opened the doors towards 1.2700 and 1.2620 in the near term.

Nigeria's economic growth cools in Q1, Pound rattled by political risk

Commodity spotlight – Gold

The past few days have certainly not been kind to Gold and this continues to be reflected in the bearish price action.

Signals over the direction of US-China trade talks have caused risk sentiment to swing back and forth, ultimately impacting the appetite for Gold.

While Gold bulls are clearly losing the battle as prices trade towards $1274, the war still rages on.

Nigeria's economic growth cools in Q1, Pound rattled by political risk

The sentiment pendulum could easily swing in favour of bulls this week, if trade tensions intensify and concerns over slowing global growth accelerate the flight to safety.

With Gold still supported by core themes in the form of a cautious Federal Reserve and speculation over a potential US rate cut in 2019, the precious metal remains shielded by downside shocks.

Looking at the technical picture, sustained weakness below $1280 is seen opening a path towards $1268 in the short-to-medium term.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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Nigeria week in review: trade hopes falter, Brexit talks collapse, Gold sinks

Markets remain uncertain at this point in time as to whether the weeks long US-China trade dispute actually spells trade doom.

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Nigeria week in review: trade hopes falter, Brexit talks collapse, Gold sinks

It has been a turbulent trading week for financial markets, as investors tussled with ongoing trade developments, Brexit uncertainty and geopolitical tensions across the globe.

Risk sentiment crumbled today on reports circulating around China’s lack of interest to resume trade discussions with the United States. Global equity markets were flashing red amid the uncertainty and this negative mood could roll over into the new trading week.

Markets remain uncertain at this point in time as to whether the seemingly confrontational rhetoric following the escalation in the US-China trade dispute over the past two weeks actually spells the death of any trade deal.

Perhaps the weekend couldn’t have come at a better time, allowing time for investors to digest the latest commentary and ascertain whether both sides are playing hardball as an intended signal, a show of brinkmanship, or just plain noise before the scheduled G20 meeting in Japan next month.

Pound hammered as Brexit talks collapse

Nigeria week in review: trade hopes falter, Brexit talks collapse, Gold sinks

It was already a terrible trading week for the British Pound thanks to the political risk circus in Westminster and Brexit-related uncertainty.

Recent reports of cross-party talks between the Conservative and Labour party concluding without a deal have compounded to the Pound’s woes today. With the failure of cross-party talks and Theresa May agreeing to set a date for her departure fueling concerns over the UK potentially crashing out the EU without a deal in October, Pound weakness is likely to remain a dominant theme.

With regards to the technical picture, the GBP-USD is bearish on the daily and weekly charts. The currency pair extended losses on the negative news this morning, with prices trading around 1.2750 as of writing. A weekly close below 1.2820 has the potential to open a path towards 1.2700 and 1.2620, respectively.

All eyes on Nigeria GDP in the week ahead

Next week kicks off with a bang for the Nigerian economy as GDP figures for Q1 are scheduled to be released on Monday. Investors will closely scrutinize the data for insights into the health of the nation during the first quarter of 2019. A figure that exceeds market expectations is likely to boost sentiment over the Nigerian economy.

Commodity spotlight – Gold

Nigeria week in review: trade hopes falter, Brexit talks collapse, Gold sinks

This has not been the best of trading weeks for Gold with prices trading around $1283 as of writing.

Conflicting signals over the direction of US – China trade talks caused risk sentiment to swerve back and forth which ultimately impacted appetite for Gold.

Although the yellow metal is trading back towards $1285 level at the time of writing, bulls remain in control above $1280.

With uncertainty over trade talks likely to stimulate the flight to safety, safe-haven assets like Gold are poised to remain buoyed. Technical traders will continue to closely observe how prices behave around the $1285 region.

Bulls need to break back above $1300 for prices to push higher in the medium term.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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Op-Ed

Investors caught off-guard with CBN governor’s reappointment; Gold steady

The move could be a welcome development for local shares and the Naira.

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Investors caught off-guard with CBN governor's reappointment; Gold steady
Nigeria's Central Bank new governor Godwin Emefiele. AFP PHOTO/STRINGER (Photo by STR / AFP)

Investors were caught completely off guard this week after Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari reappointed the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele for a second term.

Although the market reaction has been somewhat mixed with the All-Share Index (ASI) edging -0.26% lower today, it is too early to come to any conclusions about how this will impact domestic markets moving forward.

With the re-appointment of the CBN governor signaling continuity and removing an element of uncertainty over policy direction, this could be a welcome development for local shares and the Naira.

However, more time will be needed to carefully assess what this means for inflation, interest rates and economic growth in the medium to longer term.

Stocks push higher as US tariffs kick in

Stock markets pushed higher on Friday, despite the United States hiking tariffs on Chinese goods. It seems investors are still cautiously optimistic over both sides finding a middle ground on trade.

If a trade deal becomes reality, this is likely to boost global equities and emerging market assets. However, a situation where talks descend into disagreements is likely to rekindle risk aversion – ultimately boosting appetite for safe-haven assets.

Gold fights to defend $1280

Gold bulls fought incredibly hard to keep prices above the $1280 support level this week, as uncertainty over US-China trade talks supported the flight to safety.

With escalating trade tensions and renewed concerns over slowing global growth fueling risk aversion, the precious metal punched above $1,290 before later surrendering gains.

We expect Gold to transform into a battleground for bulls and bears in the week ahead as conflicting market themes influence the precious metal.

If the Dollar remains depressed and heightened trade tensions encourage investors to stay clear of riskier assets, Gold has the potential to shine towards $1300.

However, a breakdown below $1280 is seen opening the gates towards $1265.

Commodity spotlight – WTI Oil

The story defining Oil’s valuation in recent weeks continues to revolve around supply and demand-side factors. On one side of the equation, Oil is supported by OPEC-led supply cuts, the US ending sanction waivers on Iranian Oil and supply disruptions in Venezuela and Libya.

On the other side of the equation, Oil is pressured by robust production from US Shale, rising crude inventories and concerns over slowing growth impacting demand.

Oil markets are likely to remain volatile and highly sensitive ahead of the OPEC meeting in June.

In regards to the technical picture, WTI Oil is trading around $62.00 on the daily charts. A weekly close above this level is seen opening a path towards $63.00.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect News Central’s editorial stance.

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