John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

U.S. Shoots Itself in the Foot over Visas for Africans

by John Campbell Friday, March 24, 2017
Abdul Giwa holds a copy of his passport during an interview with Reuters on the recent pronouncements of the Kaduna State government on the activity of the Shi'ite group in Kaduna, Nigeria, November 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Each year the University of Southern California hosts the African Global Economic and Development Summit. It is intended to bring together business, government, and others interested in U.S.-African trade and investment. This year, according to the Voice of America (VOA) there were no African participants. All Africans that had been invited or applied to attend were denied U.S. visas, including speakers and African government officials. This included citizens of U.S. partners such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Nigeria and South Africa have the continent’s largest economies and both are on a democratic trajectory. In addition, Ethiopia is an important U.S. strategic partner in the war on terror, while Ghana has notable growing economic and cultural ties with the United States. Read more »

Helen Zille’s Colonialism Controversy

by John Campbell Thursday, March 23, 2017
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille arrives for President Jacob Zuma's Sate of the Nation address at the opening session of Parliament in Cape Town, February 12, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Helen Zille is the premier of the Western Cape and a former leader of South Africa’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). A former journalist and anti-apartheid activist of German descent, she is famous for being one of those who exposed the murder of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko at the hands of the apartheid security services. Zille has actively sought the transformation of the DA into an opposition party that could win significant support from South Africa’s majority black population. In addition, she was one of those who engineered the selection of Mmusi Maimane, a black politician from Johannesburg, as party leader. She is well known for her outspoken criticism of the dominant African National Congress (ANC). Read more »

The Future of Islamic State Operations in Africa

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 22, 2017
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government aims his weapon as he takes up position inside a ruined house at the front line of fighting with Islamic State militants in Ghiza Bahriya district in Sirte, Libya, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

As the self-proclaimed Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, there is increasing concern that it will gradually shift its operations to Africa. Indeed, in late 2016, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi claimed that the group had shifted elements of command, media, and wealth to Islamic State “provinces in north Africa and west Africa.” However, in a useful article Joseph Siegle of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies convincingly argues that the Islamic State is not well established in those areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where extremist Islamist groups operate. The two most violent groups, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, predate the formation of the Islamic State and are not dependent on it for operational or tactical support. Furthermore, it is the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that is the major ideological foundation of radical, Jihadi Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the Islamic State. Read more »

Health Scare in Nigeria: President Muhammadu Buhari

by John Campbell Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari returns from a medical trip in London at the Nigeria Airforce Base in Kaduna, Nigeria, March 10, 2017. (Reuters/Stringer)

In this episode of the Africa in Transition Podcast series John Campbell and Allen Grane discuss Muhammadu Buhari’s recent extended vacation to the United Kingdom. The two discuss why Buhari was away for so long, how Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did in his stead, and possible future implications. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: March 11 – March 17

by John Campbell Monday, March 20, 2017
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from March 11 to March 17 2017. This update also represents violence related to Boko Haram in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker. Read more »

President Trump’s “Skinny Budget” and Peacekeeping

by John Campbell Friday, March 17, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump's overview of the budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 are displayed at the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) on its release by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington, U.S. March 16, 2017. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

At present, there are sixteen UN peacekeeping missions around the world, nine of which are in Africa: Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Western Sahara (Sudan has two, Darfur and Abyei). Like all UN peacekeeping missions, these were mandated by the UN Security Council (UNSC). UN peacekeeping operations funding is the responsibility of all member states. The UN uses a complex formula to assess member state contributions that, among other things, takes into account relative wealth. Beyond that formula, the permanent five members on the UNSC (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) pay a supplement because of their special responsibilities and privileges. Read more »

President Buhari Returns to Office

by John Campbell Thursday, March 16, 2017
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari smiles as he resumes work following seven weeks of medical leave, in Abuja, Nigeria, March 13, 2017. (Reuters/Stringer)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria from medical leave in the United Kingdom on March 10. In his absence, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo served as the acting president for the fifty days that Buhari was out of the country. Upon Buhari’s return, it was unclear as to whether he would resume his duties, especially given his statement that he would need to return to the United Kingdom soon for further medical tests and treatment. However, on March 15, Buhari sent a letter to the national assembly stating that he would be resuming his presidential duties. Read more »

Nigerian Army Abuse of Civilians

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 15, 2017
A Nigerian soldier practices marksmanship during Flintlock 2016, a U.S.-led international training exercise with African militaries in Thies, Senegal, February 11, 2016. (REUTERS/Sylvain Cherkaoui)

There have been a series of credible reports on the Nigerian army’s abuse of civilians in the struggle against the jihadist movement Boko Haram. A story on the front page of the February 28, New York Times cites a particular village where residents said that there were no Boko Haram present. Apparently, the soldiers did not believe the villagers and concluded that it was nest of Boko Haram. In response, the army proceeded to torch the village and slaughter the majority of its male population. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: March 4 – March 10

by John Campbell Monday, March 13, 2017
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from March 4 to March 10, 2017. This update also represents violence related to Boko Haram in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker. Read more »

Yet Again, No Mo Ibrahim Prize Awarded

by John Campbell Friday, March 10, 2017
Mo Ibrahim Foundation Founder and Chair Mo Ibrahim (L) looks out into the audience as he and Equity Bank Group CEO James Mwangi participate in a panel discussion on investment during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington August 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

In February, the Ibrahim foundation announced that, yet again, it would not be awarding it’s famed Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Mo Ibrahim, a British-Sudanese telecom billionaire, established the award in 2006. It is probably the richest international prize in the world. It awards laureates $5 million over ten years, then $200,000 per year for life. In addition, laureates may apply for an additional $200,000 per year for their own philanthropy. The prize appears to have been designed to recognize and encourage African leadership of the highest quality and also to free them from post-presidential financial burdens. The selection committee, numbering seven, is of outstanding quality: it includes former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, former first lady of both Mozambique and South Africa Graca Machel, and former president of Bostwana (and laureate) Festus Mogae. Read more »