John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Charles Taylor Sentenced – a Step Forward?

by John Campbell Thursday, May 31, 2012
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor (bottom) argues with a photographer as he awaits the start of the prosecution's closing arguments during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam February 8, 2011. (Jerry Lampen/Courtesy Reuters) Former Liberian President Charles Taylor (bottom) argues with a photographer as he awaits the start of the prosecution's closing arguments during his trial at the U.N.-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in Leidschendam February 8, 2011. (Jerry Lampen/Courtesy Reuters)

In April, the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague found Charles Taylor guilty of many crimes against humanity related to his involvement with the civil war in Sierra Leone. (Taylor was not tried for his activities in Liberia where he was a major warlord as well as chief of state.) On May 30, three justices sentenced Taylor to prison for fifty years. As he is 64 years of age, he will spend the rest of his life incarcerated. He will serve his sentence in the UK. Read more »

Fuel Subsidy Haunts Nigeria — Again

by John Campbell Wednesday, May 30, 2012
A member of the Nigerian Bar Association holds up a placard to protest a fuel subsidy removal in Lagos January 5, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) A member of the Nigerian Bar Association holds up a placard to protest a fuel subsidy removal in Lagos January 5, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

According to the Nigerian press, funding for the fuel subsidy has run out, with seven months left in the year. Further, the press quotes the executive secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association for Nigeria (MOMAN) as saying that the government has made no payment toward the fuel subsidy in 2012. In other words, it is substantially in arrears. Apparently, oil imports have continued, with a spokesman for the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) stating that there is enough in the country: “But the product will not be for too long and we shouldn’t wait until we have a crisis before we start looking for a solution.” The danger is that imports of petroleum—upon which the country is dependent—will stop. That would lead to fuel shortages in a country in which most goods move by road. Read more »

“Africa Day” in South Africa and President Jacob Zuma’s Rivals

by John Campbell Tuesday, May 29, 2012
South African President Jacob Zuma speaks during a media briefing at the Union Building in Pretoria, October 24, 2011. (Handout/Courtesy Reuters) South African President Jacob Zuma speaks during a media briefing at the Union Building in Pretoria, October 24, 2011. (Handout/Courtesy Reuters)

The “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” are hitting President Jacob hard.

Earlier this week, there was the controversy over a publicly exhibited oil painting that strongly resembled Zuma with his genitals exposed, which the president’s party tried to have removed. The episode reminded the public of Zuma’s polygamy and his rape trial (he was acquitted.) Read more »

Guest Post: Lake Chad Shrinks, Conflict Grows

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, May 25, 2012
Chadian men collect water with plastic canisters loaded on a hand cart in Lake Chad, on the island of Kouirom, January 27, 2007. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Chadian men collect water with plastic canisters loaded on a hand cart in Lake Chad, on the island of Kouirom, January 27, 2007. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Laura Dimon. Laura is the Africa program intern at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Earlier this week, the New York Times detailed the impact of Niger’s desertification on children, who must trek longer and longer distances to collect water. This is only one of the negative consequences of climate change that has hastened the drying up of the Lake Chad water basin. Over the last forty years, the water basin, which has supported up to thirty million beneficiaries across Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, has shrunk by 95 percent. The lake’s shrinkage is the result of a myriad of factors: decreased rainfall resulting from climate change, increased demand for water caused by population growth and agriculture, an explosion of parasitic vegetation, and weak institutions managing competing demands. Read more »

Why NOT to Designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization

by John Campbell Thursday, May 24, 2012
Smoke rises from the police headquarters as people run for safety after Boko Haram bomb blasts in Nigeria's northern city of Kano January 20, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Smoke rises from the police headquarters as people run for safety after Boko Haram bomb blasts in Nigeria's northern city of Kano January 20, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Asch Harwood coauthored this post. Asch is the Africa research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.

A group of Nigeria watchers, including myself, has sent the secretary of state a letter urging that northeastern Nigeria’s “Boko Haram” not be given a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) designation. Read more »

South Africa: Zuma Painting Opens Freedom of Expression Debate

by John Campbell Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A visitor photographs a painting of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma at an exhibition in Johannesburg May 18, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) A visitor photographs a painting of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma at an exhibition in Johannesburg May 18, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

The New York Times reports that an exhibition at a Johannesburg art gallery is pushing contemporary hot buttons. On exhibit is a large painting of a figure resembling President Zuma with his genitals exposed. The governing African National Congress (ANC) is suing to have the painting removed. The gallery and its supporters from civil society are claiming the right to free speech, which the constitution guarantees. Read more »

Rage in Mali

by John Campbell Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Protesters occupy Mali's presidential palace in the capital Bamako, May 21, 2012. (Adama Diarra/Courtesy Reuters) Protesters occupy Mali's presidential palace in the capital Bamako, May 21, 2012. (Adama Diarra/Courtesy Reuters)

On May 21, demonstrators in Mali’s capital of Bamako stormed the office of interim president Dioncounda Traore, seventy, and beat him unconscious.  He was hospitalized and has subsequently been released, according to press reports.  The mob, numbering several hundred, traversed the city with no interference from the army—or anybody else. Read more »

Zimbabwe Police Label Nigerian Televangelist a Sorcerer

by John Campbell Monday, May 21, 2012
HIV/AIDS patient Miss Mary Udoh receives "miraculous healing" from Prophet T.B. Joshua of the synagogue Church For All Nations during a service at Ikotun-Egbe district in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, in this January 20, 2003 file photo. (George Esiri/Courtesy Reuters) HIV/AIDS patient Miss Mary Udoh receives "miraculous healing" from Prophet T.B. Joshua of the synagogue Church For All Nations during a service at Ikotun-Egbe district in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, in this January 20, 2003 file photo. (George Esiri/Courtesy Reuters)

Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity are powerful forces in sub-Saharan politics. So, too, is the belief in prophecy and sorcery.

In Zimbabwe, it is tense times, with uncertainty about President Robert Mugabe’s health, the dates of the next election, and whether constitutional and other reforms will be achieved. Taken together, faith and politics are the context for the Zimbabwean partisan wrangling over a Nigerian Pentecostal preacher. Read more »

The State of Nigeria’s Economy

by John Campbell Friday, May 18, 2012
Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria March 23, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala speaks during a media briefing in Pretoria March 23, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

In a recent Wall Street Journal interview, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala reviewed Nigerian economic issues, notably, that the anticipated sovereign wealth fund would start operating during the next few months, with U.S. $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account to start. She promised a governing council including representatives from civil society, media, and academics would oversee the account “to ensure that the money is transparently invested.” Read more »

Guest Post: Mali: ‘No Country for Old Men?’

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, May 17, 2012
Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo attends a ceremony as former parliament speaker Dioncounda Traore (unseen) is sworn in as Mali's interim president in the captial Bamako, April 12, 2012. (Malin Palm/Courtesy Reuters) Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo attends a ceremony as former parliament speaker Dioncounda Traore (unseen) is sworn in as Mali's interim president in the captial Bamako, April 12, 2012. (Malin Palm/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers. In Jim’s post, he discusses recent events in Mali, and how they may point towards a possible democratic renewal. Read more »