John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

President Obama and Africa

by John Campbell Friday, June 29, 2012
A Sudanese child from the south, wearing a t-shirt with the picture of U.S. President Barack Obama, stands near a shelter at Mandela camp, in the outskirts of Khartoum, July 4, 2011. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters)

Journalist John Norris writing in Foreign Policy observes that Africans and and many Africa experts somehow expected that, because of his Kenyan father, President Obama’s approach to Africa would be transformative. In a thoughtful article, he asks why the Obama administration’s Africa policy has not been so different from that of Presidents Bush and Clinton. Read more »

Sudan’s Al-Bashir on the Way Out?

by John Campbell Thursday, June 28, 2012
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir addresses supporters after receiving victory greetings at the Defence Ministry, in Khartoum April 20, 2012. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters)

Al-Bashir’s regime is in trouble. It has lost seventy-five percent of its revenue with the independence of South Sudan, creating a huge budget deficit. Of its remaining revenue, the press estimates seventy percent goes to fighting in Darfur and the disputed border regions with South Sudan. Salaries of Khartoum’s senior state officials have been cut, and the bureaucracy downsized. Student-led protests over the end of the fuel subsidy and escalating prices are continuing and may be gaining momentum, with a specific focus on the country’s economic travails and calls for al-Bashir to go. There are rumors – always denied – that the families of senior ruling party officials are leaving the country. Meanwhile, Nigerian UN peacekeepers in Darfur are threatening mutiny over non-payment of their wages by the Nigerian government. Read more »

Is There “Democratic Space” in South Africa’s Ruling ANC?

by John Campbell Wednesday, June 27, 2012
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma speaks during the start of an African National Congress (ANC) policy meeting in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, June 26, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

Eighteen years after the coming of “non-racial democracy” to South Africa, critics of the perpetually ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), see it as increasingly corrupt, authoritarian, and devoted to the narrow interests of the “national bourgeoisie”–blacks who have enriched themselves through access to the public sector and beneficiaries of Black Economic Empowerment. The ANC, to some, appears to have abandoned an agenda that would improve the lives of impoverished South Africans. Read more »

Guest Post: Nigeria’s New Security: Dasuki in, Azazi out

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (C) arrives with his security officials to inspect the site of a plane crash at Iju-Ishaga neighbourhood, Lagos June 4, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

President Goodluck Jonathan’s dismissal of Andrew Azazi as his national security advisor and of Bello Haliru as minister of defense is his most dramatic response thus far to Boko Haram. Below is long-time Nigeria watcher Jim Sanders’ take, with which I agree. Read more »

Guest Post: Rural Futures

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Monday, June 25, 2012
A worker picks tea at a plantation in Githunguri, 30 km (18 miles) from Kenya's capital Nairobi, January 6, 2012. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Owen Cylke. Mr. Cylke is a development professional and a retired senior foreign service officer with USAID. In his post, he discusses the CAADP meeting in Nairobi in early May, and agriculture’s future role in development. In a related development, the White House recently announced a new U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, a strategy underscoring the role of agriculture in spurring economic growth, trade, and investment. Read more »

Diamonds Are Forever in Zimbabwe

by John Campbell Friday, June 22, 2012
An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica, near the border with Zimbabwe, September 19, 2010. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters)

The Zimbabwean finance minister, Tendai Biti, has complained that that the Zimbabwean-Chinese joint venture diamond mining company Anjin failed to remit revenue to his ministry from its operations in the Marange fields during the first quarter of the year. He raised the possibility that there is a “parallel government” that is the recipient of the revenue. Read more »

Guest Post: Evaluating the Failed States Index and U.S. Africa Policy

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, June 21, 2012
Policemen secure the scene of a landslide at the Mathare valley slum after boulders, rocks and mud tumbled down a hillside overlooking the slum, smashing into the houses and burying the occupants in Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 4, 2012. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Asch Harwood. Asch is the Council on Foreign Relations Africa program research associate.

The Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy have released their 2012 Failed States Index. Fourteen of the twenty states listed as “critical” are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Among the highest scores (bad) are Somalia, DRC, Chad, Zimbabwe, and Sudan. Read more »

New National Commissioner of the South Africa Police Service—Again

by John Campbell Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Newly appointed South African national police commissioner, Bheki Cele (R), is congratulated by South African President Jacob Zuma as Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa (C) looks on at the end of the news conference in Pretoria, July 29, 2009. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, President Jacob Zuma appointed Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega as national commissioner of police and conferred on her the rank of general. She has no previous police experience, but she is no neophyte. She has worked in the public sector (Transnet, the transportation umbrella) and in the private sector, where she was group executive for Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) at Absa, one of South Africa’s largest banks. Recently, she chaired a presidential review committee for state-owned enterprises. Read more »

Guest Post: Aid Ironies and Djibouti’s “Invisible Undercitizens”

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, June 19, 2012
A baby receives treatment for malnutrition at a Medecins Sans Frontieres facility for outpatients in Fajigole, a village near Shashemene, Oromiya region in this May 23, 2008 picture. (Stringer/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.

Returning from an early autumn vacation in Acadia National Park last year, we exited I-95 near Waterville, Maine to grab a Starbucks coffee at a nearby mall. Seeking a second opinion on my theory that the Subaru station-wagon was the state car of Maine, I approached a total stranger who was climbing out of his Toyota Prius. After affirming that, in fact, he had owned one himself, the man identified himself as Dr. David Austin, a local physician. He also mentioned his upcoming tour in Djibouti, as a Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontiers, or MSF) physician, and explained that he had previously served in Sudan (Darfur) and Congo. Read more »

Violence in Nigeria’s North Taking New Turns?

by John Campbell Monday, June 18, 2012
Women cry during a mass funeral for the victims of Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic church, outside Nigeria's capital Abuja February 1, 2012 (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

An apparently new jihadist group announced its establishment by video recently. Calling itself Jama’atu Ansarul Musilimina Fi Biladi Sudan, it states as its goal to protect Muslims in Africa.

There is speculation that this new group may be a splinter of one of the apparently numerous groups that are collectively identified as Boko Haram. At this stage, it is unclear how large or influential this new group might be or whether it presages a violent struggle among erstwhile parts of Boko Haram. Read more »