John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Polio in Nigeria

by John Campbell Thursday, August 30, 2012
Volunteer Health officials wait to immunise children at a school in Nigeria's capital Abuja February 1, 2010. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Volunteer Health officials wait to immunise children at a school in Nigeria's capital Abuja February 1, 2010. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reports eight new polio cases in Nigeria, bringing the total in that country to seventy for 2012. As with previously reported cases this year, these are all to be found in predominately Muslim northern Nigeria, in areas affected by Boko Haram. Read more »

Guest Post: Shades of Anonymous in Boko Haram?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Wednesday, August 29, 2012
A child wears a paper mask depicting Guy Fawkes during a protest by Anonymous India against laws they say gives the government control over censorship of Internet usage in Mumbai, June 9, 2012. (Vivek Prakash/Courtesy Reuters) A child wears a paper mask depicting Guy Fawkes during a protest by Anonymous India against laws they say gives the government control over censorship of Internet usage in Mumbai, June 9, 2012. (Vivek Prakash/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.

Recently, Islamic cleric Ahmad Sheik Gumi criticized the government of Nigeria for its inability to fight terrorism and described Boko Haram as a “complex, interwoven social, religious and political disorder.” He said the “social component of it was represented by criminals,” and he stated that “Boko Haram is not an insurgency.” Read more »

Guest Post: Sierra Leone: Cholera Outbreak Underscores Need for Public Health Investment

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, August 28, 2012
A cholera patient lies in a treatment centre run by Medecins Sans Frontieres on Macauley Street in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, August 23, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) A cholera patient lies in a treatment centre run by Medecins Sans Frontieres on Macauley Street in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown, August 23, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Mohamed Jallow, a former interdepartmental associate at the Council on Foreign Relations, and now a program development specialist at IntraHealth International. Mohamed is originally from Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone is in a state of “health emergency” after a cholera outbreak inundated the country’s ill-equipped health system. According to the WHO, since the beginning of the year, Sierra Leone has recorded over 11, 653 cases of cholera, and 216 deaths. Read more »

Mali’s Humanitarian Crises

by John Campbell Monday, August 27, 2012
General view of Mbera refugee camp in southern Mauritania, May 23, 2012. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) General view of Mbera refugee camp in southern Mauritania, May 23, 2012. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

With so much attention to stonings, amputations, and the destruction of world heritage sites by radical Islamists in the north and the sometimes grotesque political ballet in Bamako, it is easy to lose sight of the dawning humanitarian nightmare of malnutrition, and internal displacement and refugees, all of which encourage disease.  As of the present, the international community is ill-prepared to cope. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 53,000 Malians have fled to Niger and 96,000 to Mauritania. UNHCR estimates that 174,000 Malians are internally displaced. The World Food Program (WFP) has enough food to feed 60,000 Malians until the end of September.  A WFP official estimates that 77,000 need food aid – other estimates are much higher. Read more »

South Africa: Zuma Tries to Mediate Zimbabwe Constitution Impasse

by John Campbell Thursday, August 16, 2012
South African President Jacob Zuma (2nd L) poses for a photograph with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (2nd R), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (L), and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara (R) in the capital Harare, March 18, 2010. (Hilimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters) South African President Jacob Zuma (2nd L) poses for a photograph with Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (2nd R), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (L), and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara (R) in the capital Harare, March 18, 2010. (Hilimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

South African president Jacob Zuma went to Harare on August 15 in his capacity as the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) “facilitator” for the implementation of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Accords (GPA), which ended the post-2008 elections violence. Zuma is expected to report on GPA progress at a SADC ministerial this weekend in Mozambique. Read more »

Thousands Flee Military and Boko Haram in Northeast Nigeria

by John Campbell Wednesday, August 15, 2012
A man stands outside a burnt shed which housed a generator in Damaturu, Yobe state, North east Nigeria, November 8, 2011. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) A man stands outside a burnt shed which housed a generator in Damaturu, Yobe state, North east Nigeria, November 8, 2011. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, has been a major focus of attacks by Boko Haram, the radical Islamist group that, in effect, has declared war on the Nigerian economy. On August 6, a suicide bomber killed six soldiers. Since then, according to the press, the state security forces have responded with mass arrests of young men. One resident is quoted as saying, “the soldiers move about with a sack of handcuffs; they break into people’s houses and arrest youths, and nobody knows where they are taking them to.” Read more »

Violence at South African Mine Leaves Unanswered Questions

by John Campbell Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Striking miners arrive at a gathering outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 14, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) Striking miners arrive at a gathering outside a South African mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, August 14, 2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

There has been a particularly nasty outbreak of violence lasting several days at a South African platinum mine that has left at least ten people dead, including two police officers hacked to death by machetes. Police weapons have been stolen. Media commentators see the bloodshed as the result of a struggle between the National Union of Miners (NUM) and its rival, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), for members.  Predictably, each of the unions is accusing the other of fomenting the violence. Read more »

Counting Cars to Measure Africa’s Middle Class

by John Campbell Monday, August 13, 2012
Township residents pose on a luxury car in Soweto's Thokoza Park March 25, 2006. (Antony Kaminju/Courtesy Reuters) Township residents pose on a luxury car in Soweto's Thokoza Park March 25, 2006. (Antony Kaminju/Courtesy Reuters)

That Africa has a growing middle class has become conventional wisdom, and the prospect of a new and expanding consumer market excites investors. How to define the “middle class,” to say nothing of how big it is remains unclear. Uri Dadush and Shimelse Ali show a way forward in their article, “In Search of the Global Middle Class:  A New Index,” recently published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Read more »

The United States and South Africa: An Opportunity for Closer Relations

by John Campbell Thursday, August 9, 2012
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and South Africa's President Jacob Zuma attend a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009. (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and South Africa's President Jacob Zuma attend a photo call after a brief meeting in Durban, August 8, 2009. (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters)

Notwithstanding official rhetoric to the contrary, the bilateral relationship between South Africa and the United States is not as close as it ought to be.  The partnership has been thin on African regional challenges and the dialogue often superficial on issues ranging from reform of the United Nations Security Council to the leadership of international financial institutions or nuclear non-proliferation.  South African specialists in international affairs frequently see the United States as favoring violence over negotiation (as in the case of Libya) or as riding roughshod over the sovereignty of other nations (citing American-driven UN sanctions against Iran.) Americans, in turn, have seen South Africa as failing to assume a leadership role in Africa and too often inappropriately ascribing Western involvement in Africa merely to “neocolonialism.” Read more »

Brazil: A New Tiger in Africa?

by John Campbell Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva (L) is guided by his Zambian counterpart Rupiah Banda (R) on arrival at the Lusaka International Airport July 7, 2010. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva (L) is guided by his Zambian counterpart Rupiah Banda (R) on arrival at the Lusaka International Airport July 7, 2010. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Americans sometimes think that the Chinese in Africa are ten feet tall.  But, other countries are more quietly expanding their African economic and political ties:  India and South Korea come to mind.  A must-read August 8 story in the New York Times highlights the increasingly important Brazilian presence. Read more »