John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Julius Malema and South African Politics

by John Campbell Friday, September 28, 2012
South African former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema gestures to his supporters during his court appearance in Polokwane 26/09/2012. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

The African National Congress’ (ANC) firebrand outcast Julius Malema has been formally charged with money laundering linked to state contracts in his native Limpopo province, probably the poorest in South Africa. Malema, former leader of the ANC’s Youth League, is a radical voice calling for nationalization of the mines and expropriation of white owned land without compensation. Formerly allies, he and South African president Jacob Zuma are now bitter enemies. The ANC expelled Malema from the party and the youth league in November 2011. However, many–perhaps most–of the youth league members still regard him as their leader. (The youth league is traditionally the most radical part of the ANC.) Read more »

Mugabe Fights the Proposed Zimbabwe Constitution With Homophobia

by John Campbell Thursday, September 27, 2012
Police escort a group of 46 arrested Zimbabwean activists into a Magistrates Court in Harare 24/02/2011. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Human rights organizations are charging the Zimbabwe police with accelerating harassment of the gay community as the country approaches the election season.  Robert Mugabe is opposed to provisions in the draft constitution that would dilute presidential authority, and is angling to create popular support against the draft before it is submitted to a voters referendum.  Though the current draft makes no reference to gay rights or gay marriage, Mugabe and his supporters may be using that silence on both issues to rally opposition to it by association. Earlier in the year, Mugabe tied the new constitution to gay rights by saying that there were efforts to insert a same-sex marriage clause in the draft. He is quoted as saying, “we won’t accept that.” Read more »

South Africa’s Way Forward

by John Campbell Wednesday, September 26, 2012
A detained miner peers out of a police van as it arrives at court in Ga Rankuwa, near Pretoria 03/09/2012 (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters).

Moeletsi Mbeki, with Refiloe Morwe, has written a must-read piece for South Africa watchers: “Economic Growth in South Africa:  Has the ANC Got It Wrong?” His bottom line:  yes, it has. Read more »

More Nigerian Church Bombings

by John Campbell Tuesday, September 25, 2012
A woman cries during a mass funeral for the victims of Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic church, outside Nigeria's capital Abuja 01/02/2012. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters).

On Sunday, September 24, immediately after an early mass, a suicide bomber attacked St. John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Bauchi. Five were reported killed with another forty-six injured.  Doctors warn that many of the wounded are in bad condition, and may die. No part of Boko Haram, a radical Islamic movement that targets the Nigerian political economy, has claimed responsibility. It is likely, however, that most Nigerians will impute to it the responsibility. The BBC, among other media, has stated that church bombings have waned while Boko Haram shifted its focus to communications towers. The Nigerian press, on the other hand, has reported attacks nearly every Sunday since at least the beginning of August. Read more »

Guest Post: Flash Mob Dynamics of Boko Haram

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Monday, September 24, 2012
Women run from the scene of a church bombing in Nigeria 11/03/2012 (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.

The recent tragedy in Benghazi exhibited flash mob characteristics, which Wired magazine makes a useful comparison to with similar violence in Mexico, Darfur, and Nigeria. These dynamics were also present in the London 2011 riots, which I have commented on previously. Read more »

Africa Impoverished?

by John Campbell Friday, September 21, 2012
A woman and her children wash gravel from local mines in hope of finding sapphires in the town of Sakaraha 16/09/2007. (Jasleen Kaur Sethi/Courtesy Reuteres)

I had always thought that Africa was a cornucopia of mineral riches:  gold, platinum, coal, diamonds, oil–you name it; Africa has it all.

Maybe not so, writes Bright Simons in “Africa’s Fabulous Mineral Wealth that Isn’t all There,” published in African Arguments.  Read more »

Proposals on Restructuring Nigerian Governance

by John Campbell Thursday, September 20, 2012
Nigerian Vice President Abubakar, Buhari and Otomi are seen during the meeting of the oppositions' presidential candidates in Abuja 19/04/2007. (Handout/Courtesy Reuters)

Against the background of continuing political and security crises in Nigeria, elder statesmen–and others–are doing some serious thinking about how to change the constitution to create more effective governance. At an awards ceremony sponsored by one of Nigeria’s serious newspapers, Leadership, three major political figures made concrete suggestions. Read more »

South Africa Universities Rank in Top Seven Hundred

by John Campbell Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Students shout slogans during a protest at the University of Johannesburg 04/03/2010 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

In all sub-Saharan Africa, only South Africa contributes universities to the top seven hundred worldwide.   In a recent report published by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), a leading consulting firm on higher education and careers information, the University of Cape Town (UCT) ranks 154 out of seven hundred universities. The University of the Witswaterand (Wits) ranks 364. Also within the top seven hundred–but low down–are the universities of Stellenbosh, Pretoria, and KwaZulu-Natal.  Number one is MIT, followed by the University of Cambridge.  Yale is number seven and Caltech number ten.  The University of Virginia is 123.  Just before UCT at 153 is L’Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon and just after it at 155, the University of California at Irvine. Read more »

Will the Radical Islamic Shoe Drop in West Africa?

by John Campbell Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group sit on a vehicle in Gao in northeastern Mali, June 18, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Anti-American rioting recently erupted in the Middle East, and has spread from Indonesia to Tunisia. But, with the exception of Sudan-Khartoum, a borderland between Africa and the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa has been blessedly free of violence associated with the obscure video of American origin, The Innocence of Muslims that defames Islam. (According to al-Jazeera, an Egyptian Christian Copt and a pornographic film director played leading roles in its production.) The absence of a popular, violent reaction to the film is particularly noteworthy in Mali and Nigeria, two countries in which radical Islamic movements pose a direct threat to the state. Read more »

Defining “Africa” Through Geography or Regional Cooperation

by John Campbell Monday, September 17, 2012
Citizens of Mali protest during the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting, where the Mali crisis and Guinea-Bissau coup are discussed, in Abidjan April 26, 2012. (Luc Gnago/Courtesy Reuters)

What is “Africa?” Nomenclature raises difficult issues. Maps in school rooms show “Africa” as a distinct continent, the second largest in the world. But the U.S. Department of State assigns North Africa –the states of the Mediterranean littoral (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco), to its Near East bureau– not its Africa bureau.  On the other hand, the Department of Defense’s African Command (AFRICOM) includes Africa’s Mediterranean littoral with most of the rest of the continent in its area of responsibility.  The international consulting organization McKinsey & Co. included North Africa in its aggregated data on Africa in its well-known report Lions on the Move, the results of which would have been different absent the relative economic powerhouses of the Mediterranean littoral. The Libyan dictator Qaddafi famously tried to pose as an “African”—not Middle Eastern– leader, and he bankrolled the African Union. The Council on Foreign Relations follows the Department of State’s usage. Read more »