John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Dutch Court Finds for Shell in Niger Delta Pollution Case

by John Campbell Thursday, January 31, 2013
A Nigerian schoolboy walks past the logo of Dutch oil giant Shell near Warri in the volatile Niger-Delta region January 17,2006. (George Esiri/Courtesy Reuters) A Nigerian schoolboy walks past the logo of Dutch oil giant Shell near Warri in the volatile Niger-Delta region January 17,2006. (George Esiri/Courtesy Reuters)

Environmental degradation associated with the petroleum industry in the Niger Delta impacts directly on the livelihoods of indigenous farmers and fishermen. Environmental issues were an important basis for popular support, or at least acquiescence, for the low level insurgency carried out against the federal and state governments by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) between 2004 and 2007, with sporadic activities continuing into the present. Read more »

Jumping to Conclusions About the U.S. Military Presence in Niger

by John Campbell Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Undated file photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy shows a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle conducting tests over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. (Erik Hildebrandt/Courtesy Reuters) Undated file photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy shows a RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle conducting tests over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. (Erik Hildebrandt/Courtesy Reuters)

There has been press speculation that the United States is going to establish a drone base in Niger. They claim that the drones would initially be for surveillance, but they could later be armed. Read more »

The African Quest for an Alternative to the International Criminal Court at The Hague

by John Campbell Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo listens to the first sentence delivered by the International Criminal Court (ICC), at the ICC courtroom in the Hague July 10, 2012. (Jerry Lampen/Courtesy Reuters). Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo listens to the first sentence delivered by the International Criminal Court (ICC), at the ICC courtroom in the Hague July 10, 2012. (Jerry Lampen/Courtesy Reuters).

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been active in sub-Saharan Africa. Seven investigations have been launched in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, and Mali. Four prominent Kenyan politicians are due for trial in The Hague in April 2013. One of them, Uhuru Kenyatta, is a leading candidate in the upcoming Kenya presidential elections. Should he win, the new Kenyan head of state would start his term under ICC indictment. About half of sub-Saharan Africa accepts ICC jurisdiction. The United States does not. Read more »

Catholics Suspend National Activity In the Christian Association of Nigeria

by John Campbell Monday, January 28, 2013
Storm clouds gather over the Church of the Holy Trinity in Onitsha, Nigeria, April 14, 2005. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters) Storm clouds gather over the Church of the Holy Trinity in Onitsha, Nigeria, April 14, 2005. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters)

The Roman Catholic Church has suspended its participation in meetings at the national level of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). The Catholic bishops stated that “CAN is being dragged into partisan politics thereby compromising its ability to carry out its true role as conscience of the nation and the voice of the voiceless.” The current CAN president, Ayo Oritsejafor, has been an outspoken supporter of President Goodluck Jonathan and the governing Peoples Democratic Party. In reaction to the Catholic suspension of its participation, one CAN spokesman has said that they are “free to go.” He also accused them of “arrogance” and claimed they were angry because the presidency had moved to the Pentecostals. Read more »

Placing the Sahel Crisis in Context

by John Campbell Friday, January 25, 2013
A Malian soldier checks two civilians in the recently liberated town of Diabaly
24/01/2013. (Eric Gaillard/Courtesy Reuters) A Malian soldier checks two civilians in the recently liberated town of Diabaly 24/01/2013. (Eric Gaillard/Courtesy Reuters)

The confluence of a radical Islamist push toward the south in Mali, the consequent French intervention, a raid on a natural gas facility near In Amenas, Algeria, and Secretary Clinton’s congressional testimony on Benghazi on January 23, are generating the largely unexamined view that the war on terrorism with an al-Qaeda focus is underway in the Sahel-Sahara region of West Africa. The attack on In Amenas and the resulting tragic loss of life has particularly focused international attention. Read more »

Islamists Splintering in Mali

by John Campbell Thursday, January 24, 2013
A woman waves to French soldiers heading toward the recently liberated town of Diabaly 24/01/2013. (Eric Gaillard/Courtesy Reuters) A woman waves to French soldiers heading toward the recently liberated town of Diabaly 24/01/2013. (Eric Gaillard/Courtesy Reuters)

blogged previously that the Islamist occupation in northern Mali is inherently unstable. It includes Tuaregs as well as “Arabs,” who regard themselves as “white,” ruling over a population most of which it regards as “black.” Political maneuverings among those calling the shots amounts to little more than warlordism or competition among criminal syndicates dressed up in Islamic rhetoric. If there was a credible government in Bamako, there is a chance the northern coalition would collapse under its own weight. Read more »

Upsurge in Violence in Northern Nigeria Connected to Mali?

by John Campbell Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Nigerian soldiers sit in military trucks before leaving for Mali, at the airport in Nigeria 18/01/2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Nigerian soldiers sit in military trucks before leaving for Mali, at the airport in Nigeria 18/01/2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

High profile, violent killings have taken place in northern Nigeria at the same time as the French intervention in Mali.

On January 19, the emir of Kano barely survived an assassination attempt that wounded two of his sons, and killed four others. Read more »

Boko Haram and Nigerian Military Abuses in the North

by John Campbell Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Members of a local Islamic group sit after their arrest in Kano, Nigeria 28/07/2009. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Members of a local Islamic group sit after their arrest in Kano, Nigeria 28/07/2009. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Mali and Algeria have largely driven Nigeria out of the headlines over the past several days, except with respect to Nigerian troop commitments to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervention force. Serious and informed speculation about the relationship between Boko Haram, militants in Mali, and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has also been largely absent. Read more »

Nigeria Accelerates Involvement in Mali

by John Campbell Friday, January 18, 2013
Malian soldiers listen to Mali's President Dioncounda Traore speak at Malian air base in Bamako 16/01/2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) Malian soldiers listen to Mali's President Dioncounda Traore speak at Malian air base in Bamako 16/01/2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

What a difference a fortnight can make.

On January 7, 2013, the eve of the Islamist feint south, the Jonathan government announced that it was reducing its troop pledge for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Mali intervention force that was to be deployed in September 2013. Nigeria would contribute 450 troops, not 600. It also signaled that it would be unable to bear the lion’s share of the costs, as it had in previous ECOWAS interventions in African states to restore or maintain security. But, in the aftermath of the French intervention, the Jonathan government reversed its course to significantly increase that contribution. On January 17, the Nigerian Senate approved deployment of 1,200 troops. Some Nigerian troops have been on the ground in Mali for a few days already, according to the Abuja government. Read more »

Mali, Kidnapping, and Criminals

by John Campbell Thursday, January 17, 2013
French troops drive to Segou 16/01/2013. (Francois Rihouay/Courtesy Reuters) French troops drive to Segou 16/01/2013. (Francois Rihouay/Courtesy Reuters)

Mokhtar Belmokhtar’s group Al Mulathameen (translated by the New York Times as “The Brigade of the Masked Ones”) kidnapped more than forty international workers from the Algerian natural gas field, ln Amenas, which lies along the middle of Algeria’s eastern border with Libya. The attack was ostensibly in retaliation for French intervention in Mali, and specifically, the Algerian government’s decision to allow French military planes through their air space en route to Mali.  And that seems to be the assumption of much of the Western press commentary. Read more »