John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

President Obama in Africa: Nelson Mandela’s Illness

by John Campbell Friday, June 28, 2013
Wellwishers cast shadows in front of portraits of Nelson Mandela (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama outside the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital, where the ailing former South African President is being treated, in Pretoria June 28, 2013. (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters)

President Obama met Nelson Mandela in 2005, when he was a senator from Illinois and speaks of him with glowing terms. Many Africans and Americans had hoped that the president’s trip to Africa would provide an opportunity for the first American president of African descent to meet with the iconic hero of the anti-apartheid struggle. Under these circumstances Nelson Mandela’s apparently rapidly deteriorating health poses particular challenges for the American president. There is speculation in the American and African media that should Mandela die in the next few days, it would overshadow the president’s first significant Africa trip. Read more »

President Obama in Africa: Senegal

by John Campbell Thursday, June 27, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Senegal President Macky Sall shake hands after their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace June 27, 2013. (Gary Cameron/Courtesy Reuters)

Senegal has never had a military coup, and the opposition won last year’s presidential election. It is also a predominately Muslim nation. President Obama arrived in Senegal the evening of June 26. At a joint press conference with Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, President Obama praised the country’s democracy and the rule of law. The president also publicly affirmed his support for gay rights; Senegal’s president responded that his country is not yet ready to decriminalize homosexuality. Obama also highlighted food security at a meeting with private sector and regional agricultural leaders. Read more »

The Leahy Amendment and Training Foreign Militaries

by John Campbell Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Real Admiral Richard Hunt (L) meets Tanzania Peoples Defence Forces (TPDF), Director of Training, Col. Charles Jitenga (R) during the opening Msata dispensary in Bagamoyo, 120km (75 miles) northwest of Dar es Salaam, August 17, 2006. (Emmanuel Kwitema/Courtesy Reuters)

A story in the June 21 New York Times, “Military Says Law Barring U.S. Aid to Right Violators Hurts Training Mission,” calls attention to a U.S. legal provision that prohibits U.S. training of foreign security forces that violate human rights. The Times reports that U.S. military leaders are complaining that the Leahy Amendment is restricting their ability to train foreign troops “to fight militants and drug traffickers.” The United Nations and other regional organizations are increasingly dependent on African peacekeepers, especially with respect to African conflicts, as the ongoing crisis in Mali demonstrates. Read more »

Communications Further Cut in Northeastern Nigeria

by John Campbell Tuesday, June 25, 2013
A woman tries to get reception on her mobile phone in Maiduguri, after the military declared a 24-hour curfew over large parts of the city in Borno State May 19, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

When President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states in response to a radical Islamist insurgency, the Nigerian government banned the use of cell phones. Earlier, the Islamists had destroyed many or most of the cell phone towers. A result has been little telephone communication between the northeast and the rest of the world. This is in addition to existing restrictions on the operations of the press in the affected region. A consequence is that the outside world knows little about what is actually going on in northeast Nigeria independent of government sources. Read more »

The Underside of “Africa Rising”

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Monday, June 24, 2013
General view of Alexandra township, commonly known as Alex, a slum overlooking the Sandton sky scrappers in Johannesburg August 23, 2002. (Juda Ngwenya/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.

Occasionally, the financial press experiences a twinge of conscience, or so it seems. News of Africa’s economic progress, in particular the growth of its middle classes, thrums almost daily though a range of papers. But this spring the Financial Times’ Simon Kuper slammed on the brakes. Read more »

Ansaru Logo Gives Hints to Boko Haram and Transnational Links

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, June 21, 2013

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor for the West Point CTC Sentinel.

Boko Haram has carried out hundreds of attacks since September 2010. But the attacks have been restricted almost exclusively to domestic targets. Therefore, when a breakaway faction, Ansaru, carried out a series of kidnappings against a British and an Italian engineer in Kebbi in May 2011; a German engineer in Kano in March 2012, (which was claimed by AQIM); a French engineer in Katsina in December 2012; seven foreign engineers in Bauchi in February 2013; and killed two Mali-bound Nigerian troops in Kogi, the insurgency took on a new dimension. Read more »

The United States and Drug Trafficking in Guinea-Bissau

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, June 20, 2013
Cocaine is displayed to journalists after being seized by Guinea-Bissau's judicial police in the capital Bissau March 21, 2012. (Joe Penney.Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Kyle Benjamin Schneps; a dual master’s degree candidate at Columbia University and junior fellow at the Institute for Strategic Studies in Dakar, Senegal.

On 2 April 2013, Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto was arrested by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in international waters off the coast of West Africa. He was arrested for his role in a transatlantic narco-trafficking operation in which he agreed to receive, store, and ship thousands of kilos of cocaine in exchange for millions of dollars and a cut of the product. Moreover, he agreed to this arrangement with DEA informants who were posing as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), a guerilla organization classified as terrorists by the U.S. government. Mr. Na Tchuto is the former chief of the Guinea-Bissau Navy and a lauded veteran of his nation’s war of independence against Portugal. Read more »

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea Greater than in the Horn of Africa

by John Campbell Wednesday, June 19, 2013
An Ivory Coast gendarmerie boat is seen at the port of Abidjan, April 23, 2013. (Thierry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters)

It is official. There is more piracy in the Gulf of Guinea now than off the coast of Somalia. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB), Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme (MPHRP) have published an intriguing report: The Human Cost of Maritime Piracy 2012. It is a fascinating read. It states that 966 sailors were attacked in the Gulf of Guinea and adjoining water in 2012, while 851 were victims of pirate attacks off the Somali coast over the same period. The report analyzes the differences in piracy between the two areas. In West Africa, it mostly takes place in national territorial waters, especially off of Nigeria, rather than in international waters. Vessels awaiting entry into port and those transferring oil from one vessel to another are particularly vulnerable. Rather than kidnapping for ransom as Somali pirates do, West African pirates are after oil cargoes or, in some cases, the personal property to be found on the vessels. Read more »

Zimbabwe Elections May Be Delayed – For Two Weeks

by John Campbell Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Zimbabwe Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai gestures during a news conference in Harare, June 13, 2013. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) special summit on the Zimbabwe elections went ahead on June 15 in Maputo, Mozambique, despite press reports that Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe had sought its postponement. Mugabe had unilaterally proclaimed that elections would go ahead on July 31, as mandated by the Zimbabwean constitutional court. The opposition parties, led by Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T, strongly objected to elections that soon because a package of reforms designed to prevent a repeat of the 2008 electoral violence has not been legislated or implemented. SADC, led by South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, has called for such a Zimbabwe “road map” that would promote free and fair elections. Read more »

Gay Marriage and Goodluck Jonathan’s Tricky Position

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Monday, June 17, 2013
President Goodluck Jonathan presents his administration's midterm report during Democracy Day in Abuja May 29, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Dominic Bocci, assistant director at the Council on Foreign Relations’ David Rockefeller Studies Program.

The passage of the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill on May 31, 2013, by the Nigerian House of Representatives places President Goodluck Jonathan in a tricky position. Not signing the bill risks alienating his own government and signaling to the general public that he does not support one of the few issues that brings the majority of Nigerians together. Alternatively, signing such legislation may cost the country substantial sums of international aid and investment. Either way, gay marriage—an otherwise unlikely political issue—may significantly influence the Nigerian political debate leading up to the 2015 national elections. Read more »