John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Mali and Tuaregs: Déjà Vu All Over Again?

by John Campbell Monday, September 30, 2013
A marching band parade during the inauguration celebration of Mali's new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at the 26th of March Stadium in Bamako September 19, 2013. (Michel Euler/Courtesy Reuters)

The Tuareg rebels and the Malian government reached a peace agreement in June that allowed Mali’s August elections to go forward. They–generally regarded as free and fair–resulted in the election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who has now been inaugurated. At the end of September, however, three separatist Tuareg groups announced that they are suspending their participation in the peace process with the government. They accuse the Bamako government of failing to live up to promises made in June. They provide no specifics, and neither the Keita government nor the UN peacekeeping mission has commented on the suspension. Read more »

New South African Political Party AgangSA Gets Support from an Unexpected Quarter

by John Campbell Friday, September 27, 2013
Crowds cheer as anti-apartheid activist Mamphela Ramphele launches her new political party "Agang" to challenge South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Pretoria, June 22, 2013. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters)

There are two new political parties on the South African firmament designed to appeal to black voters disenchanted with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). One is AgangSA, founded by anti-apartheid icon Mamphela Ramphele. It emphasizes good governance, better service delivery, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. The other is the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), organized by former ANC youth leader and “bad-boy” Julius Malema. EFF advocates wholesale seizure and redistribution of land, mines, and much of the rest of the economy that is historically owned or controlled by whites; regardless of costs. Read more »

Why Did South Africa’s Jacob Zuma Cave to Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe?

by John Campbell Thursday, September 26, 2013
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (L) and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma (R) visit a maize stand during their tour at Harare Agricultural Show, August 28, 2009. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Simukai Tinhu in Think Africa Press provides a credible answer as to why South African President Jacob Zuma seemingly abandoned his democratic principles and his African leadership role in the face of Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe’s intransigence during his country’s July elections process. Read more »

U.S. Sanctions and Zimbabwe

by John Campbell Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Crowds cheer Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe during a rally in the capital Harare March 2, 2011. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party repeatedly assert that the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy is the result of Western–especially American–sanctions. He repeats it enough that African public opinion may start to believe it. Mugabe used sanctions as the pretext for refusing to allow U.S. election observers in Zimbabwe during the July elections this year. Read more »

Nigeria: Anglican Archbishop Joins Ranks of the Kidnapped in Nigeria

by John Campbell Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Some 24 hostages of the Philippines sit as they are guarded by militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) at an undisclosed location on the creeks of Niger delta January 31, 2007. (George Esiri/ Courtesy Reuters)

Kidnapping of prominent persons for ransom is so common in southern Nigeria that according to the Economist, the press largely ignores it unless the victim is especially prominent. Last year, the mother of Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was kidnapped and released allegedly upon payment of a ransom. In September of this year, the Anglican archbishop of the Niger Delta Province of the Anglian Communion, Ignatus Kattey and his wife were kidnapped in oil-rich Rivers State; she was quickly released, but he was held for nine days. The archbishop told the press that he did not know if a ransom was paid. The police are claiming credit for his release, but the archbishop is emphatic: “The police did not rescue me. They were not the ones who rescued my wife, Beatrice… The police are telling lies, if you cannot trust the police again, then who can you trust? I told the commissioner of police and he has apologized.” Read more »

Is the Nairobi Mall Carnage Bigger than Just Kenya?

by John Campbell Monday, September 23, 2013
Relatives and Muslim faithful bury the slain body of Rehmad Mehbub, 18, who was killed in a crossfire between armed men and the police at the Westgate shopping mall, in Kenya's capital Nairobi September 22, 2013. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters)

The weekend’s horrific al-Shabaab attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall is still not over, and the context and consequences of the attack are uncertain. Despite Kenyan authorities’ claim of “full control” of the building , at last report the militants were still “hiding” and many hostages remained unaccounted for. Westgate is upmarket, and the victims are also up-market, including the nephew of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his fiancé. Read more »

Closer Military Ties Between Nigeria and China?

by John Campbell Friday, September 20, 2013
General view of the Nigerian National Assembly as Chinese President Hu Jintao gives his address in Abuja April 27, 2006. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Nigerian media is reporting that on September 18, China and Nigeria “pledged” closer military cooperation, especially with respect to terrorism and disaster response. The two nations appear to envisage exchanges between respective defense colleges. There will presumably be other interactions as well. Read more »

Nigeria’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Under Fire and the Ghost of Biafra

by John Campbell Thursday, September 19, 2013
Nigeria's Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, January 26, 2012. (Christian Hartmann/Courtesy Reuters)

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the minister of finance in Goodluck Jonathan’s government, is widely respected by the international economic community. A veteran of the World Bank, she served as finance minister in Olusegun Obasnajo’s second administration (2003-2007) and successfully negotiated Paris Club debt relief. Read more »

Declining Poverty Rates in South Africa

by John Campbell Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Passengers read newspapers on a business express train in Johannesburg December 11, 2008. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

There is good and bad news about poverty in South Africa: The good news is that poverty is declining, as is the gross discrepancy between white incomes and those of everybody else. The bad news is that it is happening very, very slowly. That is the conclusion reached by Rebecca Davis in The Daily Maverick following the release of a new report by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) that looks at the economic performance of blacks since the coming of “non-racial” democracy in 1994. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Shows Upsurge in Violence

by John Campbell Tuesday, September 17, 2013
A woman carrying a child stands near burnt houses in the aftermath of what Nigerian authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, adjacent to the Chadian border, April 21, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

The Nigeria Security Tracker (NST) has been updated with the data from August 2013. While my analysis of the data is, at the moment, preliminary, there appears to be a renewed upsurge in violence since the declaration of the state of emergency on May 14, 2013; contrary to official spokespersons. Read more »