John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Nigeria’s Sani Abacha: Where is the Loot?

by John Campbell Tuesday, November 26, 2013
FILE PHOTO-SEP93-The new Nigeria's military head of state General Sani Abacha who took over after the former military-appointed interim leader resigned on November 17th (STR New/Courtesy Reuters)

The head of Nigeria’s last military government was Sani Abacha. Abacha, who was in power from 1993 to 1998 and who died under suspicious circumstances in 1998, is commonly regarded as Nigeria’s most brutal dictator. Because of human rights violations committed under his regime, the Commonwealth of Nations suspended Nigeria’s membership in the Commonwealth and the United States and many other western countries cooled their bilateral relationship with Nigeria. Read more »

Polio in Nigeria: Progress and Continued Obstacles

by John Campbell Monday, November 25, 2013
Arnaud Bivilia, 12, who suffers from polio, stands at the Stand Proud compound in Kinshasa November 29, 2011. (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters)

Polio numbers in Nigeria for 2013 are likely to be less than they were in 2012. Given the turmoil in northeastern Nigeria associated with the Boko Haram insurrection, this would seem to indicate real progress for the polio eradication program despite the insecurity of the region that the program operates in. However, the security situation in Nigeria, and elsewhere where polio is found, political, and religious obstacles continue to impede the eradication of the disease. Read more »

Tracking the Traffickers: A More Comprehensive Anti-Poaching Approach

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, November 22, 2013
Ryan Yetter, a federal wildlife officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stands guard next to a huge pile of confiscated elephant tusks, before 6 tons of ivory was crushed, in Denver, Colorado November 14, 2013. (Rick Wilking/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Emily Mellgard, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

In the fight to save Africa’s wildlife and stem the tide of senseless slaughter for profit, awareness campaigns across the globe are as crucial as more boots on the ground in the game reserves and parks. Read more »

African Optimists

by John Campbell Thursday, November 21, 2013
A Somali boy jumps between old fishing boats above Mogadishu's fishing harbour near the fish market in the Xamar Weyne district of the Somali capital, in this handout photo taken March 16, 2013 by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team (AU-UN IST) and released March 18, 2013. (Handout/Courtesy Reuters)

Joshua Keating has written a brief, thought-provoking article in Slate titled “The Optimistic Continent.” He notes that the World Economic Forum’s Survey on the Global Agenda identifies Africa as the world’s most optimistic region about the ability of institutions (public and private) to respond to “global challenges.” Read more »

Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Ansaru Getting Back Together?

by John Campbell Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Crowds fill Abubakar Gumi central market after authorities relaxed a 24 hour curfew in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, June 24, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, a French Catholic priest, Georges Vandenbeusch, was kidnapped in northern Cameroon. According to the local Roman Catholic bishop, some fifteen gunmen invaded the priest’s compound looking for money.

A nun working in the community said the kidnappers spoke English, not French, the predominant European language in that part of Cameroon. A Cameroonian official says that Fr. Vandenbeusch has been spirited away to Nigeria. An anonymous sources, quoted by France-24, claims that the operation was joint between Boko Haram and Ansaru. Read more »

Boko Haram Pivots Toward Rural Areas in Nigeria

by John Campbell Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Soldiers walk through Hausari village during a military patrol near Maiduguri June 5, 2013. Burnt out vehicles and scattered rubbish is all that's left of a militant camp near Maiduguri, northern Nigeria. (Joe Brock/Reuters Staff)

The jihadist insurgency called Boko Haram appears to have reduced its operations in urban areas. This follows the massive deployment of security forces in northeastern Nigeria in line with the Abuja government’s June proclamation of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. According to the media, life has almost returned to normal in some parts of Maiduguri. However, the Nigerian security services claimed in October that they thwarted a possible terrorist attack in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city. Read more »

Refugee Flows from Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell Monday, November 18, 2013
Women attempt to cross Jos Road with their belongings, after the military declared a 24-hour curfew over large parts of Maiduguri in Borno State May 19, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

The UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs has registered 37,332 people fleeing the fighting between the Nigerian security services and jihadist insurgents called Boko Haram. According to the UN, the refugees have been registered at Diffa, in southeast Niger. The flow of refugees into Niger has increased sixfold since the Abuja government declared a state of emergency in Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa states in June this year. Read more »

Afrobarometer Shows Mixed Results on Africa’s Fight Against Corruption

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, November 15, 2013
A protester displays a modified Kenyan 1,000 Shilling note ($12) imprinted with an image of a pig to depict what he says is greed in lawmakers demanding for a pay rise, during a demonstration in Nairobi, June 11, 2013. (Noor Khamis/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Diptesh Soni. Diptesh is a master’s degree candidate at the Columbia University School of International Public Affairs (SIPA) studying economic and political development. You can read more by him at: Read more »

The United States Designates Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations

by John Campbell Thursday, November 14, 2013
A woman sits amongst the burnt ruins of the Bama Market, which was destroyed by gunmen in last Thursday's attack, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria April 29, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

On November 13, the White House announced that the United States had formally designated Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorists. This comes after a heated debate within the Obama administration and among Nigeria watchers that began in earnest after the 2011 suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja, for which Boko Haram claimed credit. Read more »

Is South Africa “African?”

by John Campbell Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), sings for his supporters at the Pietermaritzburg high court outside Durban August 4, 2008. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

An off-hand comment made by President Jacob Zuma this month implied that South Africa is fundamentally different from the rest of Africa. His comments have resulted in renewed debate about the extent to which South Africa is “African.” Some examples of the debate can be found here. Read more »