John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

What Happened Sunday Morning in Abuja?

by John Campbell Monday, March 31, 2014
A police officer keeps watch during a protest against the elimination of a popular fuel subsidy that has doubled the price of petrol, in Nigeria's capital Abuja, January 9, 2012. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

According to the Nigerian media, there was heavy gunfire that may have lasted some hours very close to Aso Rock, the presidential villa, starting at about 7:15 a.m. Sunday morning. The gunfire appears to have been centered at Yellow House, the headquarters of the State Security Services (SSS). Read more »

Al Shabaab, AMISOM, and the United States

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, March 28, 2014
A woman walks by an armoured vehicle of the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) outside the perimeter area of the Kismayu airport, November 11, 2013. (Siegfried Modola/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Alex Dick-Godfrey, program coordinator, Studies administration for the Council on Foreign Relations Studies Program.

In a recent article on the Daily Maverick, Simon Allison identifies the “surprisingly perceptive” core message of al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane’s recent propaganda audio message. Read more »

Really, Really Rich People in Africa

by John Campbell Thursday, March 27, 2014
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (back L) looks on as Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote points to the site of a new cement plant branch during a commissioning ceremony at the Dangote cement factory in Obajana, Kogi state, June 11, 2012. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

According to Forbes, the first African ever has entered into the “top 25” of the world’s billionaires. He is Aliko Dangote, number 23. Forbes says that his net worth is now U.S. $25 billion up from $3.3 billion in 2007. His wealth is based on cement, but he is also investing in agriculture. Read more »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Releases New Videos

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Pius Nna, the village head of Angwan Gata, walks through one of the rooms destroyed when gunmen attacked his village in Kaura local government Kaduna State, March 19, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 14, fighting broke out in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, including at the Giwa Barracks –the military’s main headquarters in Borno. “Boko Haram” claims it secured the release of two thousand detainees during the siege on the barracks. Abubakar Shekau released two new videos to claim responsibility for the attack. Read more »

“To Live and Die in LA,” and Maiduguri

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, March 25, 2014
A dog walks past burnt houses in Angwan Gata village, in Kaura local government area, Kaduna State, March 19, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/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.

Northeastern Nigeria increasingly resembles the world depicted in the 1985 film, To Live and Die in LA. Directed by William Friedkin, the story is about Secret Service agents’ pursuit of a counterfeiter. In the process, differences between criminals and law enforcement personnel nearly disappear. A reviewer observes that the criminals have more of an inner life than the law enforcers, whose actions are “endlessly self-consuming,” leading to “meaningless death and brutality.” A “contradictory moral universe” emerges “where the wrong people die and redemption is an illusion.” Read more »

Fireworks During White House Meeting of Northern Nigerian Governors

by John Campbell Monday, March 24, 2014
Kwire-Mana, Kpafrato II, Homun Honest Stephen (R), receives his staff of office from Adamawa state governor, Murtala Nyako, during a presentation ceremony at Makwada Square in Numan, Adamawa state, December 7, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 18, governors from Nigeria’s north and Middle Belt met with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice and other U.S. officials at the White House. The governors come from states where economic development is slow or non-existent and includes those where the radical, Islamist insurgency “Boko Haram” is active. Read more »

Carnage at Giwa Barracks in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell Friday, March 21, 2014
Two boys stand near the charred chassis of a vehicle after a bomb attack near a busy market area in Ajilari-Gomari near the city's airport, in Maiduguri, March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 14, insurgents labeled “Boko Haram” attacked the Giwa Barracks, a major army facility in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. At the time, military spokesmen said that a significant number of “Boko Haram” members were killed. However, in a horrific article in the March 21 New York Times, Adam Nossiter reports that the victims of the killing spree outside the gates of the Giwa Barracks were young men who had previously been indiscriminately rounded up and detained in Giwa Barracks without charge. Read more »

South African President Jacob Zuma’s “Let Them Eat Cake” Moment?

by John Campbell Thursday, March 20, 2014
A general view of the Nkandla home of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, August 2, 2012. (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters)

There is an apocryphal story that in France, King Louis XVI’s queen Marie Antoinette was once told, “Madame, the people have no bread.” To which she replied, “then let them eat cake.” The reality behind the story was of a self-centered court widely perceived as isolated from the French people. The French Revolution followed shortly after. Read more »

“Africa Rising” and Freedom of the Press

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Major General Fred Mugisha, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander, shows the media examples of components of improvised explosive devices that have been found on the streets of Mogadishu, which were subsequently defused, removed and deactivated by AMISOM in Mogadishu in a photograph released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team November 29, 2011. (AU-UN/Stuart Price/Courtesy Reuters)

The “Africa Rising” narrative that reflects GDP growth of many African economies is strongly supported by sub-Saharan governments, African popular opinion, and by business interests, at home and abroad. Mohamed Keita from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) writes a salutary reminder that the authorities in too many cases try to suppress home media challenges to this positive and optimistic narrative. Read more »

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Families from Gwoza, Borno State, displaced by the violence and unrest caused by the insurgency, are pictured at a refugee camp in Mararaba Madagali, Adamawa State, February 18, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

The ongoing insurgency in northern Nigeria, called “Boko Haram,” and the government’s often brutal attempts to suppress it, have produced a tide of refugees and internally displaced in one of the world’s poorest regions. With the “fog of war,” government restrictions on news agencies, and a poor communications infrastructure, it is difficult to survey needs with precision. Read more »