John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Unanswered Questions About The Kidnapped Nigerian School Girls

by John Campbell Wednesday, April 30, 2014
A soldier walks past a burnt vehicle during a military patrol in Hausari village, near Maiduguri and the Sambisa forest, June 5, 2013. (Joe Brock/Courtesy Reuters) A soldier walks past a burnt vehicle during a military patrol in Hausari village, near Maiduguri and the Sambisa forest, June 5, 2013. (Joe Brock/Courtesy Reuters)

The kidnapping of Nigerian school girls has outraged Nigerian and international opinion. The failure to find and release them after two weeks has further discredited the federal government and the Jonathan administration. This episode, combined with the bombing of a suburban Abuja bus terminal the day before the kidnapping, has brought home to the Nigerian public that their country’s crisis cannot be walled-off in the far northeast of the country. Read more »

A “Soft Approach” to Nigeria’s Boko Haram

by John Campbell Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Demonstrators confront a police officer (L) 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) Demonstrators confront a police officer (L) 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)

Many of Nigeria’s foreign friends have urged the Jonathan government to pursue a northern strategy that makes use of “softer” methods rather than a sole focus on “counter-terrorism” to respond to militants labeled “Boko Haram.” While “Counter-terrorism” places an emphasis on military action against the insurgency; there needs to be a greater focus on addressing its root causes, to “win the hearts and minds” of local people wherever possible. Read more »

South Africa’s May 7 Elections and What I Will Be Watching

by John Campbell Monday, April 28, 2014
Youth worker Nathaniel Groep, nineteen, stands in front of flats outside his home in Mannenberg, a gang-ravaged township, in Cape Town. Nathaniel said, "Every vote counts, particularly for young people. For our generation there are new possibilities and maybe we can build a brighter future. The issues I would like to see addressed are gangsterism, peer pressure and the lack of work opportunities." April 18, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters) Youth worker Nathaniel Groep, nineteen, stands in front of flats outside his home in Mannenberg, a gang-ravaged township, in Cape Town. Nathaniel said, "Every vote counts, particularly for young people. For our generation there are new possibilities and maybe we can build a brighter future. The issues I would like to see addressed are gangsterism, peer pressure and the lack of work opportunities." April 18, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters)

There seems to be a good deal of genuinely democratic ferment in South Africa, and the post-apartheid political mold may be breaking apart. South Africa’s new political directions may be clearer by the next election cycle, that of 2019. Nevertheless, in this cycle, with election day on May 7, voting trends may indicate the direction that politics will be moving over the next five years. Read more »

United Nations: Harsh Realities and Hard Lessons

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, April 25, 2014
A barefoot girl jumps over an open drain filled with rubbish at Tomping camp in Juba, South Sudan, January 10, 2014. (Andreea Campeanu/Courtesy Reuters) A barefoot girl jumps over an open drain filled with rubbish at Tomping camp in Juba, South Sudan, January 10, 2014. (Andreea Campeanu/Courtesy Reuters)

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

International peacekeeping missions in Sudan and South Sudan received a lot of bad press last week from a number of different sources. Together these reports challenge a basic tenant of United States (U.S.) policy toward Africa–that peacekeeping missions, in their current form, work. Read more »

Nigeria: “This State Has Failed”

by John Campbell Thursday, April 24, 2014
A bystander reacts as she sees victims of a bomb blast arriving at the Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja, April 14, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) A bystander reacts as she sees victims of a bomb blast arriving at the Asokoro General Hospital in Abuja, April 14, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Holy Week was rough in Nigeria. On Saturday, April 12 “Boko Haram” invaded two villages in Borno, and killed thirty-eight people. On April 14, “Boko Haram” claimed responsibility for the bombing at the Nyana bus park in suburban Abuja that killed seventy people (official figures) or 500 (estimates from observers). Read more »

South Africa’s May National Elections a Watershed? Not Yet

by John Campbell Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Supporters of Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party cheer at the launch of the EFF's election manifesto in Tembisa township, east of Johannesburg, February 22, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters) Supporters of Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party cheer at the launch of the EFF's election manifesto in Tembisa township, east of Johannesburg, February 22, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters)

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) is in decline, but it will most likely win the upcoming elections on May 7. Many voters are angry over its corruption, symbolized by public money spent on President Jacob Zuma’s private, African-styled Versailles named Nkandla, and last year’s unresolved police brutality, labor disputes, and other issues at the Marikana platinum mine. Read more »

A Very Bad Week for Nigeria

by John Campbell Tuesday, April 22, 2014
A man walks between vehicles that were destroyed during an attack by Boko Haram militants in Bama, Borno State, February 20, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) A man walks between vehicles that were destroyed during an attack by Boko Haram militants in Bama, Borno State, February 20, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Below is the Weekly Update for April 12-17 from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST). It can also be found here. Last week was Holy Week and Passover. It was probably the worst week for violence and carnage since Nigeria’s 1967-70 civil war. Read more »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: “We Are in Abuja!”

by John Campbell Monday, April 21, 2014
Burnt and damaged vehicles are seen at the scene of the bomb blast explosion at Nyanyan, Abuja April 14, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Burnt and damaged vehicles are seen at the scene of the bomb blast explosion at Nyanyan, Abuja April 14, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

In a video released over the weekend, Boko Haram warlord Abubakar Shekau took responsibility for the April 14 bombing at the suburban Abuja bus station that killed at least seventy-five people and probably many more. He claimed to be physically present in Abuja. He was dismissive of President Goodluck Jonathan, whom he characterized as beholden to President Barack Obama. Read more »

Zimbabwe and Nigeria: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Most Corrupt of Them All?

by John Campbell Friday, April 18, 2014
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe addresses supporters during celebrations to mark his 90th birthday in Marondera about 80km ( 50 miles) east of the capital Harare, February 23, 2014. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters) Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe addresses supporters during celebrations to mark his 90th birthday in Marondera about 80km ( 50 miles) east of the capital Harare, February 23, 2014. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

Robert Mugabe, the poster boy for bad governance in Africa, said last month that Zimbabweans were behaving “like Nigerians” with respect to bribes and corruption. This, he implied, is not a good thing. Read more »

Boko Haram Kidnaps Nigerian School Girls

by John Campbell Thursday, April 17, 2014
A school girl walks past a burnt building in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, August 3, 2009. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuteres) A school girl walks past a burnt building in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, August 3, 2009. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuteres)

A Boko Haram warlord Abubakar Shekau, in his latest video reiterated his war on western education, as well as calling for antigovernment operations throughout Nigeria, with specific reference to Abuja, Lagos, and oil producing areas. Over the past month, there have been successful large-scale operations against the security services in Maiduguri (Giwa Barracks, March 14), in Abuja (an attack on the State Security Services’ headquarters, March 30) and the attack on the Abuja suburb bus station on April 14. At the same time, there are reports of numerous, smaller Boko Haram operations. Read more »