John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Boko Haram Factions and the Kidnapping of the Nigerian School Girls

by John Campbell Friday, May 30, 2014
A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in the remote village of Chibok, during a sit-in protest at the Unity fountain Abuja, May 12, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Jacob Zenn has published an important article that analyzes the various factions that comprise “Boko Haram,” their leadership and rivalries, and their links with other radical Islamist groups outside Nigeria. The article is dense and exhaustively documented. Here, I highlight certain of his points that I found especially relevant, given that the kidnapped Chibok school girls remain in captivity and a focus of intense domestic and international concern. Read more »

Negotiating Democracy in Malawi

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, May 29, 2014
Malawi's President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2013. (Ray Stubblebine/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Kate Collins, Associate Director, Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, who lived and worked in Malawi in 2012-2013. 

Malawi is currently witnessing a political drama that will prompt Americans to recall the days of hanging chads in Bush vs. Gore. On May 20, Malawi held tripartite presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. The vote was chaotic, accompanied by spasms of violence unusual for this quiet southern African country. Some urban polling centers were torched by angry crowds, and the army was dispatched to keep order. The elections were also marred by logistical hurdles that are part and parcel of working in Malawi. Even urban polling stations with good access to infrastructure saw bungled ballot delivery, rescheduled polling, and officials counting votes by hand at night in the dark. Read more »

Negotiating the Freedom of the Nigerian School Girls

by John Campbell Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Nigerian army chief-of-staff General Kenneth Minimah (C) leaves a closed door meeting with senators at the national assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, May 15, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

Nigeria is abuzz with speculation about government negotiations with Boko Haram over the release of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls. According to the Nigerian media, former president Obasanjo has been speaking with personalities “close to” Boko Haram. Names of other possible official negotiators circulate. Speculation is that the parameters of a possible deal would be Boko Haram freeing some or all of the girls in return for the government releasing Boko Haram operatives and/or their wives and children who are currently extra-judicially detained without charge. Read more »

Nigerian Chief of Defense Staff Responds to Critics of the Military

by John Campbell Tuesday, May 27, 2014
New Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, speaks during a handing over ceremony in Abuja January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

For many years, the Nigerian military was regarded as the most proficient in West Africa. It was commonly seen as the guardian of the nation, and was remarkably free of the ethnic and religious divisions that have bedeviled Nigeria as a nation. The downside of this proficiency was that as “the guardian of the nation” the military was regularly involved in coups and ruled the country most of the time between 1966 and 1999. Read more »

South Africa’s Political Playground

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, May 23, 2014
African National Congress election posters featuring images of South Africa's president Jacob Zuma are displayed on a wall as a school boy climbs over it in Embo, May 6, 2014. (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Derek Charles Catsam, associate professor of History and the Kathlyn Cosper Dunagan fellow in the Humanities at the University of Texas of the Perman Basin. Derek was senior editor for the Foreign Policy Association’s Africa blog from 2007 to 2014. Read more »

U.S. Military Engagement in the Hunt for the Nigerian School Girls, Its Size and Meaning

by John Campbell Thursday, May 22, 2014
Nigerian army spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade sits in front of a poster reading "we will win" at a news conference in Abuja, May 19, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

Boko Haram’s kidnapping of up to three hundred school girls has thoroughly engaged U.S. public opinion over the past few weeks. American narratives of its significance range from the humanitarian to persecution of Christians to the deprivation of educational opportunity for women to a resurgence of al Qaeda. Read more »

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Stonewalls on Security Service Human Rights Abuses

by John Campbell Wednesday, May 21, 2014
French President Francois Hollande (R) welcomes Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan as he arrives to attend the African Security Summit at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 17, 2014. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Courtesy Reuters)

President Jonathan delivered an important speech at the “Regional Summit on Security in Nigeria” held in Paris on May 17, 2014. Its worth a close reading because if provides the Jonathan administration’s “narrative” on Boko Haram, international terrorism, and the school girl kidnapping. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: April Incidents and Weekly Update, May 3-8

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Security officers stand guard as Borno state governor Kashim Shettima attends a ceremony marking part of a government program to combat Boko Haram in Borno through agriculture development, in Abuja, May 17, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

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

Over the past month, international policy makers have started to recognize the complex roots of the crisis, which the Nigerian government and media labels “Boko Haram.” Their new attention is due in large part to the kidnapping of some 270 girls from Chibok, Borno State, despite there having been a multitude of atrocities perpetrated by both Boko Haram and the security services since 2009. Read more »

The UK Stance on Boko Haram

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Monday, May 19, 2014
International Monetary Fund's (IMF) managing mirector Dominique Strauss-Kahn listens along side Tony Venables (L), chief economist for Department for International Development (DFID), and Remi Babalola (R), Nigerian minister of state, at a workshop at the Trancorp Hilton in Abuja, Nigeria February 27, 2008. (Stephen Jaffe/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Ioannis Mantzikos a PhD candidate at the University of Free State, South Africa. He is currently coauthoring a book with Dr. Denise Baken on the “Transformation of Terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa,” forthcoming July 2014. Read more »

Contemplating the Nigerian Crises That Attract International Notoriety

by John Campbell Friday, May 16, 2014
A man holds a placard calling for the release of secondary school girls abducted in the remote village of Chibok, during a protest along a road in Lagos, #BringBackOurGirls, May 14, 2014. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

There has been no end of atrocities related to the “Boko Haram” insurgency and the Nigerian government’s failed efforts to defeat it. For example, in February, “Boko Haram” slit the throats of some dozens of adolescent boys in the dormitory of a boarding school they attacked and burned. In March, the security services murdered in cold blood hundreds of detainees at Giwa Barracks charged with no crime, an event that is the subject of an Amnesty International report. Read more »