John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Gulu and Detroit: Bicycles to the Rescue

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, November 25, 2014
A gold miner uses a bicycle to transport a sack of sandy soil from a small scale mine in Bugiri, 348 km (216 miles) east of Kampala, Uganda's capital February 5, 2013. (Edward Echwalu/Courtesy Reuters) A gold miner uses a bicycle to transport a sack of sandy soil from a small scale mine in Bugiri, 348 km (216 miles) east of Kampala, Uganda's capital February 5, 2013. (Edward Echwalu/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. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update November 15-November 21

by John Campbell Monday, November 24, 2014
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from November 15 to November 21, 2014. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker.
Read more »

What’s Next for Burkina Faso?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, November 21, 2014
Anti-government protesters gather in the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, October 31, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) Anti-government protesters gather in the Place de la Nation in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, October 31, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Molly Rapaport, a Research Associate at the Council on Foreign Relations. She recently returned from a Fulbright fellowship in Burkina Faso, where she studied polygamy.

Ça chauffe moins pour le moment au Burkina. Things have cooled off in Burkina Faso, where massive protests three weeks ago led to the October 31 resignation of Blaise Compaoré. Blaise, as he is known colloquially, was president for twenty-seven years and intended to remain in power. When his proposed constitutional revision, which would have allowed him to run again in 2015, went to the National Assembly for a vote, hundreds of thousands of Burkinabe citizens protested. Their message, reinforced by burning the parliament building and tearing down a statue of Blaise, was crystal clear. Protest signs combined the president’s name with that of a terrible virus (making “Ebolaise”), and Burkinabe entreated their fellow citizens to “disinfect” themselves. Read more »

Can the U.S. Help Nigeria Confront Boko Haram?

by John Campbell Thursday, November 20, 2014
Women study Hadith excerpts at Maska Road Islamic School in Kaduna, July 16, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) Women study Hadith excerpts at Maska Road Islamic School in Kaduna, July 16, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

For a long time Nigeria was Washington’s most important strategic partner on issues of security and stability in Africa. But, the Boko Haram insurgency and Abuja’s response to it has put that partnership in jeopardy. The movement and the Nigerian government’s failed response to it pose a dilemma for the Obama administration. On the one hand, Boko Haram is repellent, regularly resorting to terror against the highly vulnerable, including the murder and kidnapping of young people in school. On the other hand, the official security forces carry out atrocities against the local population, and the government has thus far failed to address the drivers of the insurgency, including political marginalization, accelerating impoverishment, and rampant corruption. This state of affairs has allowed Boko Haram to ramp up its military campaign in 2014, having killed over 3,600 civilians and seizing control of more than 10 towns in northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram has also carried out cross-border operations, notably in northern Cameroon. Read more »

The U.S. Government Will Not Pay Ransom

by John Campbell Wednesday, November 19, 2014
A Chinese hostage, who was recently released by militant group Boko Haram, hugs a man upon his arrival at the Nsimalen International Airport in Yaounde in this October 11, 2014 still image taken from video. (Reuter TV/ Courtesy Reuters) A Chinese hostage, who was recently released by militant group Boko Haram, hugs a man upon his arrival at the Nsimalen International Airport in Yaounde in this October 11, 2014 still image taken from video. (Reuter TV/ Courtesy Reuters)

ISIS and other Middle Eastern groups are notorious for kidnapping. However, for radical Islamist groups in the Sahel and northern Nigeria, ransom is also an important source of funding. In Nigeria, and probably elsewhere, most of the victims are indigenous. Families of kidnapping victims routinely pay to secure the release of loved ones. Read more »

Tracking the Traffickers: The Need for Better Data

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, November 18, 2014
An adult male elephant looks up at a helicopter in a remote area of South Sudan, whose location cannot be disclosed due to issues of accelerating poaching, June 3, 2013. (Hereward Holland/Courtesy Reuters) An adult male elephant looks up at a helicopter in a remote area of South Sudan, whose location cannot be disclosed due to issues of accelerating poaching, June 3, 2013. (Hereward Holland/Courtesy Reuters)

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

In early 2014, an organization known as Elephants Without Borders began a project known as the Great Elephant Census. It is a massive undertaking that requires the coordination of many African governments, NGOs, and even USAID. The project will take place in twenty-two countries, ranging from Kenya to South Africa, that together represent over 95 percent of African savannah elephant territory. By the end of the survey 46 scientists will have logged over 18,000 flight hours in order to survey the elephant populations by air. The projects findings will be published in 2015. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update November 8-November 14

by John Campbell Monday, November 17, 2014
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from November 8 to November 14, 2014. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker.
Read more »

South Africa’s Rugby to be Transformed?

by John Campbell Friday, November 14, 2014
South Africa's Patrick Lambie (C) keeps the ball during their rugby union international test match against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, November 8, 2014. (Cathal McNaughton/Courtesy Reuters) South Africa's Patrick Lambie (C) keeps the ball during their rugby union international test match against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, November 8, 2014. (Cathal McNaughton/Courtesy Reuters)

Across the racial rainbow, South Africans love sports. They excel in individual sports, such as golf, but also team sports. Since the end of apartheid, the Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, has twice won the Rugby World Cup (it is tied with New Zealand and Australia for the most titles). South African rugby is among the best in the world. South Africa’s football (soccer) team has won the African Cup of nations, and South Africa has hosted the FIFA World Cup. Bafana Bafana, the national team is usually regarded as one of the best in Africa. Read more »

How Can U.S. Intel Training Help Fight Boko Haram?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, November 13, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (L) in New York, September 23, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (L) in New York, September 23, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Jesse Sloman is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and a reserve officer in the Marine Corps. He served on active duty from 2009 to 2013. The views expressed here are his own. Read more »

Nigeria’s Kidnapped Chibok School Girls and Boko Haram’s Forced Recruitment

by John Campbell Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Children are seen in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, that was set up for Nigerians fleeing the violence committed against them by Boko Haram militants, at Wurojuli, Gombe State, September 1, 2014. (Samuel Ini/Courtesy Reuters) Children are seen in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, that was set up for Nigerians fleeing the violence committed against them by Boko Haram militants, at Wurojuli, Gombe State, September 1, 2014. (Samuel Ini/Courtesy Reuters)

Jacob Zenn has written a thoughtful and important article, “Boko Haram: Recruitment, Financing, and Arms Trafficking in the Lake Chad Region.” It appears in the Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center based at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Read more »