John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Famine in Africa Getting U.S. Media Attention

by John Campbell
An internally displaced Somali child who fled from drought stricken regions receives treatment inside a hospital ward for diarrhea patients in Baidoa, west of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, March 26, 2017. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)

The March 28, 2017 edition of The New York Times on the front page above the fold has a color image of a Somali child clearly starving to death. Heading up The Times’s international section is a full page story by Jeffrey Gettleman, “Drought and War Deepen Risk of Not just 1 Famine, but 4.” The story is accompanied by four photographs. Gettleman reports on famine or near famine in Somalia, northern Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan. Read more »

U.S. Shoots Itself in the Foot over Visas for Africans

by John Campbell
Abdul Giwa holds a copy of his passport during an interview with Reuters on the recent pronouncements of the Kaduna State government on the activity of the Shi'ite group in Kaduna, Nigeria, November 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Each year the University of Southern California hosts the African Global Economic and Development Summit. It is intended to bring together business, government, and others interested in U.S.-African trade and investment. This year, according to the Voice of America (VOA) there were no African participants. All Africans that had been invited or applied to attend were denied U.S. visas, including speakers and African government officials. This included citizens of U.S. partners such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Nigeria and South Africa have the continent’s largest economies and both are on a democratic trajectory. In addition, Ethiopia is an important U.S. strategic partner in the war on terror, while Ghana has notable growing economic and cultural ties with the United States. Read more »

The Future of Islamic State Operations in Africa

by John Campbell
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government aims his weapon as he takes up position inside a ruined house at the front line of fighting with Islamic State militants in Ghiza Bahriya district in Sirte, Libya, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

As the self-proclaimed Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, there is increasing concern that it will gradually shift its operations to Africa. Indeed, in late 2016, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi claimed that the group had shifted elements of command, media, and wealth to Islamic State “provinces in north Africa and west Africa.” However, in a useful article Joseph Siegle of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies convincingly argues that the Islamic State is not well established in those areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where extremist Islamist groups operate. The two most violent groups, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, predate the formation of the Islamic State and are not dependent on it for operational or tactical support. Furthermore, it is the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that is the major ideological foundation of radical, Jihadi Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the Islamic State. Read more »

President Trump’s “Skinny Budget” and Peacekeeping

by John Campbell
U.S. President Donald Trump's overview of the budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 are displayed at the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) on its release by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington, U.S. March 16, 2017. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

At present, there are sixteen UN peacekeeping missions around the world, nine of which are in Africa: Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Western Sahara (Sudan has two, Darfur and Abyei). Like all UN peacekeeping missions, these were mandated by the UN Security Council (UNSC). UN peacekeeping operations funding is the responsibility of all member states. The UN uses a complex formula to assess member state contributions that, among other things, takes into account relative wealth. Beyond that formula, the permanent five members on the UNSC (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) pay a supplement because of their special responsibilities and privileges. Read more »

Nigerian Army Abuse of Civilians

by John Campbell
A Nigerian soldier practices marksmanship during Flintlock 2016, a U.S.-led international training exercise with African militaries in Thies, Senegal, February 11, 2016. (REUTERS/Sylvain Cherkaoui)

There have been a series of credible reports on the Nigerian army’s abuse of civilians in the struggle against the jihadist movement Boko Haram. A story on the front page of the February 28, New York Times cites a particular village where residents said that there were no Boko Haram present. Apparently, the soldiers did not believe the villagers and concluded that it was nest of Boko Haram. In response, the army proceeded to torch the village and slaughter the majority of its male population. Read more »

Yet Again, No Mo Ibrahim Prize Awarded

by John Campbell
Mo Ibrahim Foundation Founder and Chair Mo Ibrahim (L) looks out into the audience as he and Equity Bank Group CEO James Mwangi participate in a panel discussion on investment during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington August 5, 2014. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

In February, the Ibrahim foundation announced that, yet again, it would not be awarding it’s famed Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Mo Ibrahim, a British-Sudanese telecom billionaire, established the award in 2006. It is probably the richest international prize in the world. It awards laureates $5 million over ten years, then $200,000 per year for life. In addition, laureates may apply for an additional $200,000 per year for their own philanthropy. The prize appears to have been designed to recognize and encourage African leadership of the highest quality and also to free them from post-presidential financial burdens. The selection committee, numbering seven, is of outstanding quality: it includes former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, former first lady of both Mozambique and South Africa Graca Machel, and former president of Bostwana (and laureate) Festus Mogae. Read more »

Maduekwe Trial to Begin in June

by John Campbell
Nigeria's Petroleum Minister and OPEC's alternate president Diezani Alison-Madueke adjusts her glasses at the annual IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas, March 4, 2014. (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

Former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources Diezani Allison Maduekwe will be tried for money laundering in the United Kingdom in June. For many observers,  Maduekwe is the face of high-level corruption in Nigeria. A former minister of transport, she served as petroleum minister in the government of Goodluck Jonathan. During her days of flying high, she collected “firsts,” she was the first female minister of transport, the first female minister of petroleum, and the first female secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). She was also the first female appointed to the board of the Shell Petroleum Development Corporation. Read more »

U.S. Arms Sales to Kenya

by John Campbell
2015A Kenya Defense Force soldier takes cover near the perimeter wall where attackers are holding up at a campus in Garissa April 2, 2015. (Reuters/Noor Khamis)

The United States and Kenya have a long standing military relationship. They are allies in the “war on terror,” of which Kenya has been a major victim. Notable attacks on Kenyan soil include the 1998 Al-Qaeda led bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi where twelve Americans and hundreds of Kenyans lost their lives, and the Westgate Shopping Mall bombings of 2013 by Al-Shabaab, which claimed the lives of nearly seventy Kenyans and expatriates. In addition, Kenya has been embroiled in a war against al-Shabaab in Somalia. U.S. forces are involved in training exercises with the Kenyan Defense Forces. As a result of this conflict, the insurgency has spilt over into Kenya’s northern (Turkana) and Coastal regions (Mombasa and Lamu). This has sparked numerous successful, and unsuccessful terrorist operations throughout the country. Read more »

Podcast: The Lake Chad Crisis

by John Campbell
People wash clothes in a dry riverbed in Maroua, Cameroon, March 17, 2016. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

In this episode of the Africa in Transition Podcast series John Campbell is joined by the International Crisis Group’s Nnamdi ObasiHans De Marie Heungoup, and EJ Hogendoorn. The group discusses the origins of Boko Haram in Nigeria and Cameroon, as well as the current security and humanitarian crisis occurring in the Lake Chad Basin. Read more »

Digital Jobs in Africa: The Way Forward

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Entrepreneurs work on their projects at Nailab, a Kenyan firm that supports technology startups, behind the latest initiative, which targets entrepreneurs for their ideas on providing sex education through technology and social media in Nairobi, Kenya, July 4, 2016. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

This is a guest post by Diptesh Soni, a consultant in the Johannesburg office of Dalberg Global Development Advisors. Diptesh is a former CFR Africa program intern.

Across the world, there is an inescapable sense that the machines are coming, and they’re going to take our jobs. This fear is not new. From the cotton gin, to the tractor, to the assembly line and beyond, jobs have, and will continue to face threats from technological advances. Read more »