John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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A Very Bad Week for Nigeria

by John Campbell
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 »

Weekly Map of Political and Ethnic Violence in Nigeria

by John Campbell
Bomb experts search for evidences in front of buses at a bomb blast scene at Nyanyan in Abuja April 14, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Bomb experts search for evidences in front of buses at a bomb blast scene at Nyanyan in Abuja April 14, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Holy Week in Nigeria is off to an ugly start. A bomb detonated during rush hour at a bus station in Abuja’s suburb Nyana on April 14, killed at least seventy-one people, destroyed at least sixteen “luxury buses” and twenty-four mini buses. Nobody has yet claimed responsibility, but it has the marks of a “Boko Haram” operation. Read more »

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
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) 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 »

United States Military to Train Nigerian Rangers?

by John Campbell
A U.S. Special Forces trainer supervises a military assault drill for a unit within the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) conducted in Nzara on the outskirts of Yambio, November 29, 2013. (Andreea Campeanu/Courtesy Reuters) A U.S. Special Forces trainer supervises a military assault drill for a unit within the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) conducted in Nzara on the outskirts of Yambio, November 29, 2013. (Andreea Campeanu/Courtesy Reuters)

In the March 5 New York Times, Eric Schmitt’s article “U.S. Takes Training Role in Africa as Threats Grow and Budgets Shrink,” reviews U.S. military assistance and training to the weak states of the Sahel that are confronting jihadi militantsHe discusses the constraints on what the U.S. is willing and able to do in a context of domestic budget cuts and a general war-weariness in the aftermath of Iraq and Afghanistan. Read more »

Nigeria: Election Season and the Multiple Conflict Arenas

by John Campbell
Lieutenant-General Azubike Ihejirika (L) presents a flag to the new chief of army staff, Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah, during a handing over ceremony at the Defence Ministry headquarters in Abuja, January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Lieutenant-General Azubike Ihejirika (L) presents a flag to the new chief of army staff, Major-General Kenneth Tobiah Jacob Minimah, during a handing over ceremony at the Defence Ministry headquarters in Abuja, January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Because of an American pre-occupation with the threat of jihadist Islam in the Sahel, much U.S. attention is directed toward “Boko Haram” in northern Nigeria and whatever links it might have with other groups, such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. As I blogged on February 6, there has in recent weeks been a dramatic upsurge in violence related to Boko Haram. However, there are also other nodes of violence that friends of Nigeria, and Nigerians, should watch. Read more »

The Nigeria Security Tracker and Nigeria’s Continuing Fight Against Boko Haram

by John Campbell
NST Nov data

We will be posting the week of February 2, 2014, the Nigeria Security Tracker data for January, 2014. We anticipate it will show an increase in Boko Haram and security service activity at the beginning of 2014. In particular, it will take into account the late January jihadi attacks on Christian churches in Adamawa state. Read more »

Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Ansaru Getting Back Together?

by John Campbell
Crowds fill Abubakar Gumi central market after authorities relaxed a 24 hour curfew in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, June 24, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Crowds fill Abubakar Gumi central market after authorities relaxed a 24 hour curfew in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna, June 24, 2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week, a French Catholic priest, Georges Vandenbeusch, was kidnapped in northern Cameroon. According to the local Roman Catholic bishop, some fifteen gunmen invaded the priest’s compound looking for money.

A nun working in the community said the kidnappers spoke English, not French, the predominant European language in that part of Cameroon. A Cameroonian official says that Fr. Vandenbeusch has been spirited away to Nigeria. An anonymous sources, quoted by France-24, claims that the operation was joint between Boko Haram and Ansaru. Read more »

The United States Designates Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations

by John Campbell
A woman sits amongst the burnt ruins of the Bama Market, which was destroyed by gunmen in last Thursday's attack, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria April 29, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) A woman sits amongst the burnt ruins of the Bama Market, which was destroyed by gunmen in last Thursday's attack, in Maiduguri, northeast Nigeria April 29, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

On November 13, the White House announced that the United States had formally designated Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and Specially Designated Global Terrorists. This comes after a heated debate within the Obama administration and among Nigeria watchers that began in earnest after the 2011 suicide bombing of the UN headquarters in Abuja, for which Boko Haram claimed credit. Read more »

Boko Haram’s Shekau: He’s Back!

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters) A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor to the West Point CTC Sentinel.

At least four times since 2009, Nigerian security officials have claimed they have killed brutal Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, who says he “slaughters infidels like rams.” On August 19, the army spokesman and Nigerian analysts suggested Shekau died in Cameroon after gunshot wounds sustained in a battle in Borno State on June 19. Other officials claimed Cameroonian border guards killed Shekau. Read more »

The Different Faces of Boko Haram

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Burnt houses and ashes are pictured in the aftermath of what Nigerian authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, adjacent to the Chadian border, April 21, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Burnt houses and ashes are pictured in the aftermath of what Nigerian authorities said was heavy fighting between security forces and Islamist militants in Baga, a fishing town on the shores of Lake Chad, adjacent to the Chadian border, April 21, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor to the West Point CTC Sentinel.

This August, Nigeria’s Sun News conducted an interview with Nasir Isiaku, who said he was a member of an “Islamic movement” called “Shiite,” which sent members to train in Iran before he joined a Boko Haram cell in Kaduna. Isiaku said he fought Christians and “drank his victims’ blood” so their ghosts would not appear in his dreams. Read more »