John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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United States Foreign Policy Priorities in West Africa

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (R) greets U.S. President Barack Obama before the start of the second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, April 1, 2016. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The below remarks come from a speech delivered on August 16, at an Area Studies Seminar at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, Foreign Service Institute, Arlington, Virginia.

I would like to open with thanks to the Foreign Service Institute for the opportunity to talk about U.S. foreign policy priorities in the Sahel and West Africa. I would hope that these formal remarks will help to frame our subsequent discussion. Read more »

Are U.S. Efforts Successfully Countering Terrorism in Africa?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) puts his arm around Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta as they depart after their joint news conference after their meeting at the State House in Nairobi, July 25, 2015. (Courtesy/Jonathan Ernst )

This post was co-authored by Cheryl Strauss Einhorn and Andrea Walther-Puri. Cheryl is an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School. Andrea is a researcher focusing on security sector reform and a PhD candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Read more »

The Surge of Insurgency/Terrorism in Recent Times: Social and Economic Consequences

by John Campbell
The flag of Nigeria is carried by Maryam Usman as the team enters the stadium during the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, July 23, 2014. (Reuters/Jim Young)

The following text is the entirety of John Campbell’s speech delivered at the Nigeria Summit on National Security held by the Council on African Security and Development in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 25, 2016. 

Thank you for your warm introduction. It is a pleasure to be at this important conference, to see old friends, make new ones, and to be back in Nigeria. Read more »

Jihadis Still Active in Mali

by John Campbell
French soldiers leave a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

Activities of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Libya, al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, and Boko Haram in Nigeria have pushed awareness of jihadi activities in Mali into the background. But, the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in northern Mali—called MINUSMA—announced on February 16 that Islamic extremists killed at least seven peacekeepers last week at a UN base near Kidal. As described by a UN spokesman, the jihadi operation looks operationally sophisticated. The jihadis fired shells outside the camp, diverting attention as their explosive-laden truck entered the camp and then detonated. Read more »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Suicide Bombers

by John Campbell
People displaced as a result of Boko Haram attacks in the northeast region of Nigeria, are seen near their tents at a faith-based camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in Yola, Adamawa State, January 14, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

On February 9, two female suicide bombers killed at least sixty people in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) about fifty miles from Maiduguri, Borno state’s capital. The Nigerian media reports that a third bomber did not detonate her explosives after seeing family members in the camp. Read more »

The International Criminal Court and Africa’s Cultural Heritage

by John Campbell
Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi ( a.k.a. Abu Tourab) enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague the Netherlands, September 30,2015. (Reuters/Robin van Lonkhuisen/Pool)

In 2012 radical, jihadist Islamist groups overran northern Mali with Taureg allies. Before they were defeated by French and Malian troops in 2013, the al-Qaeda linked rebels governed the territories they controlled according to what they represented as the principles of Salafist Islam. One prominent group was Ansar Dine, which continues to be active in northern Mali. While the group occupied Timbuktu its governance resembled that of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Read more »

“Je Suis Charlie” and Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
Displaced people gather as the Red Cross in Kano distributes relief materials to displaced victims of the Boko Haram violence, December 16, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer) Displaced people gather as the Red Cross in Kano distributes relief materials to displaced victims of the Boko Haram violence, December 16, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer)

In the aftermath of the January 7 Islamist terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a separate but apparently related January 9 attack on a Jewish supermarket, both in Paris, over 3 million demonstrated throughout France in solidarity against terrorism. In Paris, demonstrators numbered some 1.6 million. Read more »

The U.S. Government Will Not Pay Ransom

by John Campbell
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 »

Kidnapping, Ransoms, and the Sahel

by John Campbell
Former French hostage Daniel Larribe is welcomed by relatives as French President Francois Hollande looks on on the tarmac upon their arrival at Villacoublay military airport, near Paris, October 30, 2013 (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters).

Rukmini Callimachi has a chilling story on the front page of today’s New York Times, “Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror.” It is a must-read. The story is based on a wide range of interviews with victims, government officials, counterterrorism experts, and thousands of pages of internal al-Qaeda documents found in Mali. 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)

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 »