John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Civil Society"

South African Icon Disillusioned with Ruling Party Leadership

by John Campbell
A copy of a combo picture showing Rivonia trialists with their names written by hand is seen on the wall in Maybuye Center in Cape Town, March 10, 2005. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Dennis Goldberg. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti) A copy of a combo picture showing Rivonia trialists with their names written by hand is seen on the wall in Maybuye Center in Cape Town, March 10, 2005. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Dennis Goldberg. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti)

On January 24, in London, UK Prime Minister David Cameron honored Nelson Mandela’s three surviving co-defendants at the 1964 Rivonia trial. They were Denis Goldberg, Ahmad Kathrada, and Andrew Mlangeni. Cameron also honored their suriviving defense attorneys, Lord Joel Joffe and George Bizos, who succeeded in avoiding the death penalty for their clients, though not twenty-six years of imprisonment. Read more »

Comedy and Democracy in South Africa

by John Campbell
South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool) South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool)

For most Americans, their first exposure to South African comedy has been Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Noah’s January 20, riff on Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump is an example of South African standup comedy at its best, with the added dimension of an African “seeing us as others see us.” One example is his comment that America is such a great place because “…presidents might have term limits but Sarah Palin is forever.” Read more »

“Corruption Fights Back” in Nigeria

by John Campbell
A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt December 4, 2012. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt December 4, 2012. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

President Muhammadu Buhari successfully ran for the presidency on an anti-corruption ticket and a promise to restore security by destroying Boko Haram. His geographical support was based in the north and the west of the country, and he also benefitted from a general sense among the political class that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was incompetent and had to go. Read more »

Some Good News From South Africa

by John Campbell
Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings) Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings)

It is unduly gloomy in sunny South Africa. The national currency, the rand, is falling; the economy is hardly growing at all; the Zuma administration appears mired in corruption and mismanagement. There has been an upsurge in racist rhetoric. Hence the South African surprise and delight at the announcement that two of the richest South Africans, Allan and Gill Gray, are essentially giving away their wealth to their family foundation. Read more »

Racist Facebook Comments Ignite South African Anger

by John Campbell
People visit the beach on New Year's Day in Durban, January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) People visit the beach on New Year's Day in Durban, January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

Penny Sparrow, age sixty-nine, a white real estate agent in Durban and a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), in a Facebook post characterized black beach goers over New Year’s as “monkeys.” (For many years, young black South Africans living inland have gathered on Durban’s beaches to celebrate New Year’s.) At about the same time, a bank economist tweeted about “majority (black) entitlement” as a barrier to economic growth. Others, evidently also white, on-line have expressed admiration for certain apartheid and pre-apartheid era political figures, including P.W. Botha and Cecil Rhodes. Black social media response has been fierce, including calls to take action “against all white people to end racism.” Read more »

IMF Managing Director Lagarde’s Visit a Boost for President Buhari

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde attend a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, January 5, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde attend a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, January 5, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

President Muhammadu Buhari faces a serious economic crisis related to the plunge in the world price of oil, slow rates of economic growth, the prospect of rising American interest rates, a falling national currency, and declining government revenues. At the same time, he is working to restructure the economy away from undue dependence on oil by increasing infrastructure investment and vigorously pursuing an anti-corruption agenda demonstrated by the arrests of high-profile public figures. Read more »

South Africa, a King, and the Rule of Law

by John Campbell
AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo speaks to journalists after handing over a memorandum to government officials in Pretoria, July 10, 2013.  (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham) AbaThembu King Buyelekhaya Zwelibanzi Dalindyebo speaks to journalists after handing over a memorandum to government officials in Pretoria, July 10, 2013. (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham)

The alarums and excursions over South Africa’s economy and economic policy do not stop. December saw the discreditable episode of President Jacob Zuma’s hiring and firing multiple ministers of finance in only a few days and a drop in the country’s estimated economic growth rate to perhaps 1.2 percent. The new year kicked off with an apparent standoff with the United States over trade that if unresolved would end South Africa’s participation in the benefits of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). But, a BBC news item that appeared New Year’s Eve highlights how South Africa’s commitment to the rule of law makes it well-prepared to weather the multiple crises of the moment. Read more »

What to Watch: Africa 2016

by John Campbell and Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Boys play on the roof of the entrance to a football stadium in Gao February 20, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) Boys play on the roof of the entrance to a football stadium in Gao February 20, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

While western governments are currently transfixed on events in Iraq and Syria, it is important that they do not forget Africa. Boko Haram has become the world’s deadliest terrorist organization and Libya is increasingly becoming a base of operations for the Islamic State. Below, CFR’s Africa program outlines six African issues to watch in 2016. While they could certainly affect the lives of millions of Africans, these issues could also have serious implications for international politics. Read more »

Jacob Zuma’s Hold on Power

by John Campbell
Protesters carry placards as they take part in a demonstration against President Jacob Zuma in Cape town, South Africa, December 16, 2015. ()Reuters/Mark Wessels) Protesters carry placards as they take part in a demonstration against President Jacob Zuma in Cape town, South Africa, December 16, 2015. ()Reuters/Mark Wessels)

Jacob Zuma’s political power is based on his support by the African National Congress’s political apparatus – often called Luthuli House, after the party’s headquarters building in Johannesburg. With support of the party machinery, he has weathered numerous political and personal setbacks ranging from a rape trial to accusations of corruption. However, if the party turns against him, he will not long survive as party leader or chief of state. In 2008, Thabo Mbeki was removed from both positions by a party revolt. The same is possible for Zuma. Read more »

Advancing African Development Through Intra-Continental Trade

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
(L-R) South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, Senegal's President Macky Sall and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame participate in a panel discussion on the future of Africa during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington,  August 5, 2014. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) (L-R) South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, Senegal's President Macky Sall and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame participate in a panel discussion on the future of Africa during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, August 5, 2014. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

This is a guest post by Fily Camara, an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Program. He is a masters candidate at New York University.

Intra-African trade has been only eleven percent of the continent’s total trade over the last decade. By comparison, more than sixty percent of Europe’s trade is intra-continental. The equivalent figure for North America is about 45 percent and for Asia it is about twenty-five percent. The small scale of Africa’s intra-continental trade reflects the continent’s dependence on foreign markets for the vast majority of their trade relations. African policymakers, as well as their Western counterparts, have long acknowledged the need for more intra-continental trade. It is a paradox that, for much of Africa’s postcolonial history, it has been a pioneer in regional integration. In addition to the African Union (AU), there are eight, smaller regional economic communities—many of which have successfully implemented common currencies and external tariffs in addition to cooperating on matters of security and justice. Nevertheless, commerce among countries in Africa remains low, with significant negative development ramifications. Read more »