John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Democracy"

Nigeria Devalues its Currency

by John Campbell
A trader changes dollars with naira at a currency exchange store in Lagos, February 12, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico) A trader changes dollars with naira at a currency exchange store in Lagos, February 12, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico)

In the face of low international oil and gas prices, the domestic and international business community, academics, and journalists have all urged President Muhammadu Buhari to devalue the national currency, the naira. Buhari steadfastly refused. Based on his 1983-85 experience as head of state, also a period characterized by falling oil prices, he seems to believe that in an economy as dependent on imports as Nigeria, devaluing the naira would increase the cost of living for the poor, the majority of Nigeria’s citizens. Buhari famously observed that “Nigeria even imports toothpicks.” Read more »

Nigeria Sacking Senior Military Officers

by John Campbell
Nigerian army chief-of-staff General Kenneth Minimah (C) leaves a closed door meeting with senators at the national assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, May 15, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney) Nigerian army chief-of-staff General Kenneth Minimah (C) leaves a closed door meeting with senators at the national assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, May 15, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

A Nigerian army spokesman said on June 10 that “quite a number” of senior military officers have been fired, and some have been turned over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation of charges of corruption. The spokesman, Colonel Sani Kukesheka Usman, is quoted in the media as saying, “. . . not too long ago some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 General Elections. Similarly, the investigation by the presidential committee investigating defense contracts revealed a lot. Some officers have already been arraigned in court by the EFCC.” He went on to say: “The military must remain apolitical and professional at all times.” Read more »

Don’t Give Up on AMISOM Yet

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers from Burundi patrol after fighting between insurgents and government soldiers erupted on the outskirts of Mogadishu, on May 22, 2012. (Reuters/Feisal Omar) African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers from Burundi patrol after fighting between insurgents and government soldiers erupted on the outskirts of Mogadishu, on May 22, 2012. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)

This is a guest post by Alex Dick-Godfrey, Assistant Director, Studies administration for the Council on Foreign Relations Studies Program.

Later this year, Somalia looks to continue its recent progress by holding a successful parliamentary election. The election provides an opportunity to improve governance in the country and could illustrate the improvement Somalia has made to the donor community, international businesses, and the world. But, enormous pitfalls remain, and Somalia’s partners, including the United States, have expressed concerns about the process. This election could prove to be disastrous and set Somalia back if not handled correctly. To cope with these pitfalls, Somalia is forced to rely on an already strained African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) to secure this election, but international support appears to be waning for the African Union (AU) force. The AU should reaffirm its commitment to Somalia and implore member and donor nations to not give up on AMISOM, and Somalia, yet. Read more »

Morning in South Africa

by John Campbell
From the cover of Morning in South Africa, a book written by John Campbell. From the cover of Morning in South Africa, a book written by John Campbell.

My new book on South Africa is now available in hardcover and Kindle. The book’s core argument is that despite the corruption and incompetency of the Zuma administration combined with slow economic growth, the country’s democratic institutions are strong enough to weather the current period of poor governance. Read more »

Opposition to U.S. Military Aircraft Sale to Nigeria

by John Campbell
U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Clayton, an 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, flies an A-29 Super Tucano in the skies over Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, U.S., March 5, 2015. (Reuters/enior Airman Ryan Callaghan) U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Clayton, an 81st Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, flies an A-29 Super Tucano in the skies over Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, U.S., March 5, 2015. (Reuters/enior Airman Ryan Callaghan)

The New York Times on May 18 opposed the U.S. sale of military aircraft to Nigeria in an editorial titled Block the Sale of Warplanes to Nigeria. The core of the editorial’s argument is that President Muhammadu Buhari has not done enough to respond to charges that the Nigerian army has committed war crimes in its fight against Boko Haram. The newspaper also asserts that “Nigeria’s government cannot be entrusted with the versatile new warplanes, which can be used for ground attacks as well as reconnaissance.” Read more »

South Africa’s Currency Falls Again on Rumors of Finance Minister’s Arrest

by John Campbell
South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gestures during a media briefing in Sandton near Johannesburg, March 14, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan gestures during a media briefing in Sandton near Johannesburg, March 14, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

On May 15, the Sunday Times (English, Johannesburg) published rumors of the impending arrest of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan over alleged revenue service irregularities. However, on May 16, Beeld (Afrikaans, Johannesburg) reported that President Zuma denied the Sunday Times report. Nevertheless, the South African national currency, the rand (ZAR), fell the following two days, reaching its weakest level in two months; it has fallen 2.1 percent against the U.S. dollar since March 15. Read more »

South Africa Moves Against Secretly-Owned Companies

by John Campbell
Demonstrators carry placards as they march to protest against corruption in Cape Town, September 30, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Demonstrators carry placards as they march to protest against corruption in Cape Town, September 30, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

The Tax Justice Network-Africa has issued a press release praising the South African government’s commitment to register and make public the “beneficial owners” of all companies incorporated in the country. “Beneficial owners” are those who ultimately benefit from a company. In many countries, governments do not require such information, resulting in anonymously owned companies that may be used by corrupt politicians or others who want to hide their identity. The “Panama Papers” highlight the role such companies play in activities ranging from money laundering to tax evasion. Read more »

South African President Zuma’s Legal Problems Unlikely to Drive Him From Office

by John Campbell
Protesters call for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma as the country commemorates the anniversary the country's first democratic elections in Cape Town, April 27, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Protesters call for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma as the country commemorates the anniversary the country's first democratic elections in Cape Town, April 27, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

South Africa’s High Court has ruled against the president yet again. It has determined that the prosecutor’s decision to drop 783 charges of corruption against Zuma should be reviewed. According to the BBC, Judge Aubrey Ledwaba characterized the 2009 decision to drop the charges as “irrational.” The ruling allows the National Prosecuting Authority to reinstate the charges, though it is unclear whether it will do so. Nevertheless, once again, South Africa’s judiciary has demonstrated its independence from the executive. Read more »

Fissures Within South Africa’s Governing Party

by John Campbell
Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave a party flag during the party's 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg, South Africa, January 9, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave a party flag during the party's 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg, South Africa, January 9, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has long been a big tent, with its membership united by opposition to apartheid and, less salient, support for “nonracial” democracy. Conventional wisdom has seen the ANC membership, policy, and electoral support as revolving around four poles or tendencies:  the “democrats,” devoted to Nelson Mandela’s vision of nonracial democracy and the protection of human rights; the South African Communist Party (SACP), in many ways a Marxist party of a generation ago in Western Europe, but also devoted to a nonracial state; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which promotes the interests of the country’s “labor aristocracy” rather than the unskilled unemployed; and the “Africanists,”  those who want a redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks and an assertion of black identity that recalls the Black Power movement in the United States. (Many of them would drop the nonracial modifiers of democracy.) Depending on the issue, support varies for each of these “tendencies,” and there is substantial overlap. In any event, however sliced and diced, the ANC is likely to remain intact to contest the August provincial and local government elections. Read more »

The International Criminal Court and Kenya’s Deputy President

by John Campbell
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto smiles in Nairobi (C, L) after judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday threw out post-election violence charges against him, in this April 5, 2016,handout picture. (Reuters/Charles Kimani/Presidential Press Service/Handout) Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto smiles in Nairobi (C, L) after judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday threw out post-election violence charges against him, in this April 5, 2016,handout picture. (Reuters/Charles Kimani/Presidential Press Service/Handout)

Contrary to misleading headlines, the International Criminal Court (ICC) did not acquit Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio personality Joshua Arap Sang of charges related to violence in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. (Amnesty International cites an estimate that there were 1,200 deaths and 350,000 persons displaced by the violence.) Instead of acquittal, the ICC vacated the charges and discharged the accused, but without prejudice to the prosecutor’s right to reprosecute in the future. Read more »