John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Democracy"

Jacob Zuma and South Africa’s Constitution

by John Campbell
A general view of the Nkandla home of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, August 2, 2012. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) A general view of the Nkandla home of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, August 2, 2012. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

The South African government spent about $24 million on “security upgrades” to President Jacob Zuma’s private estate, Nkandla. Those “security upgrades” included a swimming pool, a chicken run, and a football pitch. In 2014, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela investigated the expenditure and found some of it improper, and directed the president to pay back some—not all—of the public money spent on the estate. President Zuma refused, and was supported by his cabinet minister and the governing African National Congress (ANC) majority in parliament. Read more »

AU Vote to Leave the International Criminal Court of Little Consequence

by John Campbell
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta attends the opening ceremony of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2016. (Reuters/Tiksa Negeri) Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta attends the opening ceremony of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2016. (Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)

Led by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, the African Union (AU) voted by a huge margin in favor of a proposal for withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the aftermath of the vote, President Jacob Zuma reiterated his threat that South Africa would withdraw from the ICC’s jurisdiction: “Our strongly held view is that it is now impossible, under the circumstances, for South Africa to continue its participation…” The AU chairman, Chadian President Idriss Deby, repeated the regular criticism that the ICC is biased against Africa: “Elsewhere in the world, many things happen, many flagrant violations of human rights, but nobody cares.” Read more »

Nigeria’s Pro-Biafra Agitation: A Mix of Crisis and Opportunity

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A man carries the Biafran flag during a parade in Ekwe village, near Enugu in southeastern Nigeria, May 27, 2008. (Reuters/George Esiri) A man carries the Biafran flag during a parade in Ekwe village, near Enugu in southeastern Nigeria, May 27, 2008. (Reuters/George Esiri)

This is a guest post by Carl Unegbu. Carl is a Nigerian-born American lawyer and journalist. He lives in New York City.

Nigeria’s old Biafra problem has reared its head again and with it, the specter of disintegration. For a thirty-month period between 1967 and 1970, Nigeria was embroiled in a bloody civil war as its eastern region unsuccessfully tried to secede from the country under the banner of the Republic of Biafra. The latest episode in the Biafra crisis revolves around the arrest on October 19, of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of a secession movement called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Kanu is presently facing trial for sedition and treason. Since his arrest, protesters demanding both his release and an independent Biafra have repeatedly clashed violently with security forces with resulting deaths. On the international front, the European Union’s foreign policy chief recently weighed in on the matter with a policy statement and the controversy is on its way to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Read more »

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 »

New Frontier in Nigeria’s War on Corruption

by John Campbell
A man on a motorcycle sits near a signboard campaigning against corruption along a road in Dangi district in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A man on a motorcycle sits near a signboard campaigning against corruption along a road in Dangi district in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Confronting Nigeria’s culture of corruption was a primary campaign theme of Muhammadu Buhari’s successful campaign for the presidency. Since taking office, he has fired numerous high officials widely regarded as corrupt, made a reputation for incorruptibility a prerequisite for high appointments (though there have been exceptions), and directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to launch investigations into the allegedly corrupt behavior of numerous high-ranking military and civilian officials. 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 »

Nigeria’s Buhari Moves to Fix Deficiencies in Fight Against Boko Haram

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (C) stands at the opening of the 48th ordinary session of ECOWAS Authority of Head of States and Government in Abuja, Nigeria, December 16, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (C) stands at the opening of the 48th ordinary session of ECOWAS Authority of Head of States and Government in Abuja, Nigeria, December 16, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Nigerian security service abuses have been a driver of recruitment for Boko Haram, the radical, jihadist movement that seeks to destroy the secular state. Abuses have reflected poor leadership, poor training, and lack of resources. Hence, the Buhari administration’s arrests of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s National Security Advisor Sambo Dasuki in December and his Defence Minister Bello Haliru Mohammed on January 5, are particularly significant. 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 »