John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Corruption, Nigeria, and the United States

by John Campbell
DATE IMPORTED:May 12, 2016World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, from left, Sarah Chayes, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari take part in a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Thursday, May 12, 2016. (Reuters/Frank Augstein/Pool) DATE IMPORTED:May 12, 2016World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, from left, Sarah Chayes, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari take part in a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Thursday, May 12, 2016. (Reuters/Frank Augstein/Pool)

Nigeria’s notorious corruption was a centerpiece of the 2014-2015 presidential campaign of Muhammadu Buhari, and fighting it has been a centerpiece of his administration. Abuja is an important Washington partner, and a successful Nigerian campaign against corruption is in the American interest. However, Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow Matthew Page argues that the United States is not doing nearly enough in a hard-hitting, thought-provoking brief on corruption, “Improving U.S. Anticorruption Policy in Nigeria.” Read more »

Nelson Mandela Day

by John Campbell
Nelson Mandela raises his fist to the crowd in Port Elizabeth, April 1, 1990. (Reuters/Juda Ngwenya) Nelson Mandela raises his fist to the crowd in Port Elizabeth, April 1, 1990. (Reuters/Juda Ngwenya)

Africa in Transition usually runs an update of the Nigeria Security Tracker on Mondays. However, July 18 is Nelson Mandela Day, so the Tracker update will appear on Tuesday, July 19.

Nelson Mandela was born July 18, 1918. He died in 2013; were he living, he would be 98 years of age. Read more »

Zimbabwe and an “Arab Spring”

by John Campbell
DATE IMPORTED:July 13, 2016Zimbabwean protesters wait outside the Harare Magistrates court before the arrival of arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe July 13, 2016. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo) DATE IMPORTED:July 13, 2016Zimbabwean protesters wait outside the Harare Magistrates court before the arrival of arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe July 13, 2016. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwe is rapidly deteriorating, if not imploding. In the midst of a drought, estimates are that up to half of the rural population will face hunger or famine in the coming year. The economy is contracting, and the government is running out of hard currency, British sterling, the U.S. dollar, and the South African Rand, which it uses since it abandoned its own currency. The government is failing to pay its civil servants and some of its security forces and has imposed a ban on imports from South Africa. Unemployment figures are so high – up to 85 percent –as to be meaningless. The government’s diamond revenue is running out or diverted. President Robert Mugabe – at times referred to as “Uncle Bob” – is 92 years of age, and it shows. His political behavior is increasingly quixotic. He has abandoned a traditional pillar of his regime, the “war veterans,” who played a crucial role as Mugabe’s thugs and drove the white farmers out. He has even threatened the “veterans” with mayhem if they dabble in succession politics. Read more »

Guinea-Bissau: The Road Ahead

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A delegate from Guinea-Bissau attends the opening plenary December 7, 2009 at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, the venue of the COP15 Climate Summit, which started today and runs till December 18. (Reuters/Keld Navntoft) A delegate from Guinea-Bissau attends the opening plenary December 7, 2009 at the Bella Center in Copenhagen, the venue of the COP15 Climate Summit, which started today and runs till December 18. (Reuters/Keld Navntoft)

This is a guest post by Russell Hanks. Mr. Hanks is a national security professional and a retired diplomat with the U.S. Department of State.

Guinea-Bissau has a new government, or not, only a few months after the previous attempt to paper over its seriously polarized politics. Elections in 2014 were indecisive and installed officials with the same differences that led to the 2012 coup. The current dispensation is no more likely to bring political stability to the nation than the last. Read more »

Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Indictment of African Presidential Leadership

by John Campbell
Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim addresses participants during the launch of the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance in Addis Ababa, October 6, 2008. (Reuters/Irada Humbatova) Sudanese-born telecommunications entrepreneur Mo Ibrahim addresses participants during the launch of the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance in Addis Ababa, October 6, 2008. (Reuters/Irada Humbatova)

In 2016, once again, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has found no retiring African leader qualified for the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African leadership. Mo Ibrahim, a British-Sudanese telecom billionaire, set-up the prize in 2006. It may be awarded annually to an African elected head of state who promoted good governance and then left office in accordance with the constitution. The prize is very rich: $5 million, spread over ten years, followed by $200,000 a year for life. Read more »

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 »