John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Drought"

Zimbabwe and an “Arab Spring”

by John Campbell
Zimbabwean 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) Zimbabwean 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 »

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 »

The Likelihood of Instability in Zimbabwe

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gestures as he arrives to address Zimbabwe's Independence Day celebrations in Harare, April 18, 2016.(Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo) Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gestures as he arrives to address Zimbabwe's Independence Day celebrations in Harare, April 18, 2016.(Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Tyler Falish is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program, and a student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

Last spring, the Council on Foreign Relations published a Contingency Planning Memorandum (CPM) by Ambassador George F. Ward that described the potential for political instability and violence in Zimbabwe. Amb. Ward detailed three paths to instability in Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe’s death before an appointed successor is installed; a serious challenge to Mugabe’s control driven by increased factionalism; and an economic crisis triggering demand for political change. He also offered three corresponding “warning indicators”: any sign that Mugabe’s health is in decline; indication of increased dissent or infighting within the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF); and public unrest. Read more »

Ethiopia’s Forgotten Drought

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Residents wait to receive food aid at a distribution centre in Halo village, a drought-stricken area in Oromia region in Ethiopia, January 31, 2016. (Reuters/Edmund Blair) Residents wait to receive food aid at a distribution centre in Halo village, a drought-stricken area in Oromia region in Ethiopia, January 31, 2016. (Reuters/Edmund Blair)

This is a guest post by Gabriella Meltzer, Research Associate in Global Health for the Council on Foreign Relations Studies program.

El Niño was first discovered in the 1600s when fishermen noticed that in some years, water temperatures in the Pacific became warmer than usual. Hence, according to the National Ocean Service, El Niño today refers to “large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.” These anomalous weather patterns vary across regions, ranging from heavy rainfall and flooding to severe drought. 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 »

African Drought and Hydropower

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A 13.8 megawatt hydroelectric dam undergoes construction in Matebe, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 21, 2015. Reuters/Alyssa Ross A 13.8 megawatt hydroelectric dam undergoes construction in Matebe, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 21, 2015. Reuters/Alyssa Ross

This is a guest post by Jameson McBride, an intern for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Program. He is currently studying Political Science and Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

Over the past few months, an energy crisis has been deepening in Zambia: the nation has been generating only 58 percent of its usual electrical capacity. The cause of this energy crisis, however, is not economic or political—it is drought. Like many sub-Saharan states, Zambia is heavily dependent on hydroelectricity, and recent drought has crippled the nation’s power supply. Zambia’s hydropower problems may only be a sign of things to come. Long-range models predict that climate change is likely to cause more droughts throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. While hydropower is widely billed as sustainable due to its low emissions and high efficiency, the drought-induced Zambian energy crisis suggests that it may not be a reliable solution for African energy in a future marred by climate change. Read more »

Is President Buhari Making ‘the Perfect the Enemy of the Good?’

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz) Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015. (Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

President Muhammadu Buhari was elected president of Nigeria on March 31. He was inaugurated on May 29. Yet, he appointed his chief of staff and the secretary to the government of the federation – key positions in any administration – only in August. He still has not made any cabinet appointments, though his spokesmen are promising that they will be announced on September 30. Read more »

Climate Change and Conflict Triggers

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A Kenyan woman fetches water from a gully in Nyakach district, an area where massive land degradation has been exacerbated by livestock grazing and a rapidly increasing population, in western Kenya June 28, 2005. (Antony Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters) A Kenyan woman fetches water from a gully in Nyakach district, an area where massive land degradation has been exacerbated by livestock grazing and a rapidly increasing population, in western Kenya June 28, 2005. (Antony Njuguna/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.

Recent protests in Turkey and Brazil are being lionized in the financial press as products of rising prosperity in “developing” countries, where economic growth grates against stagnant institutions. Yet simultaneously another powerful force is also engendering violent social unrest and revealing institutional deficiencies: climate change. Read more »

Bloody Easter in Nigeria’s Middle Belt

by John Campbell
A family gathers around the grave, where three murdered family members were buried together, in Jos in Nigeria's Plateau state, December 28, 2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) A family gathers around the grave, where three murdered family members were buried together, in Jos in Nigeria's Plateau state, December 28, 2011. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Over Easter weekend there were at least fifty deaths attributable to ethnic and religious conflict near Jos in Plateau state in Nigeria’s Middle Belt. This time, based on media reports, most of the victims appear to have been Christian farmers, with the perpetrators allegedly Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen. Read more »

French Enter Mali But How Will It End?

by John Campbell
People walk past the Grand Mosque of Djenne, a UNESCO World-Heritage listed site, in Djenne 17/09/2012. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) People walk past the Grand Mosque of Djenne, a UNESCO World-Heritage listed site, in Djenne 17/09/2012. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

According to the New York Times, the French intervention in Mali to halt the southern march of Islamist forces has gone well. Franco-Malian recovery of the fabled cities of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal can be foreseen, though the fighting may be very bloody. That will mean fewer amputations and stonings, but it will not resolve the fundamental issues: a detached and discredited government in Bamako, an alienated north, and a fierce popular anger that expresses itself in Islamic terms. All of this against a background of recurrent food insecurity related to desertification. As the earlier example of the Polisario shows, a desert based insurgency can last a long time, perhaps longer than a French commitment to a country that is marginal to its fundamental interests. Read more »