John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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The Central African Republic: Where Elections Could Do More Harm Than Good

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
(L-R) Archbishop of Bangui Dieudonne Nzapalainga; Bangas Nicolas, a minister in the evangelical church; and imam Oumar Kobine Layama, representative of the Muslim community in Bangui attend during a meeting between religious representatives, Bangui residents and African and French peacekeeping forces, in Bangui, February 10, 2014. (Luc Gnago/Courtesy Reuters) (L-R) Archbishop of Bangui Dieudonne Nzapalainga; Bangas Nicolas, a minister in the evangelical church; and imam Oumar Kobine Layama, representative of the Muslim community in Bangui attend during a meeting between religious representatives, Bangui residents and African and French peacekeeping forces, in Bangui, February 10, 2014. (Luc Gnago/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Emily Mellgard, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

Elections are often seen as progress toward democracy in Africa. Elections confer legitimacy on governments, especially abroad. However, in some conflicts, conducting elections credible enough to confer legitimacy is an unrealistic goal. Instead there are “election-like-events.” These may even exacerbate internal cleavages within a society. Rushing into elections in the Central African Republic will not resolve the breakdown of order there and could make it worse. Read more »

A Hopeful Choice for the Central African Republic’s Interim President

by John Campbell
Catherine Samba-Panza shakes hands with a supporter after she was elected as Central African Republic's interim president at the national assembly in Bangui, January 20, 2014. (Siegfried Modola/Courtesy Reuters) Catherine Samba-Panza shakes hands with a supporter after she was elected as Central African Republic's interim president at the national assembly in Bangui, January 20, 2014. (Siegfried Modola/Courtesy Reuters)

The Central African Republic’s National Transitional Council (NTC) elected Catherine Samba-Panza as interim president on January 20. She has been serving as interim mayor of the Central African Republic (CAR) capital, Bangui. (Those multiple “interims” are a sign that formal government has almost entirely broken down.) Read more »

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Claims it Murdered Two French Journalists in Retaliation for a French “Crusade”

by John Campbell
A poster with the portraits of reporter Ghislaine Dupont (R), 51, and radio technician Claude Verlon, 58, two French journalists killed in Mali last week is seen at the entrance of Radio France Internationale building in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris November 5, 2013. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters) A poster with the portraits of reporter Ghislaine Dupont (R), 51, and radio technician Claude Verlon, 58, two French journalists killed in Mali last week is seen at the entrance of Radio France Internationale building in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris November 5, 2013. (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters)

Two French journalists working for Radio France Internationale, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, were kidnapped in Kidal in northern Mali on November 3. Shortly thereafter, and only seven miles from where they were abducted, they were murdered.

In a blog I posted on November 4, I expressed surprise that the two were not held for ransom. Ransom is an important income stream for jihadist groups operating in the Sahel. According to the French media, the four French hostages held for three years in Niger were released in October upon the payment of U.S.$27 million, though the French government says that it did not pay a ransom. Read more »

Why Were Two French Journalists Killed in Mali?

by John Campbell
Members of MINUSMA and MNLA inspect the vehicle believed to have been ferrying two French journalists just after they were abducted in Kidal, November 2, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Members of MINUSMA and MNLA inspect the vehicle believed to have been ferrying two French journalists just after they were abducted in Kidal, November 2, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

It is not so surprising that Radio France Internationale journalist and sound engineer Claude Verion and colleague Ghislaine Dupont were kidnapped on November 2 in the northern Mali town of Kidal. The kidnapping of foreigners in the Sahel is, if not frequent, then also not uncommon. The question is, however, why were they murdered and not held for ransom? Read more »

Mali and Tuaregs: Déjà Vu All Over Again?

by John Campbell
A marching band parade during the inauguration celebration of Mali's new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at the 26th of March Stadium in Bamako September 19, 2013. (Michel Euler/Courtesy Reuters) A marching band parade during the inauguration celebration of Mali's new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at the 26th of March Stadium in Bamako September 19, 2013. (Michel Euler/Courtesy Reuters)

The Tuareg rebels and the Malian government reached a peace agreement in June that allowed Mali’s August elections to go forward. They–generally regarded as free and fair–resulted in the election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who has now been inaugurated. At the end of September, however, three separatist Tuareg groups announced that they are suspending their participation in the peace process with the government. They accuse the Bamako government of failing to live up to promises made in June. They provide no specifics, and neither the Keita government nor the UN peacekeeping mission has commented on the suspension. Read more »

Mali’s Elections: Still More Questions Than Answers

by John Campbell
A woman casts her vote during Mali's presidential election in Timbuktu, Mali, July 28, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) A woman casts her vote during Mali's presidential election in Timbuktu, Mali, July 28, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

Information about Mali’s polling on Sunday, July 28 is coming from western sources–notably Radio France Internationale (RFI), Deutsche Welle (DW), and Voice of America (VOA). As is usual the day after African elections, the three are upbeat in tone. Already there are congratulations and self-congratulations. According to RFI, French President Hollande, who is heavily invested politically in the elections being a success, welcomed the polling “marked by good turnout and an absence of any major incident.” French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “congratulations are in order that the Mali elections went off well. For France, it is a great success,” also according to RFI. The Mali interim president, Dioncounda Traoré said, “I think that this is the best election that Malians can remember since 1960,” again according to RFI. Read more »

Nigeria Winds Down Peacekeeping

by John Campbell
Nigerian soldiers sit in military trucks before leaving for Mali, at the airport in Nigeria's northern state of Kaduna January 17, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Nigerian soldiers sit in military trucks before leaving for Mali, at the airport in Nigeria's northern state of Kaduna January 17, 2013. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Alassane Ouattara, president of the Ivory Coast and chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), announced that he received a letter from Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan saying that Nigeria will withdraw part of its peacekeeping contingent in Mali. Read more »

Mali’s Elections and the Issues of Kidal

by John Campbell
Soldiers from the Tuareg rebel group MNLA sit in a pickup truck in the northeastern town of Kidal February 4, 2013. (Cheick Diouara/Courtesy Reuters) Soldiers from the Tuareg rebel group MNLA sit in a pickup truck in the northeastern town of Kidal February 4, 2013. (Cheick Diouara/Courtesy Reuters)

France and the United States are leading the push for elections to proceed on schedule in Mali in late July. The urgency reflects the view that elections are crucial to ending the rift in Bamako and to restoring the legitimacy of the Malian government, which was tarnished by a military coup and a subsequent feckless interim government. But, for elections to have meaning, they must take place throughout Mali. Read more »

UN Security Council Unanimously Authorizes UN Mission in Mali

by John Campbell
French soldiers speak to a Nigerian soldier on patrol in the northern city of Gao, Mali February 9, 2013. (Francois Rihouay/Courtesy Reuters). French soldiers speak to a Nigerian soldier on patrol in the northern city of Gao, Mali February 9, 2013. (Francois Rihouay/Courtesy Reuters).

On April 25, the Security Council approved a UN “peacekeeping” force of 12,600 for Mali. They asked the UN Secretary General to appoint a Special Representative for Mali, and called on member states to provide troops, police, and the necessary equipment. It also authorized the secretary general to approve cooperation between the UN mission in Mali and the UN missions in Liberia and Ivory Coast for the temporary sharing of logistical and administrative support. Read more »

A Way Forward for Mali?

by John Campbell
A Malian soldier looks out on the banks of the Niger River in Gao February 26, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) A Malian soldier looks out on the banks of the Niger River in Gao February 26, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) has done Africa watchers and policy makers an important service by publishing David J. Francis’s analysis of the Mali crisis with his suggestions as to the way forward. Titled “The Regional Impact of the Armed Conflict and French Intervention in Mali,” Francis teases out for the educated non-specialist the highly complicated Malian narrative, identifying key players, groups and events. The study is especially strong on the French domestic political dimensions of President Hollande’s military intervention, and what the likely consequences may be. Read more »