John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Mali"

Weapons in the Sahel

by John Campbell
An assortment of 5,250 illicit firearms and small weapons, recovered during various security operations burns during its destruction in Ngong hills near Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 15, 2016. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) An assortment of 5,250 illicit firearms and small weapons, recovered during various security operations burns during its destruction in Ngong hills near Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 15, 2016. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

Conflict Armament Research, a UK organization that monitors armaments transfers and supply chains, has just published an important report, “Investigating Cross-Border Weapon Transfers in the Sahel.” The report was funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the European Union, and the German Foreign Office. It carries the normal disclaimer that it does not reflect “the positions of the UK Government, the European Union, or the German Federal Foreign Office.” More than fifty pages long, the report is thoroughly detailed. It is based on ten months of well-funded research with visits to Algeria, the Central African Republic, Chad, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Niger, and Syria. Read more »

The Sub-Saharan Security Tracker

by John Campbell
Volunteers set up eight thousand candles in the shape of the African continent as part of a demonstration entitled "Africa needs medicine now" at the parliament square in Berne, Switzerland December 1, 2005. (Reuters/Pascal Lauener) Volunteers set up eight thousand candles in the shape of the African continent as part of a demonstration entitled "Africa needs medicine now" at the parliament square in Berne, Switzerland December 1, 2005. (Reuters/Pascal Lauener)

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program has just “soft-launched” a new online tool we call the Sub-Saharan Security Tracker (SST). We anticipate a roundtable at the Council’s New York and Washington offices to introduce formally the SST. In the meantime, it is available for use. Read more »

Radical Islamist Terrorism in West Africa

by John Campbell
Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara prepares to lay a wreath for those killed in Sunday's attack by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, on a beach in Grand Bassam, March 16, 2016. (Reuters/Luc Gnago) Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara prepares to lay a wreath for those killed in Sunday's attack by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, on a beach in Grand Bassam, March 16, 2016. (Reuters/Luc Gnago)

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its affiliates launched an attack in Mali in November, one in Burkina Faso in January, and now in Ivory Coast over the past weekend. On March 16, Boko Haram attacked a mosque in Maiduguri, Nigeria, killing at least twenty-two people. The CFR’s Nigeria Security Tracker shows that Boko Haram has been associated with more than 150 deaths since January 1, 2016, but before the March 16 mosque attack. Even in Senegal, a genuine democracy where the opposition comes to power through elections, there is concern about signs of radical activity. Read more »

Jihadis Still Active in Mali

by John Campbell
French soldiers leave a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) French soldiers leave a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

Activities of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Libya, al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, and Boko Haram in Nigeria have pushed awareness of jihadi activities in Mali into the background. But, the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in northern Mali—called MINUSMA—announced on February 16 that Islamic extremists killed at least seven peacekeepers last week at a UN base near Kidal. As described by a UN spokesman, the jihadi operation looks operationally sophisticated. The jihadis fired shells outside the camp, diverting attention as their explosive-laden truck entered the camp and then detonated. 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 »

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 »

The International Criminal Court and Africa’s Cultural Heritage

by John Campbell
Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi ( a.k.a. Abu Tourab) enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague the Netherlands, September 30,2015. (Reuters/Robin van Lonkhuisen/Pool) Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi ( a.k.a. Abu Tourab) enters the courtroom of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague the Netherlands, September 30,2015. (Reuters/Robin van Lonkhuisen/Pool)

In 2012 radical, jihadist Islamist groups overran northern Mali with Taureg allies. Before they were defeated by French and Malian troops in 2013, the al-Qaeda linked rebels governed the territories they controlled according to what they represented as the principles of Salafist Islam. One prominent group was Ansar Dine, which continues to be active in northern Mali. While the group occupied Timbuktu its governance resembled that of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Read more »

Is Mali Heating Up Again?

by John Campbell
A fighter with the Tuareg separatist group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) stands guard outside the local regional assembly, where members of the rebel group met with the Malian army, the UN mission in Mali and French army officers, in Kidal June 23, 2013. (Adama Diarra/Courtesy Reuters) A fighter with the Tuareg separatist group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) stands guard outside the local regional assembly, where members of the rebel group met with the Malian army, the UN mission in Mali and French army officers, in Kidal June 23, 2013. (Adama Diarra/Courtesy Reuters)

Mali has been relatively quiet over the past few months, with a UN and Algerian-brokered peace process underway to address decades of ongoing conflicts between the Bamako government and Tuaregs in the north.

However, on April 27, pro-government forces seized the town of Menaka from Tuareg separatists following heavy fighting. Details are scarce. The following day Tuaregs fired on UN peacekeepers near Timbuktu, apparently thinking they were Malian soldiers. The Tuaregs apologized, according to the UN mission spokesman. But, there are also sketchy reports of Tuareg attacks on government troops in the same area at about the same time. Read more »

Mercenaries in Nigeria, Part II

by John Campbell
Mercenary "Skoloza" (R) carrying a sniper rifle wrapped in camouflage netting, surveys a construction compound in this black township north of Durban, South Africa, May 9, 1994. (Desmond Boylan/Courtesy Reuters) Mercenary "Skoloza" (R) carrying a sniper rifle wrapped in camouflage netting, surveys a construction compound in this black township north of Durban, South Africa, May 9, 1994. (Desmond Boylan/Courtesy Reuters)

With the detailed March 13 New York Times story on the presence of mercenaries in Nigeria, further comment is required. Read more »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Moving Toward ISIS?

by John Campbell
A still from a video of Abubakar Shekau standing in front of the black flag released by Boko Haram in October 2014. A still from a video of Abubakar Shekau standing in front of the black flag released by Boko Haram in October 2014.

In a recording Boko Haram released last week Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The recording appears to be authentic. Shekau’s pledge goes further than his previous statements of support for ISIS, and was a Boko Haram propaganda coup: once again, the movement made the front page of the New York Times and became a brief media sensation. However, it is unclear what, if any, practical effects this pledge will have. Read more »