John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Mali"

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 »

Thoughts on the Chadians, Boko Haram, and Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
Chadian soldiers participate in the opening ceremony of Flintlock 2015, an exercise organized by the U.S. military in N'Djamena February 16, 2015. Courtesy Reuters/ Emmanuel Braun) Chadian soldiers participate in the opening ceremony of Flintlock 2015, an exercise organized by the U.S. military in N'Djamena February 16, 2015. Courtesy Reuters/ Emmanuel Braun)

Adam Nossiter wrote an article featured in the February 19 issue of the New York Times titled “In Nigeria, Boko Haram Loses Ground to Chadians.” While Nossiter says that it is too early to tell, others have declared that the Chadians have somehow “turned the tide” against Boko Haram. While the Nigerian federal government has remained relatively silent about the Chadians, they too have recaptured terroritory and claimed victories over Boko Haram. Read more »

What to Expect from the African Union Summit

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
The opening ceremony of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Negeri). The opening ceremony of the 22nd Ordinary Session of the African Union summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 30, 2014 (Courtesy Reuters/Negeri).

This is a guest post by Jason Warner. He is a PhD candidate in African Studies at Harvard University, serving as a U.S. Government Boren National Security Fellow in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Late January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia brings waves of impenetrable traffic, pan-African flags adorning the central Bole Road, and scarcely a vacant room in the city’s infamously hotel-filled landscape. The cause: the semi-annual African Union (AU) Heads of State Summit, which this year began on Friday, January 23. As the AU’s most important annual meeting kicks into high gear this week, here are some of the more pressing questions that observers and participants will have on their minds. Read more »

Kidnapping, Ransoms, and the Sahel

by John Campbell
Former French hostage Daniel Larribe is welcomed by relatives as French President Francois Hollande looks on on the tarmac upon their arrival at Villacoublay military airport, near Paris, October 30, 2013 (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters). Former French hostage Daniel Larribe is welcomed by relatives as French President Francois Hollande looks on on the tarmac upon their arrival at Villacoublay military airport, near Paris, October 30, 2013 (Jacky Naegelen/Courtesy Reuters).

Rukmini Callimachi has a chilling story on the front page of today’s New York Times, “Paying Ransoms, Europe Bankrolls Qaeda Terror.” It is a must-read. The story is based on a wide range of interviews with victims, government officials, counterterrorism experts, and thousands of pages of internal al-Qaeda documents found in Mali. Read more »

Boko Haram Factions and the Kidnapping of the Nigerian School Girls

by John Campbell
A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in the remote village of Chibok, during a sit-in protest at the Unity fountain Abuja, May 12, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) A woman takes part in a protest for the release of the abducted secondary school girls in the remote village of Chibok, during a sit-in protest at the Unity fountain Abuja, May 12, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Jacob Zenn has published an important article that analyzes the various factions that comprise “Boko Haram,” their leadership and rivalries, and their links with other radical Islamist groups outside Nigeria. The article is dense and exhaustively documented. Here, I highlight certain of his points that I found especially relevant, given that the kidnapped Chibok school girls remain in captivity and a focus of intense domestic and international concern. 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 »

Violence Escalating in Mali

by John Campbell
National guardsmen arrive to secure the Grand Mosque before Eid-al-Fitr prayers marking the end of Ramadan in Bamako August 8, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) National guardsmen arrive to secure the Grand Mosque before Eid-al-Fitr prayers marking the end of Ramadan in Bamako August 8, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

On September 30, I posted “Mali and Tuaregs: Deja Vu All over Again?” The focus was on the breakdown of a peace process between the Malian government and three separatist Tuareg groups. 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 »