John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Mali"

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 »

Mali: Misinterpreting Conflict Drivers and Racial Identities

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Mali's President-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita attends his swearing-in ceremony in Bamako, Mali, September 4, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) Mali's President-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita attends his swearing-in ceremony in Bamako, Mali, September 4, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Eric Silla. Eric has PhD in African history from Northwestern University and is the author of “People are not the Same: Leprosy and Identity in Twentieth Century Mali” (Heinemann, 1998).

The recent crises in Mali have sparked discussions that are, unfortunately, often riddled with misinformation and misrepresentation of the country’s  history and current predicament. A recent example is The New Yorker’sLetter From Timbuktu.” As a scholar of Mali who has lived and worked there, I read it with disappointment. Read more »

Mali’s Elections: Completed, but Successful?

by John Campbell
A man rides a bicycle past electoral campaign posters in Bamako August 9, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) A man rides a bicycle past electoral campaign posters in Bamako August 9, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

On August 11 Mali conducted the second and final round of its national elections. The results are expected on August 16. The leading contenders are former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, often called IBK, and former finance minister Soumaila Cisse. Keita is the favorite, having won 39 percent of the votes in the first round to Cisse’s 19 percent. In the first round, voter turnout was higher than in previous elections, though still under 50 percent. In the secessionist north, voter participation was much lower. The Malian political class, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), France, and the United States look to the success of these elections to put to rest the two year crisis that followed a military coup against the corrupt government of President Amadou Toumani Toure. A democratically elected government will also permit donors to resume the aid flow. Read more »

Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau: Dead Again?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters) A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor to the West Point CTC Sentinel.

On August 1, Nigerian media reported that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was either shot by the Nigerian security forces or deposed by his own men in a mutiny. Shekau has been the sole face and voice of Boko Haram’s most violent faction since its first attack on a prison in Bauchi in September 2010. The reports about Shekau are still unconfirmed—and even denied by the Joint Task Force and a rival factional leader of Shekau’s—but, if the reports are true, it would be the fourth time Shekau was wounded or almost killed. 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 »