John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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The Rescued Chibok Girl and the Victims Support Fund

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki, a Nigerian schoolgirl rescued after over two years of captivity with Boko Haram militants, presents her child to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, May 19, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki, a Nigerian schoolgirl rescued after over two years of captivity with Boko Haram militants, presents her child to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, May 19, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

This is a guest post by Sherrie Russell-Brown. She is an international human rights lawyer, who writes about issues of gender, security, international justice and humanitarian law, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: May 14-20

by John Campbell
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from May 14, to May 20, 2016. This update also represents violence related to Boko Haram in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker.
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Buhari Discusses the Future of the Civilian Joint Task Force

by John Campbell
Members of civilian joint task force members check vehicles at a checkpoint in Maiduguri May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney) Members of civilian joint task force members check vehicles at a checkpoint in Maiduguri May 22, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

The Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) is a body of vigilantes, recruited by local and state governments, that has assisted the Nigerian security services in the struggle against Boko Haram. They are widely said to have invaluable local knowledge. Critics, however, have been concerned about their lack of discipline and their alleged personal score-settling. They are also accused of serious human rights abuses. Now that they are armed, there has been concern about what they will do if and when the struggle against Boko Haram concludes. Read more »

Questions About Nigeria’s Freed Chibok Schoolgirl

by John Campbell
Undated picture released May 18, 2016, by the Nigerian army of rescued Chibok schoolgirl and her baby in Maiduguri, Nigeria. She was kidnapped by Boko Haram from her school in Chibok more than two years ago. (Nigeria Military/Handout via Reuters) Undated picture released May 18, 2016, by the Nigerian army of rescued Chibok schoolgirl and her baby in Maiduguri, Nigeria. She was kidnapped by Boko Haram from her school in Chibok more than two years ago. (Nigeria Military/Handout via Reuters)

As has been the case since Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of school girls that had been concentrated in Chibok to take their final examinations two years ago, there must be questions about Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki. According to Western and Nigerian media, she was found in the bush by members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a vigilante group that assists the official security services in the fight against Boko Haram. She had with her a baby and a man. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: May 7-13

by John Campbell
The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau) The map above depicts deaths in Nigeria by state. (Source: CFR Nigeria Security Tracker; powered by Tableau)

Below is a visualization and description of some of the most significant incidents of political violence in Nigeria from May 7, to May 13, 2016. This update also represents violence related to Boko Haram in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker.
Read more »

Kicking the Western Sahara Question Down the Road

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic flag flies in Boudjdour desert refugee camp in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 4, 2016. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra) The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic flag flies in Boudjdour desert refugee camp in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 4, 2016. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

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.

On April 29, ten of the fifteen UN Security Council members voted to renew the mandate for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), one day before its expiration. Prior to the vote, Angola, a non-permanent member, requested an informal, confidential Security Council meeting held outside the Security Council room, to allow Joaquim Chissano, Special Envoy of the African Union (AU) for the Western Sahara, to brief the council. NGOs were barred from attending and no translation services were provided. Morocco, which is the only African country without AU membership and considers the AU biased toward the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), opposed the meeting with Chissano on the grounds that the UN is the sole intergovernmental organization legitimately involved in the issue. Angola—along with Russia and New Zealand—ultimately abstained from the vote, while Venezuela and Uruguay voted in opposition. Read more »

New U.S. Defense Cooperation Agreement With Senegal

by John Campbell
Senegalese soldiers and European trainers return to base after training during Flintlock 2016, a U.S.-led international training exercise with African militaries in Thies, Senegal, February 11, 2016. (Reuters/Sylvain Cherkaoui) Senegalese soldiers and European trainers return to base after training during Flintlock 2016, a U.S.-led international training exercise with African militaries in Thies, Senegal, February 11, 2016. (Reuters/Sylvain Cherkaoui)

Emblematic of the growing U.S. defense presence in West Africa is a new defense cooperation agreement signed on May 2 with Senegal. According to the low-key report carried by Associated Press (AP), the agreement improves access for the U.S. military to Senegal should they need to deploy in the event of a security or humanitarian crisis. In Dakar, U.S. Ambassador James Zumwalt said, “With this agreement, the United States military and the Senegalese military can plan better together, accomplish more with joint training, and better prepare to respond in concert to risks to our shared interests.” Read more »

Nigerian Security Services, Boko Haram, and the 2015 Zaria Shiite Massacre

by John Campbell
Shiite men talk while sitting under posters of their Islamic leaders in Zaria, Kaduna state, Nigeria, February 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Shiite men talk while sitting under posters of their Islamic leaders in Zaria, Kaduna state, Nigeria, February 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

In 2009, following Boko Haram’s apparent revolt, the details of which remain murky and contentious, the Nigerian security services, mostly the army, destroyed the group’s Maiduguri compound. The army arrested then Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and turned him over to the police, who extrajudicially murdered him. The army killed at least eight hundred of his followers and family members. Boko Haram survivors went underground only to emerge in 2011 under a new, bloodthirsty leader: Abubakar Shekau. Read more »

Boko Haram Tied to the Self-Proclaimed Islamic State

by John Campbell
Libyan soldiers man a checkpoint in Wadi Bey, west of the Islamic State-held city of Sirte, February 23, 2016. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny) Libyan soldiers man a checkpoint in Wadi Bey, west of the Islamic State-held city of Sirte, February 23, 2016. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

Especially after Boko Haram “face” Abubakar Shekau’s March 2015, pledge of allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, there has been speculation that the two movements are drawing closer together. However, there has up to now been little evidence of tactical or strategic cooperation. That could be changing. Read more »

Taking the Temperature of Nigeria’s Boko Haram

by John Campbell
A soldier walks through a burnt building at the headquarters of Michika local government in Michika town, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state, May 10, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A soldier walks through a burnt building at the headquarters of Michika local government in Michika town, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state, May 10, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

The Nigeria security services regularly announce successes against Boko Haram. Earlier in April, they announced the arrest of Khalid al-Barnawi, a leader of Ansaru—a Boko Haram splinter—and have claimed thereby to have disrupted at least some terrorist networks. Over the weekend of April 16 and 17, the military announced the discovery of a large cache of Boko Haram weapons. An army spokesman said that the captured weapons were worth 20 million naira (the equivalent of roughly $100 thousand, at the official exchange rate, much less at the floating black market rate). The spokesman also said that the army recovered a generator, a Hilux vehicle, and several motorcycles. Read more »