John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Putin’s Russia and Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (C) arrives at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria May 28, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (C) arrives at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria May 28, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

This is a guest post by Eugene Steinberg, an assistant editor at the Council on Foreign Relations.

From 1961 to 1992, one of Moscow’s most prestigious schools bore the name of Patrice Lumumba, the Soviet-supported Congolese independence leader brutally executed in 1961. Patrice Lumumba University recruited and educated generations of foreign leaders, especially African leaders, and was just one of the many ways in which the Soviet Union cultivated ties with Africa. Then with the fall of the Soviet Union, after years of pouring money, arms, and manpower into left-leaning anticolonial movements, Russia’s presence in Africa, and Lumumba University, nearly disappeared overnight. But today, two decades later, Russia is once again working to establish a foothold on the continent. Read more »

African Chiefs of State and the Law

by John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama toured a U.S.-supported food factory in Ethiopia on Tuesday on the last leg of an Africa trip, before winding up his visit at the African Union where he will become the first U.S. president to address the 54-nation body. (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 28, 2015. Obama toured a U.S.-supported food factory in Ethiopia on Tuesday on the last leg of an Africa trip, before winding up his visit at the African Union where he will become the first U.S. president to address the 54-nation body. (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

In his rightfully celebrated speech at the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Ababa on July 28, President Barack Obama proclaimed, “no one person is above the law, not even the president.” This is a fundamental principle of American law, based on centuries of English precedent, but it is by no means universally accepted. Read more »

President Obama Discusses South Sudan in Addis

by John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama (C) holds a meeting on South Sudan and counterterrorism issues with African heads of state at his hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 27, 2015. Pictured at the table (clockwise from the top center), are: Obama, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, African Union Chairperson Dlamini Zuma, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Ghandour, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice. (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) U.S. President Barack Obama (C) holds a meeting on South Sudan and counterterrorism issues with African heads of state at his hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia July 27, 2015. Pictured at the table (clockwise from the top center), are: Obama, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni, African Union Chairperson Dlamini Zuma, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Ghandour, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice. (Courtesy Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Addis Ababa is the location of the headquarters of the African Union, which has been deeply involved in the search for an end to the civil war in South Sudan. So, too, has the Ethiopian government of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

The Obama administration was a prime sponsor of the process by which South Sudan became independent four years ago, and has contributed over one billion U.S. dollars to the country since the conflict erupted in 2013. As such, President Obama’s visit to Addis provided a good opportunity for talks at the highest level on the conflict in South Sudan. The Obama administration is blunt: the humanitarian disaster now underway is the result of unscrupulous political leaders who have exploited an ethnic conflict that they cannot control. Read more »

President Obama Visits Kenya and Ethiopia

by John Campbell
A security guard walks past a wall mural depicting U.S. President Barack Obama outside the Go-Down Art Centre in Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 17, 2015. Kenya is preparing itself for a visit by U.S. President Obama in the coming week. Seen as a son of the East African nation owing to his father being Kenyan, many see this visit as a long overdue homecoming, while others question how long authorities can keep up the upgrades after Obama is gone. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) A security guard walks past a wall mural depicting U.S. President Barack Obama outside the Go-Down Art Centre in Kenya's capital Nairobi, July 17, 2015. Kenya is preparing itself for a visit by U.S. President Obama in the coming week. Seen as a son of the East African nation owing to his father being Kenyan, many see this visit as a long overdue homecoming, while others question how long authorities can keep up the upgrades after Obama is gone. (Courtesy Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

Whatever decision the White House makes in selecting the countries included on a presidential visit to Africa, it is bound to draw critical scrutiny. On July 24, President Obama departs for a trip to Kenya and Ethiopia. Two reasons for these two countries seem immediately clear. An important focus of the trip will be the African Union (AU), which has its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held this year in Nairobi, Kenya. The AU is the lodestar of the “African solutions to African problems” policy, while the Entrepreneurship Summit demonstrates a focus on economic development. Both are policy goals keenly supported by the United States. However, there is also a symbolic significance to this decision. Many in Africa have questioned why President Obama, with a Kenyan father, has not yet visited Nairobi during his presidency. This absence has contributed to disappointment in Africa that the Obama presidency has not been particularly African in its focus. Read more »

Buhari Visit to Reset the Bilateral Relationship

by John Campbell
U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (L) sits beside Nigeria's former military ruler and opposition party All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari at the U.S. consulate house in Lagos January 25, 2015. Kerry was in Nigeria to urge its rival political camps to respect the outcome of a Feb. 14 presidential election. Washington is concerned that post-poll violence could undermine the stability of Africa's top oil producer and hamper efforts to tackle the Islamist militants of Boko Haram. "Given the stakes it's absolutely critical that these elections are conducted peacefully," Kerry told reporters in the commercial capital Lagos after meeting President Goodluck Jonathan and main opposition rival Buhari. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) U.S Secretary of State John Kerry (L) sits beside Nigeria's former military ruler and opposition party All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari at the U.S. consulate house in Lagos January 25, 2015. Kerry was in Nigeria to urge its rival political camps to respect the outcome of a Feb. 14 presidential election. Washington is concerned that post-poll violence could undermine the stability of Africa's top oil producer and hamper efforts to tackle the Islamist militants of Boko Haram. "Given the stakes it's absolutely critical that these elections are conducted peacefully," Kerry told reporters in the commercial capital Lagos after meeting President Goodluck Jonathan and main opposition rival Buhari. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

At the invitation of the Obama administration, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is making an official visit to Washington, D.C. from July 20 to July 24. The visit is an opportunity to reset a bilateral relationship that had chilled under former President Goodluck Jonathan, in part because of the Nigerian security service’s human rights violations in the fight against the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram, and in part because of vocal criticism from the Jonathan administration that the United States was not doing enough to help in the struggle against Boko Haram. Now, an indication of the importance of the visit to the Obama administration is that President Buhari will be staying at Blair House, the official guest house, even though this is not a state visit, which are usually arranged long in advance and more ceremonial than substantive. Read more »

It Is Time for President Obama to Visit Nigeria

by John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama is seen in a mirror behind members of the Nigerian delegation as he meets with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (not seen) in New York September 23, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama is seen in a mirror behind members of the Nigerian delegation as he meets with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (not seen) in New York September 23, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Up to now, President Barack Obama has never visited Nigeria. That has been appropriate given the country’s history of rigged elections and the government’s refusal to investigate credible reports of human rights abuses by the security services in the struggle with Boko Haram. The Obama administration did engage with the Jonathan administration, with meetings between the two presidents in Washington and New York, and visits by Secretary of State John Kerry to Abuja. Read more »

U.S. Visa Revocation

by John Campbell
Patience Jonathan, wife of Nigeria's president, casts her vote in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, March 28, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Patience Jonathan, wife of Nigeria's president, casts her vote in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, March 28, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

When Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria in January in advance of Nigeria’s March 28 elections, he observed that anyone who incited violence or interfered with the electoral process would be subject to U.S. visa sanctions. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the same point in an opinion piece she published in a Nigerian newspaper on April 20 in which she praised the Nigerian people and the election process. Read more »

Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidential Victory in Nigeria

by John Campbell
Opposition presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), speaks during the Nigeria Labour Congress in Abuja, February 9, 2015. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Opposition presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), speaks during the Nigeria Labour Congress in Abuja, February 9, 2015. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

In a country where elections have routinely been rigged in favor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential incumbent or his designee, opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress have won an astonishing victory. Buhari’s support was nationwide, and his vote total was the largest in four of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. Unlike 2011, the electorate did not starkly bifurcate along north/south, Muslim/Christian lines. Read more »

Will Buhari’s Win in Nigeria Stick?

by John Campbell
Presidential aspirant and former Nigerian military ruler Muhammadu Buhari speaks as he presents his manifesto at All Progressives Congress (APC) party convention in Lagos on December 11, 2014. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) Presidential aspirant and former Nigerian military ruler Muhammadu Buhari speaks as he presents his manifesto at All Progressives Congress (APC) party convention in Lagos on December 11, 2014. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

As of the morning of March 31, in New York, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, has a commanding lead over incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). States yet to have their results announced are nearly all in the north of the country–Buhari’s traditional stronghold. Those results should increase Buhari’s already substantial margin of victory. Buhari has already declared victory. Thus far, there has been no comment from President Goodluck Jonathan. Read more »

“Don’t Steal Nigeria’s Election”

by John Campbell
An Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) worker checks the validity of a voter's card during a mock accreditation exercise in Lafia on March 7, ahead of the election. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) An Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) worker checks the validity of a voter's card during a mock accreditation exercise in Lafia on March 7, ahead of the election. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

In an era of instant analysis too often driven by the superficialities of the twenty-four hour news cycle, Jean Herskovits has published a thoughtful, detailed op-ed on Nigeria only a few days away from national elections. Her perspective is that of an academic who is devoted to the development of African democracy and good governance and has been writing about Nigeria for forty-five years. Her op-ed is a must-read. Read more »