John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Press Freedom"

The “K-word” in South Africa and Proposed New Penalties Against Hate Speech

by John Campbell
Members of South African President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) political party march to the headquarters of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) during a march against racism in Cape Town, in this picture taken January 22, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Following the social media circulation of a video in which a white woman lashes out at black police officers using racial slurs, the Zuma administration is proposing harsher penalties against hate speech. Proposed legislation would move hate speech cases from civil courts to criminal courts in South Africa. Currently punishable only by fines, “racist utterances and many other incidents of vicious crimes perpetrated under the influence of racial hate…has necessitated further measures,” according to the minister of justice. If the proposed legislation becomes law, a first-time offender could face three years in prison and a repeat offender up to ten years. Read more »

Zimbabwe and an “Arab Spring”

by John Campbell
Zimbabwean protesters wait outside the Harare Magistrates court before the arrival of arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe July 13, 2016. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwe is rapidly deteriorating, if not imploding. In the midst of a drought, estimates are that up to half of the rural population will face hunger or famine in the coming year. The economy is contracting, and the government is running out of hard currency, British sterling, the U.S. dollar, and the South African Rand, which it uses since it abandoned its own currency. The government is failing to pay its civil servants and some of its security forces and has imposed a ban on imports from South Africa. Unemployment figures are so high – up to 85 percent –as to be meaningless. The government’s diamond revenue is running out or diverted. President Robert Mugabe – at times referred to as “Uncle Bob” – is 92 years of age, and it shows. His political behavior is increasingly quixotic. He has abandoned a traditional pillar of his regime, the “war veterans,” who played a crucial role as Mugabe’s thugs and drove the white farmers out. He has even threatened the “veterans” with mayhem if they dabble in succession politics. Read more »

Nigeria’s Pro-Biafra Agitation: A Mix of Crisis and Opportunity

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A man carries the Biafran flag during a parade in Ekwe village, near Enugu in southeastern Nigeria, May 27, 2008. (Reuters/George Esiri)

This is a guest post by Carl Unegbu. Carl is a Nigerian-born American lawyer and journalist. He lives in New York City.

Nigeria’s old Biafra problem has reared its head again and with it, the specter of disintegration. For a thirty-month period between 1967 and 1970, Nigeria was embroiled in a bloody civil war as its eastern region unsuccessfully tried to secede from the country under the banner of the Republic of Biafra. The latest episode in the Biafra crisis revolves around the arrest on October 19, of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of a secession movement called the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Kanu is presently facing trial for sedition and treason. Since his arrest, protesters demanding both his release and an independent Biafra have repeatedly clashed violently with security forces with resulting deaths. On the international front, the European Union’s foreign policy chief recently weighed in on the matter with a policy statement and the controversy is on its way to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Read more »

Biafra Dream

by John Campbell
A supporter of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu holds a Biafra flag during a rally in support of Kanu, who is expected to appear at a magistrate court in Abuja, Nigeria, December 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

While those of us who love Nigeria have been fixated on Boko Haram and the discontents of the North, the Ibo-dominated parts of the south have been heating up. Separatists that invoke the defeated Biafra in the 1967-70 civil war are increasingly visible. On December 2, at least 8,000 pro-separatist Ibo youth demonstrated at the Niger Bridge at Onitsha, Anambra state, the link between Nigeria’s south east and the west. At least eight demonstrators and two policeman were killed. The demonstrators burned the city’s central mosque and attacked trucks belonging to the Dangote Group, owned by northern billionaire Aliko Dangote. Read more »

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)

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 »

“Je Suis Charlie” and Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
Displaced people gather as the Red Cross in Kano distributes relief materials to displaced victims of the Boko Haram violence, December 16, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer) Displaced people gather as the Red Cross in Kano distributes relief materials to displaced victims of the Boko Haram violence, December 16, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer)

In the aftermath of the January 7 Islamist terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a separate but apparently related January 9 attack on a Jewish supermarket, both in Paris, over 3 million demonstrated throughout France in solidarity against terrorism. In Paris, demonstrators numbered some 1.6 million. Read more »

American “Quality” Press and Nigeria

by John Campbell
Crowd gather at the scene of a bomb blast at a bus terminal in Nyayan, Abuja April 14, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

On April 15, arguably the most influential of the American print press carried the story of the horrific April 14 bombings in Abuja. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post among others all had stories or photographs on their front pages. Read more »

“Africa Rising” and Freedom of the Press

by John Campbell
Major General Fred Mugisha, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander, shows the media examples of components of improvised explosive devices that have been found on the streets of Mogadishu, which were subsequently defused, removed and deactivated by AMISOM in Mogadishu in a photograph released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team November 29, 2011. (AU-UN/Stuart Price/Courtesy Reuters)

The “Africa Rising” narrative that reflects GDP growth of many African economies is strongly supported by sub-Saharan governments, African popular opinion, and by business interests, at home and abroad. Mohamed Keita from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) writes a salutary reminder that the authorities in too many cases try to suppress home media challenges to this positive and optimistic narrative. Read more »

The Push to Lift U.S. Communication Technology Sanctions on Sudan

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Locals and South Sudanese refugees play video games in a market near a camp 10 km (6 miles) from al-Salam locality at the border of Sudan's White Nile state, after arriving from Malakal and al-Rank war zones within South Sudan, January 27, 2014. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Aala Abdelgadir. Aala is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relation’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative.

After a year of collaboration with U.S. civil society groups and U.S. Department of State officials, members of Sudan’s civil society launched a campaign on January 20, 2014, to advocate that the U.S. government lift its technology sanctions on Sudan. Read more »

President Omar al-Bashir’s Crumbling Foundation

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Gas station fuel pumps are toppled during protests over fuel subsidy cuts in Khartoum September 25, 2013. (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Aala Abdelgadir. Aala is a research associate for the Council on Foreign Relation’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative.

On September 22, Sudan’s government announced the lifting of fuel subsidies as part of an IMF-backed strategy to restabilize the economy. Protests broke out the next day in Wad Madani and spread to several other cities, including the capitol Khartoum. President Omar al-Bahsir defended this latest austerity measure as a necessary step to prevent the total collapse of Sudan’s economy, which has been teetering since South Sudan seceded in 2011 and took with it three quarters of oil profits, which accounted for 48 percent of Sudan’s government revenue. Read more »