John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Elections: U.S. Prestige Takes a Hit in Africa

by John Campbell
Katie Hartman, a correspondent for Seriously.TV, poses outside Hofstra University, the site of the September 26 first presidential debate between U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in Hempstead, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton) Katie Hartman, a correspondent for Seriously.TV, poses outside Hofstra University, the site of the September 26 first presidential debate between U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in Hempstead, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

The U.S. image in Africa has been based on more than trade and aid. Africans admire and seek to emulate U.S. rule of law and institutions of governance largely free of corruption. They seek to emulate American elections that are credible and accepted by winners and losers. U.S. ethnic and religious pluralism has long been admired. So, too, has been the American tradition of at least some civility in politics. With the ambiguous exception of Liberia, the United States was not a colonial power and public opinion (if not government policy) was generally hostile to colonialism. The success of American democracy and governance made U.S. criticism of “big man” and other sleazy governments credible to Africans. Read more »

The Surge of Insurgency/Terrorism in Recent Times: Social and Economic Consequences

by John Campbell
The flag of Nigeria is carried by Maryam Usman as the team enters the stadium during the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, July 23, 2014. (Reuters/Jim Young) The flag of Nigeria is carried by Maryam Usman as the team enters the stadium during the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow, Scotland, July 23, 2014. (Reuters/Jim Young)

The following text is the entirety of John Campbell’s speech delivered at the Nigeria Summit on National Security held by the Council on African Security and Development in Abuja, Nigeria, on May 25, 2016. 

Thank you for your warm introduction. It is a pleasure to be at this important conference, to see old friends, make new ones, and to be back in Nigeria. 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 »

Nigeria’s Female Suicide Bombers

by John Campbell
A security officer scans a woman entering a health clinic at Minawao refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. (Reuters/Joe Penney) A security officer scans a woman entering a health clinic at Minawao refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

Boko Haram’s suicide bomber female recruits are objects of fascination and horror. The New York Times, citing the Long War Journal, says that Boko Haram has used at least 105 women and girls for suicide attacks since June 2014. In addition, UNICEF reports that Boko Haram has used an increased number of child suicide bombers; 75 percent of these children are young girls. As a tactic, suicide bombing is remarkably successful, killing hundreds and undermining popular confidence in the Nigerian government’s ability to provide security in areas liberated from Boko Haram. Read more »

Flare-up Threatens Saharan Ceasefire

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
An indigenous Sahrawi woman walks at a refugee camp of Boudjdour in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 3, 2016. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra) An indigenous Sahrawi woman walks at a refugee camp of Boudjdour in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 3, 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 March 22, at the request of the Moroccan government, the United Nations (UN) closed its military liaison office in Dakhla, a city in Western Sahara, the disputed stretch of sand in northwest Africa claimed by the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front. Two days earlier—also prompted by Rabat—seventy-three UN personnel were “temporarily reassigned” away from the headquarters of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). These steps—along with the threat from Rabat to call home the 2,300 soldiers and police it contributes to UN peacekeeping missions—are the kingdom’s reaction to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s use of the term “occupation” to describe the Moroccan presence in the territory on his recent visit to refugee camps in southern Algeria, home to an estimated 150,000 ethnic Sahrawis. Read more »

Northern Nigeria’s Multifaceted Humanitarian Crisis

by John Campbell
A girl peers out of a doorway at a local Islamic school in Zaria, Kaduna state, Nigeria, February 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) A girl peers out of a doorway at a local Islamic school in Zaria, Kaduna state, Nigeria, February 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

With warfare continuing between the Islamist radical movement Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces, the resulting humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria is deepening. The United Nations (UN) estimates that there are between two and three million internally displaced persons (IDP). How many there really are is impossible to know. A small percentage are in formal camps. The majority appear to have been taken in by kin. Read more »

What to Watch: Africa 2016

by John Campbell and Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Boys play on the roof of the entrance to a football stadium in Gao February 20, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney) Boys play on the roof of the entrance to a football stadium in Gao February 20, 2013. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

While western governments are currently transfixed on events in Iraq and Syria, it is important that they do not forget Africa. Boko Haram has become the world’s deadliest terrorist organization and Libya is increasingly becoming a base of operations for the Islamic State. Below, CFR’s Africa program outlines six African issues to watch in 2016. While they could certainly affect the lives of millions of Africans, these issues could also have serious implications for international politics. Read more »

The Eastern Congo

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
South African peacekeepers patrol the streets of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, December 2, 2015.  (Reuters/ Ed Cropley) South African peacekeepers patrol the streets of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, December 2, 2015. (Reuters/ Ed Cropley)

This is a guest post by Allen Grane, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

Last Thursday, the Council on Foreign Relations’ visual media team released its new InfoGuide: The Eastern Congo. Developed in conjunction with experts from Human Rights Watch, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the United States Institute of Peace, and the Congo Research Group, the guide provides an excellent outline of the conflict that has plagued the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Read more »

United States Humanitarian Assistance to Nigerian Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees

by John Campbell
Women displaced by Boko Haram violence residing at the IDP camp yola, are briefed before other women and children rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa forest by Nigeria Military arrive at the Internally displaced people's camp in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria, May 2, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Women displaced by Boko Haram violence residing at the IDP camp yola, are briefed before other women and children rescued from Boko Haram in Sambisa forest by Nigeria Military arrive at the Internally displaced people's camp in Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria, May 2, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

The conflict with Boko Haram has resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe in northeastern Nigeria and adjacent parts of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, with estimates of internally displaced persons (IDP) and refugees sometimes approaching two million. In addition, acute malnutrition is widespread. On August 21, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a useful fact sheet that profiles the severity of the crisis, drawing largely on United Nations (UN) statistics. It also provides useful facts and figures on U.S. humanitarian assistance. Some highlights of the USAID fact sheet are given below. Read more »

August Boko Haram Killings Approach Pre-Election Levels

by John Campbell
Security and emergency agency staff investigate the Kano Central Mosque bombing scene in Kano November 29, 2014. Gunmen set off three bombs and opened fire on worshippers at the main mosque in north Nigeria's biggest city Kano on Friday, killing at least 81 people, witnesses and officials said, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of Islamist Boko Haram militants. (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer) Security and emergency agency staff investigate the Kano Central Mosque bombing scene in Kano November 29, 2014. Gunmen set off three bombs and opened fire on worshippers at the main mosque in north Nigeria's biggest city Kano on Friday, killing at least 81 people, witnesses and officials said, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of Islamist Boko Haram militants. (Courtesy Reuters/Stringer)

Over the last weekend in August, suspected Boko Haram operatives killed some eighty people in three villages in northeast Nigeria, according to the media. The latest round of killings highlights a dramatic resurgence of violence associated with Boko Haram. Read more »