John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "Religion"

The Prophecy of Nigeria’s TB Joshua

by John Campbell
Worshipers, dressed in traditional attire, attend a church service at the Living Faith Church, also known as the Winners' Chapel, in Ota district, Ogun state, some 60 km (37 miles) outside Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, September 28, 2014. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Nigerians like to say that they are the happiest people in the world and the most religious. Public events commonly open and close with prayer. Causation of events, big or small is routinely ascribed to the divine. The population appears to be more-or-less evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. Among Christians, estimates are more than half of its adherents are Anglicans and Roman Catholics. But, there are a large number of other denominations independent of any of the more common faith traditions. They are particularly associated with televangelism and mega churches. Read more »

What Is New About Sectarian Fighting in Nigeria’s Middle Belt

by John Campbell
A tribal Fulani boy stands near cows at a local milk collecting centre in Dangwala Karfi village on the outskirts of Nigeria's northern city of Kano January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Sectarian conflict in Nigeria’s Middle Belt is attracting more attention both at home and abroad. Typically, conflict involves Muslim Fulani herdsmen clashing with Christian Barome (or other small tribes) farmers. Conflict between pastoralists and farmers has been endemic for years in the Middle Belt, where the predominately Christian south and the mostly Muslim north meet. The coincidence of boundaries between religions, land use, and ethnic groups promotes conflict, as does its manipulation by politicians to advance their particular agendas. Historically, the Fulani preyed on minority tribes to feed the slave trade. When Christianity arrived in the Middle Belt, it was embraced by the minority tribes, as opposed to the Islam of the slave catchers. 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)

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 »

Therapy for a Broken Nigerian Community

by John Campbell
A local vigilante checks a vehicle at a check point in Michika town, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state, May 10, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

The consequences of the brutal war between Boko Haram and the Nigerian security services will be with us for a long time. In the BBC’s series, “Letter from Africa,” Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani describes how the experience of Boko Haram occupation and subsequent liberation exacerbated the division between Christians and Muslims in the town of Michika. Christians and Muslims now hold their markets on different days of the week, and children from each community taunt those from the other. Nwaubani sums it up, “These days, the Christians and Muslims cannot stand each other.” She reports that the town was liberated by the Nigerian military after seven months of Boko Haram occupation, but security is now in the hands of “professional game hunters” and “vigilantes,” two informal, nongovernmental groups that are also suspicious of each other, even though their memberships are religiously mixed. Read more »

Nigerian Muslim Views on Suicide Bombing

by John Campbell
Smoke is seen after an suicide bomb explosion in Gombe, Nigeria on February 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Historically, there has been no West African tradition of martyrdom by suicide. Suicide, in fact, continues usually to be viewed as anathema. Nigeria’s first case of suicide bombing occurred only five years ago, in 2011. Since then, it has become associated with Boko Haram, the radical, Islamist movement that seeks to destroy the secular government in Nigeria. Read more »

Nigerian Popular Support for Boko Haram

by John Campbell
People gather at the cattle market in Maiduguri, Nigeria March 9, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

One of the many unknowns about Boko Haram, the radical Islamist terrorist movement associated with over 150 killings thus far in 2016, is how much popular support it actually enjoys. It is counterintuitive to witness popular support for a movement that brags about (and films) its grisly beheadings, makes use of female and child suicide bombers, and has contributed to some three million internally displaced persons in Nigeria and hundreds of thousands of refugees in adjacent countries. On the other hand, in its current iteration it has been active for five years, shows tactical flexibility, and kidnaps hundreds of women and girls. The more than two hundred Chibok school girls kidnapped in 2014 have never been accounted for, indicating that the movement has some logistical support structures that can feed, clothe, and house them. Read more »

“Massacre” of Shia in Northern Nigeria an Opening for Iran

by John Campbell
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (R) meets Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari in Tehran, Iran, November 23, 2015. (Reuters/

Africa watchers have been focused of late on Burundi. On December 12, however, their attention was drawn back to Nigeria. The Nigerian army killed a number of Shia Muslims in Zaria, Kaduna state. This has resulted in representations from Tehran, Iran, which regards itself as the protector of the Shia everywhere, including Nigeria. As of now, reports from Shia sources are more credible than the lame denials from the military. Amnesty International is demanding an urgent investigation. Yet again, the Nigerian military’s lack of transparency may have made a bad situation worse. Iranian involvement in northern Nigeria and the potential radicalization of the Nigerian Shia could have negative consequences for Africa broader than the current turmoil in Burundi. 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)

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 »

Boko Haram Turns to Lagos

by John Campbell
An aerial view shows the central business district in Nigeria's commercial capital of Lagos, April 7, 2009. Nigeria's First Bank and Access Bank on Wednesday became two of a handful of Nigerian financial institutions to adopt international reporting standards, seen as key to restoring confidence in the battered sector. (Courtesy Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Lagos, one of the largest cities in the world and the heart of Nigeria’s modern economy, has not been the venue for Boko Haram or other radical jihadi terrorism. The sole episode occurred in 2014 and was small in scale. However, Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS), which has some similarities to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, is raising the possibility that Lagos’ immunity may be about to change. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update August 15-August 21

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 August 15, 2015 to August 21, 2015. 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 »