John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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After the Vote, It’s “Morning in South Africa”

by John Campbell and Guest Blogger for John Campbell
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma reacts during the official announcement of the municipal election results at the result center in Pretoria, South Africa, August 6, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) South Africa's President Jacob Zuma reacts during the official announcement of the municipal election results at the result center in Pretoria, South Africa, August 6, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

This post was co-authored by John Campbell and Allen Grane, research associate for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Many friends of South Africa’s post-1994 “non-racial democracy” have seen developments within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), especially under Jacob Zuma, as threatening the open political system based on the rule of law. So long as voting was largely determined by racial identity, the 80 percent of South Africa’s population that is black seemed to ensure that the party would remain in power indefinitely. The White, Coloured, and Asian minorities supported the Democratic Alliance (DA), but together they are not large enough to constitute an alternative to the ANC, except on the provincial level. (The DA has long dominated predominately Coloured and White Western Cape.) The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which calls for an assault on White “privilege,” were largely confined to the townships. Read more »

Under the Radar: People with Albinism in Eastern and Southern Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
An albino girl smiles in Mitindo Primary School in Nyawilimilwa, Mwanza region of Tanzania, November 21, 2009. (Reuters/Katrina Manson) An albino girl smiles in Mitindo Primary School in Nyawilimilwa, Mwanza region of Tanzania, November 21, 2009. (Reuters/Katrina Manson)

Nathan Birhanu is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. He is a graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

Albinism is a hereditary condition from birth where an individual, partially or completely, lacks pigmentation in the skin, hair, and eyes. The condition is found in one in every 20,000 people globally. The topic of albinism is of importance in sub-Saharan Africa where rates can reach as high as one in 1,400 people because of a variety of factors. Read more »

Islamist Terrorism in South Africa

by John Campbell
A Cape Town Muslim awaits the sighting of the crescent moon marking Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, along the city's Sea Point beachfront, September 9, 2010. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) A Cape Town Muslim awaits the sighting of the crescent moon marking Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, along the city's Sea Point beachfront, September 9, 2010. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Over the past few days, both the United Kingdom and the United States have warned their nationals of a possible Islamist terrorist attack in South Africa. The warnings cite upscale shopping malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town as the most likely targets. Read more »

Nigeria’s Abubakar Shekau Is Back, If He Ever Left

by John Campbell
Leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, speaking on video footage from the Nigerian terrorist network. (AP) Leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, speaking on video footage from the Nigerian terrorist network. (AP)

Boko Haram warlord and public face, Abubakar Shekau, was last heard from in March, when he pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.  His silence since then led to speculation that he was dead or had been replaced. Chad’s president, Idriss Deby, recently claimed that Shekau had been replaced as Boko Haram’s leader with a figure unknown to observers. (See Africa in Transition, August 12, 2015.) Deby’s comment led to Shekau issuing an eight minute audio message in Hausa on August 16 in which he said he was still in command. The SITE Intelligence Group, Agence France-Presse, and the BBC have stated that “there is no doubt that the voice is that of Abubakar Shekau.” So, at least we know he is not dead. Read more »

HIV/AIDS in South Africa: Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

by John Campbell
Children run past a mural painting of an Aids ribbon at a school in Khutsong Township, 74 km (46 miles) west of Johannesburg, August 22, 2011. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) Children run past a mural painting of an Aids ribbon at a school in Khutsong Township, 74 km (46 miles) west of Johannesburg, August 22, 2011. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) published the “South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, and Behaviour Survey, 2012” on April 1, 2014. It is the definitive survey of HIV/AIDS in South Africa to date, and is part of a series, with earlier surveys published in 2002, 2005, and 2009. The Survey is funded by, among others, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Read more »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Releases New Videos

by John Campbell
Pius Nna, the village head of Angwan Gata, walks through one of the rooms destroyed when gunmen attacked his village in Kaura local government Kaduna State, March 19, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Pius Nna, the village head of Angwan Gata, walks through one of the rooms destroyed when gunmen attacked his village in Kaura local government Kaduna State, March 19, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 14, fighting broke out in the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, including at the Giwa Barracks –the military’s main headquarters in Borno. “Boko Haram” claims it secured the release of two thousand detainees during the siege on the barracks. Abubakar Shekau released two new videos to claim responsibility for the attack. Read more »

Boko Haram’s Abubakar Shekau: Dead Again?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters) A poster advertising for the search of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau is pasted on a wall in Baga village on the outskirts of Maiduguri, in the north-eastern state of Borno May 13, 2013. (Tim Cocks/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the Washington D.C.-based think tank, The Jamestown Foundation, and a contributor to the West Point CTC Sentinel.

On August 1, Nigerian media reported that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was either shot by the Nigerian security forces or deposed by his own men in a mutiny. Shekau has been the sole face and voice of Boko Haram’s most violent faction since its first attack on a prison in Bauchi in September 2010. The reports about Shekau are still unconfirmed—and even denied by the Joint Task Force and a rival factional leader of Shekau’s—but, if the reports are true, it would be the fourth time Shekau was wounded or almost killed. Read more »

Violence in Zimbabwe

by John Campbell
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe looks on before casting his vote in Highfields outside Harare July 31, 2013. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters) Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe looks on before casting his vote in Highfields outside Harare July 31, 2013. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters)

As Zimbabweans go to the polls on July 31, there is already press commentary that, unlike in 2008, these elections will be (relatively) non-violent. The election preparations were a technical shambles. That means that the African election observers (from the Southern African Development Community and the African Union) as well as those of us looking on from the outside are unlikely to reach credible conclusions. Read more »

Bleak Outlook for Zimbabwe’s Election

by John Campbell
Supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition party Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) cheer during the final election rally of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare July 29, 2013. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters) Supporters of Zimbabwe's opposition party Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) cheer during the final election rally of party leader Morgan Tsvangirai in Harare July 29, 2013. (Philimon Bulawayo/Courtesy Reuters)

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a distinguished non-governmental organization (NGO) devoted to conflict prevention. On July 29 it issued an important report, Zimbabwe’s Elections: Mugabe’s Last Stand. It suggests that the aftermath of the July 31 elections in Zimbabwe is likely to be a protracted and violent political crisis. Read more »

Mali’s Elections: Still More Questions Than Answers

by John Campbell
A woman casts her vote during Mali's presidential election in Timbuktu, Mali, July 28, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) A woman casts her vote during Mali's presidential election in Timbuktu, Mali, July 28, 2013. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

Information about Mali’s polling on Sunday, July 28 is coming from western sources–notably Radio France Internationale (RFI), Deutsche Welle (DW), and Voice of America (VOA). As is usual the day after African elections, the three are upbeat in tone. Already there are congratulations and self-congratulations. According to RFI, French President Hollande, who is heavily invested politically in the elections being a success, welcomed the polling “marked by good turnout and an absence of any major incident.” French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said, “congratulations are in order that the Mali elections went off well. For France, it is a great success,” also according to RFI. The Mali interim president, Dioncounda Traoré said, “I think that this is the best election that Malians can remember since 1960,” again according to RFI. Read more »