John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Nigeria’s Elections: The Space Created by Waiting

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Men walk in front election posters at an open market in Kano March 27, 2015. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters) Men walk in front election posters at an open market in Kano March 27, 2015. (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Emily Mellgard. Emily is a researcher for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation working on their online resource religionandgeopolitics.org in London, England, and a former research associate for the CFR Africa program. Emily recently returned from Nigeria. All opinions expressed are her own. Read more »

Nigeria’s Former President Acknowledges Boko Haram Grievances

by John Campbell
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo sits with the family of late Emir of Kano Ado Bayero in Kano, June 7, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo sits with the family of late Emir of Kano Ado Bayero in Kano, June 7, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

According to the Nigerian media, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a conference in Dubai, said, “they (Boko Haram) have legitimate grievances. We don’t need anyone to tell us that that is a problem: a problem of disparity, a problem of marginalization.” Read more »

Mercenaries in Nigeria

by John Campbell
A Chadian soldier walks past an armored vehicle that the Chadian military said belonged to insurgent group Boko Haram that they destroyed in battle in Gambaru, Nigeria, February 26, 2015. (Emmanuel Braun/Courtesy Reuters) A Chadian soldier walks past an armored vehicle that the Chadian military said belonged to insurgent group Boko Haram that they destroyed in battle in Gambaru, Nigeria, February 26, 2015. (Emmanuel Braun/Courtesy Reuters)

Reuters reported early Thursday that the Abuja government is using foreign mercenaries in the struggle against Boko Haram. They cite a security source as saying that each mercenary is paid $400 per day in cash. Additionally, they quote other sources as saying that the mercenaries are South African and from the former Soviet Union, especially Georgia. They ostensibly number in the hundreds, if not more. The numbers seem to be far larger than the two private companies providing “trainers and technicians” to which President Goodluck Jonathan referred in an interview with the Voice of America late Wednesday. And, the mercenaries appear to be using their own sophisticated military equipment. According to Reuters, Nigerian government and military spokesmen are refusing to comment. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update February 28-March 6

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 February 28, 2015 to March 6, 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 »

ISIS and Boko Haram

by John Campbell
Smoke raises behind an Islamic State flag after Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters took control of Saadiya in Diyala province, from Islamist State militants, November 24, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Smoke raises behind an Islamic State flag after Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters took control of Saadiya in Diyala province, from Islamist State militants, November 24, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

The relationship, if any, between Nigeria’s Boko Haram and ISIS is a question that vexes the policy community. If there is one, it would support the argument that Boko Haram is, indeed, a new front in the international war on terrorism, as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan maintains. If a relationship does not exist, or if it is minimal, that would support the argument that Boko Haram is essentially a domestic Nigerian issue, while ISIS has more of a global agenda. Read more »

Kano, Nigeria, Mosque Attack Likely Aimed at Governor, Emir

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. (Stringer/ Courtesy Reuters) 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. (Stringer/ Courtesy Reuters)

The November 28 attack on worshippers at Kano’s Central Mosque killed at least 130, according to the Nigerian media. No group has claimed responsibility, though most observers appear to think it was Boko Haram. Read more »

Can the U.S. Help Nigeria Confront Boko Haram?

by John Campbell
Women study Hadith excerpts at Maska Road Islamic School in Kaduna, July 16, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters) Women study Hadith excerpts at Maska Road Islamic School in Kaduna, July 16, 2014. (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters)

For a long time Nigeria was Washington’s most important strategic partner on issues of security and stability in Africa. But, the Boko Haram insurgency and Abuja’s response to it has put that partnership in jeopardy. The movement and the Nigerian government’s failed response to it pose a dilemma for the Obama administration. On the one hand, Boko Haram is repellent, regularly resorting to terror against the highly vulnerable, including the murder and kidnapping of young people in school. On the other hand, the official security forces carry out atrocities against the local population, and the government has thus far failed to address the drivers of the insurgency, including political marginalization, accelerating impoverishment, and rampant corruption. This state of affairs has allowed Boko Haram to ramp up its military campaign in 2014, having killed over 3,600 civilians and seizing control of more than 10 towns in northeast Nigeria. Boko Haram has also carried out cross-border operations, notably in northern Cameroon. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update November 8-November 14

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 November 8 to November 14, 2014. These incidents will be included in the Nigeria Security Tracker.
Read more »

How Can U.S. Intel Training Help Fight Boko Haram?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (L) in New York, September 23, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (L) in New York, September 23, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Jesse Sloman is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations and a reserve officer in the Marine Corps. He served on active duty from 2009 to 2013. The views expressed here are his own. Read more »

Nigeria’s Kidnapped Chibok School Girls and Boko Haram’s Forced Recruitment

by John Campbell
Children are seen in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, that was set up for Nigerians fleeing the violence committed against them by Boko Haram militants, at Wurojuli, Gombe State, September 1, 2014. (Samuel Ini/Courtesy Reuters) Children are seen in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, that was set up for Nigerians fleeing the violence committed against them by Boko Haram militants, at Wurojuli, Gombe State, September 1, 2014. (Samuel Ini/Courtesy Reuters)

Jacob Zenn has written a thoughtful and important article, “Boko Haram: Recruitment, Financing, and Arms Trafficking in the Lake Chad Region.” It appears in the Sentinel, a publication of the Combating Terrorism Center based at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Read more »