John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: November 19 – November 25

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 19, 2016 to November 25, 2016. 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 »

Nigeria’s Buhari Administration, the Chibok Girls, and the ICRC

by John Campbell
Some of the twenty-one Chibok schoolgirls released by Boko Haram look on during their visit to meet President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, October 19, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Some of the twenty-one Chibok schoolgirls released by Boko Haram look on during their visit to meet President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, October 19, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

The release of twenty-one Chibok school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram almost three years ago has produced national rejoicing, led by the Anglican primate and a Roman Catholic cardinal. It has also been a popular boost for the Buhari administration, in the midst of an economic recession, ongoing Boko Haram attacks, ethnic conflict in the middle belt, and insurgency in the Niger Delta. The media reports that the freed girls look “emaciated” and that perhaps nineteen were accompanied by babies. Of the still missing girls, it is not known how many are still alive, willing, and capable of being released. One of the released girls says that shortly after their capture, they were separated into two groups – those who would convert and become wives, and those who would not convert and become slaves. Of those otherwise able to return, some of them may choose to stay with Boko Haram. Read more »

Boko Haram’s Shekau is Back Again

by John Campbell
The purported leader of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau appears at an unknown location in a still image taken from an undated video posted on social media on September 25, 2016. (Reuters) The purported leader of Nigerian Islamist militant group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau appears at an unknown location in a still image taken from an undated video posted on social media on September 25, 2016. (Reuters)

The Nigeria Security Tracker shows a significant fall in Boko Haram activity over the past year. Following peaks in 2014 and 2015, the levels of violence associated with Boko Haram have returned to the level of 2011. The self-proclaimed Islamic State apparently demoted Abubakar Shekau from his leadership position of the organization’s West African province. Shekau ostensibly accepted the demotion—he did not revoke his allegiance—and returned to the imam title he formerly used. The Nigerian military has repeatedly claimed that it has killed or seriously wounded Shekau, most recently after an August 23 airstrike. Read more »

Life in Nigeria’s Maiduguri during the Boko Haram Struggle

by John Campbell
A security personnel gestures at the Bakkasi camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP), after security was called in to control a protest rally held to demonstrate against what the IDPs said was a poor distribution of food rations, in Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria, August 29, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) A security personnel gestures at the Bakkasi camp for Internally Displaced People (IDP), after security was called in to control a protest rally held to demonstrate against what the IDPs said was a poor distribution of food rations, in Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria, August 29, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

What was it actually like to live in Maiduguri, one of Nigeria’s larger cities, and ground zero during the Boko Haram assault? Official restrictions on the media and all but non-existent security meant no stream of reporting akin to that of, say, Edward R. Murrow and many other journalists during the London blitz of World War II. There are no photographs of Maiduguri of the genre of St. Paul’s dome floating above the smoke of a burning London. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: September 10 – September 16

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 September 10, 2016 to September 16, 2016. 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 »

Nigeria Sacking Senior Military Officers

by John Campbell
Nigerian army chief-of-staff General Kenneth Minimah (C) leaves a closed door meeting with senators at the national assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, May 15, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney) Nigerian army chief-of-staff General Kenneth Minimah (C) leaves a closed door meeting with senators at the national assembly in Abuja, Nigeria, May 15, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

A Nigerian army spokesman said on June 10 that “quite a number” of senior military officers have been fired, and some have been turned over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for investigation of charges of corruption. The spokesman, Colonel Sani Kukesheka Usman, is quoted in the media as saying, “. . . not too long ago some officers were investigated for being partisan during the 2015 General Elections. Similarly, the investigation by the presidential committee investigating defense contracts revealed a lot. Some officers have already been arraigned in court by the EFCC.” He went on to say: “The military must remain apolitical and professional at all times.” Read more »

Questions About Nigeria’s Freed Chibok Schoolgirl

by John Campbell
Undated picture released May 18, 2016, by the Nigerian army of rescued Chibok schoolgirl and her baby in Maiduguri, Nigeria. She was kidnapped by Boko Haram from her school in Chibok more than two years ago. (Nigeria Military/Handout via Reuters) Undated picture released May 18, 2016, by the Nigerian army of rescued Chibok schoolgirl and her baby in Maiduguri, Nigeria. She was kidnapped by Boko Haram from her school in Chibok more than two years ago. (Nigeria Military/Handout via Reuters)

As has been the case since Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of school girls that had been concentrated in Chibok to take their final examinations two years ago, there must be questions about Amina Ali Darsha Nkeki. According to Western and Nigerian media, she was found in the bush by members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF), a vigilante group that assists the official security services in the fight against Boko Haram. She had with her a baby and a man. 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) 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 »

Caution Required About New Video from Boko Haram’s Shekau

by John Campbell
A screenshot from the video most recently credited to Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram, March 24, 2016. A screenshot from the video most recently credited to Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram, March 24, 2016.

Abubakar Shekau has been the face of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist terrorist movement associated with the killing of more than twenty thousand in northern Nigeria since 2009. The group is responsible for about two hundred deaths thus far in 2016, and more than two million internally displaced persons. In the past Shekau regularly issued videos, many of which featured grisly scenes of beheadings and other violence against Nigerian security service and other official personnel. Some of the videos were long. Shekau usually spoke in Hausa and Arabic, and occasionally in English. Then he went silent and his videos were replaced by no one. His last video appeared in March 2015 when he pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State. In August 2015 he (or someone) issued a brief audio recording, though it was unclear where or when it was made. However, on March 24, 2016 he allegedly issued a video, seven minutes in length, also in Hausa and Arabic. Read more »

Nigerian Army to Shut Markets Where Boko Haram Trades

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

In a February 9 statement, acting Director of Army Public Relations Sani Usman said that the military will be shutting markets in Yobe and Borno states where traders “have clandestinely been aiding the terrorists (Boko Haram) with logistics and other supplies through smuggling and other forms of illicit trading, thus sustaining them while the merchants of death make money out of it.” Hence, “from now on, some markets identified to be engaging in this illegal trade with the adversary in Borno and Yobe states will be closed.” He also said that the traders were “sabotaging the successes… against the Boko Haram insurgency.” Read more »