John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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U.S. Shoots Itself in the Foot over Visas for Africans

by John Campbell
Abdul Giwa holds a copy of his passport during an interview with Reuters on the recent pronouncements of the Kaduna State government on the activity of the Shi'ite group in Kaduna, Nigeria, November 2, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Each year the University of Southern California hosts the African Global Economic and Development Summit. It is intended to bring together business, government, and others interested in U.S.-African trade and investment. This year, according to the Voice of America (VOA) there were no African participants. All Africans that had been invited or applied to attend were denied U.S. visas, including speakers and African government officials. This included citizens of U.S. partners such as Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa. Nigeria and South Africa have the continent’s largest economies and both are on a democratic trajectory. In addition, Ethiopia is an important U.S. strategic partner in the war on terror, while Ghana has notable growing economic and cultural ties with the United States. Read more »

Helen Zille’s Colonialism Controversy

by John Campbell
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille arrives for President Jacob Zuma's Sate of the Nation address at the opening session of Parliament in Cape Town, February 12, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Helen Zille is the premier of the Western Cape and a former leader of South Africa’s official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA). A former journalist and anti-apartheid activist of German descent, she is famous for being one of those who exposed the murder of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko at the hands of the apartheid security services. Zille has actively sought the transformation of the DA into an opposition party that could win significant support from South Africa’s majority black population. In addition, she was one of those who engineered the selection of Mmusi Maimane, a black politician from Johannesburg, as party leader. She is well known for her outspoken criticism of the dominant African National Congress (ANC). Read more »

The Future of Islamic State Operations in Africa

by John Campbell
A fighter of Libyan forces allied with the U.N.-backed government aims his weapon as he takes up position inside a ruined house at the front line of fighting with Islamic State militants in Ghiza Bahriya district in Sirte, Libya, November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Ismail Zitouny)

As the self-proclaimed Islamic State loses ground in Syria and Iraq, there is increasing concern that it will gradually shift its operations to Africa. Indeed, in late 2016, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagdhadi claimed that the group had shifted elements of command, media, and wealth to Islamic State “provinces in north Africa and west Africa.” However, in a useful article Joseph Siegle of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies convincingly argues that the Islamic State is not well established in those areas of Sub-Saharan Africa where extremist Islamist groups operate. The two most violent groups, Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, predate the formation of the Islamic State and are not dependent on it for operational or tactical support. Furthermore, it is the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states that is the major ideological foundation of radical, Jihadi Islam in sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the Islamic State. Read more »

Health Scare in Nigeria: President Muhammadu Buhari

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari returns from a medical trip in London at the Nigeria Airforce Base in Kaduna, Nigeria, March 10, 2017. (Reuters/Stringer)

In this episode of the Africa in Transition Podcast series John Campbell and Allen Grane discuss Muhammadu Buhari’s recent extended vacation to the United Kingdom. The two discuss why Buhari was away for so long, how Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did in his stead, and possible future implications. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: March 11 – March 17

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 March 11 to March 17 2017. 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 »

President Trump’s “Skinny Budget” and Peacekeeping

by John Campbell
U.S. President Donald Trump's overview of the budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 are displayed at the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) on its release by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington, U.S. March 16, 2017. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

At present, there are sixteen UN peacekeeping missions around the world, nine of which are in Africa: Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Western Sahara (Sudan has two, Darfur and Abyei). Like all UN peacekeeping missions, these were mandated by the UN Security Council (UNSC). UN peacekeeping operations funding is the responsibility of all member states. The UN uses a complex formula to assess member state contributions that, among other things, takes into account relative wealth. Beyond that formula, the permanent five members on the UNSC (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) pay a supplement because of their special responsibilities and privileges. Read more »

President Buhari Returns to Office

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari smiles as he resumes work following seven weeks of medical leave, in Abuja, Nigeria, March 13, 2017. (Reuters/Stringer)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Nigeria from medical leave in the United Kingdom on March 10. In his absence, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo served as the acting president for the fifty days that Buhari was out of the country. Upon Buhari’s return, it was unclear as to whether he would resume his duties, especially given his statement that he would need to return to the United Kingdom soon for further medical tests and treatment. However, on March 15, Buhari sent a letter to the national assembly stating that he would be resuming his presidential duties. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: March 4 – March 10

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 March 4 to March 10, 2017. 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 »

The Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
The participants to the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region pose for a family photo in Oslo, Norway February 24, 2017. (Reuters/Haakon Mosvold Larsen)

In this guest episode of the Africa in Transition Podcast series Sherrie Russell-Brown discusses the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in conversation with Kathryn Achilles, Humanitarian Campaign Manager, Oxfam Nigeria, Chitra Nagarajan, Senior Advisor, North East Nigeria, Civilians in Conflict, and Mausi Segun, Senior Researcher, Nigeria, Human Rights Watch. The Oslo Humanitarian Conference, held Friday, February 24 in Oslo, Norway, was convened to draw global attention to the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, mobilize critical resources needed to effectively confront it, and to address the medium-term and long-term development needs of the fourteen million people in the region. Co-organized by the governments of Nigeria, Norway, and Germany in partnership with the United Nations, the conference produced pledges totaling $672 million, with more commitments to come. Read more »

U.S. Arms Sales to Kenya

by John Campbell
2015A Kenya Defense Force soldier takes cover near the perimeter wall where attackers are holding up at a campus in Garissa April 2, 2015. (Reuters/Noor Khamis)

The United States and Kenya have a long standing military relationship. They are allies in the “war on terror,” of which Kenya has been a major victim. Notable attacks on Kenyan soil include the 1998 Al-Qaeda led bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi where twelve Americans and hundreds of Kenyans lost their lives, and the Westgate Shopping Mall bombings of 2013 by Al-Shabaab, which claimed the lives of nearly seventy Kenyans and expatriates. In addition, Kenya has been embroiled in a war against al-Shabaab in Somalia. U.S. forces are involved in training exercises with the Kenyan Defense Forces. As a result of this conflict, the insurgency has spilt over into Kenya’s northern (Turkana) and Coastal regions (Mombasa and Lamu). This has sparked numerous successful, and unsuccessful terrorist operations throughout the country. Read more »