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 »

Council on Foreign Relations Publishes a Contingency Planning Memorandum on Zimbabwe

by John Campbell
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stands during celebrations to mark his country's 34th Independence Day in Harare, April 18, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo) Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stands during celebrations to mark his country's 34th Independence Day in Harare, April 18, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwe, once an African garden spot, is now characterized by bad governance, ubiquitous human rights abuses, abrogation of the rule of law, and poverty. These negatives are closely associated with Robert Mugabe, 91, who rules the country with an iron hand and with no apparent succession plan in place. Mugabe’s policies have resulted in humanitarian disaster and waves of refugees, mostly to South Africa. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update March 7-March 13

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 7, 2015 to March 13, 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 »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Moving Toward ISIS?

by John Campbell
A still from a video of Abubakar Shekau standing in front of the black flag released by Boko Haram in October 2014. A still from a video of Abubakar Shekau standing in front of the black flag released by Boko Haram in October 2014.

In a recording Boko Haram released last week Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The recording appears to be authentic. Shekau’s pledge goes further than his previous statements of support for ISIS, and was a Boko Haram propaganda coup: once again, the movement made the front page of the New York Times and became a brief media sensation. However, it is unclear what, if any, practical effects this pledge will have. Read more »

Nigerian First Lady on the Campaign Trail

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Patience arrive for a dinner with the French President and other dignitaries as part of the Summit for Peace and Security in Africa at the Elysee Palace in Paris, December 6, 2013. (Benoit Tessier/Courtesy Reuters) Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Patience arrive for a dinner with the French President and other dignitaries as part of the Summit for Peace and Security in Africa at the Elysee Palace in Paris, December 6, 2013. (Benoit Tessier/Courtesy Reuters)

First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan has a big personality and is a powerful political figure. She holds multiple Nigerian university degrees. She has been the permanent secretary in the Bayelsa state government, usually the most senior civil service position. She was appointed by the governor who is a political ally of her husband, President Goodluck Jonathan. She has consistently advocated on behalf of more women in national life. She also acquired brief notoriety in the United States when she initially described the Chibok kidnapping as a fraud designed to embarrass her husband. Read more »

Namibia’s President Wins Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership

by John Campbell
Namibia President Hifikepunye Pohamba addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters/Ray Stubblebine) Namibia President Hifikepunye Pohamba addresses the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, September 25, 2012. (Courtesy Reuters/Ray Stubblebine)

The 2014 Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership has been awarded to the Namibian president, Hifikepunye Pohamba. He is set to leave office later this month. Mo Ibrahim, British-Sudanese telecom billionaire, established the prize in 2006. It may be awarded annually to an elected African head of state who promoted good governance and left office in accordance with the constitution. The prize comprises of $5 million, spread over ten years, followed by $200,000 a year for life. Among other things, it is intended to free African leaders from the financial concerns that have led some of them to cling to power. Read more »

Innovative Anti-poaching in Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A Kenya Wildlife Service ranger stands guard as 15 tonnes of ivory confiscated from smugglers and poachers is burnt to mark World Wildlife Day at the Nairobi National Park, March 3, 2015. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters) A Kenya Wildlife Service ranger stands guard as 15 tonnes of ivory confiscated from smugglers and poachers is burnt to mark World Wildlife Day at the Nairobi National Park, March 3, 2015. (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Allen Grane, research associate for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program.

Lately, conservationists and lovers of Africa’s diverse wildlife have been hard pressed for good news. From South Africa’s difficulty tackling rhino poaching to Zimbabwe’s sale of baby elephants to foreign countries, it often seems that African governments are either ill equipped to protect their animal populations or simply don’t care—or worse. However, it is important to remember that there are park rangers who are working tirelessly to protect and save Africa’s biodiversity. Read more »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram as a Peasants’ Revolt

by John Campbell
People from Gwoza, Borno State, displaced by the violence and unrest caused by the insurgency, are pictured at a refugee camp in Mararaba Madagali, Adamawa State, February 18, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) People from Gwoza, Borno State, displaced by the violence and unrest caused by the insurgency, are pictured at a refugee camp in Mararaba Madagali, Adamawa State, February 18, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Over the past two weeks, Nigerian military forces have driven Boko Haram out of several towns in northeast Nigeria. There have also been reports of Cameroonian, Nigerien, and Chadian successes against Boko Haram. President Goodluck Jonathan made a rare visit to the northeast, and he even stopped in Baga, the site of a notorious Boko Haram massacre. All of this seems to support Jonathan’s recent statement that even if Boko Haram is not defeated by the scheduled national elections on March 28, its scope will have been much reduced and it will be possible for elections to take place. 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 »