John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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International Inaction and Famine in the Lake Chad Basin

by John Campbell
(L-R) UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien, Germany's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel, Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende, and Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama attend a press conference at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in Oslo, Norway February 24, 2017. (NTB Scanpix/Haakon Mosvold Larsen/via REUTERS)

Peter Lundberg, United Nations (UN) Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, stated on April 25 that the aid organizations working in northeast Nigeria will run out of cash by June if pledges made by the international donors at a February  conference in Oslo are not paid. The UN Office for the Coordinaton for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 4.7 million people in Nigeria are in need of food for survival, many of whom are victims of Boko Haram. It also projects that some seven million people are in need of multiple forms of humanitarian assistance. The UN estimates that 43,800 are already experiencing famine. Currently the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing rations to 1.3 million people a month, according to Lundberg. Separate from Lundberg’s comments, the WFP said that its funds would run out within weeks, according to Reuters. Read more »

The Matabeleland Massacre and Contemporary Zimbabwe

by John Campbell
Zimbabwe Air Force commander Air Marshall Pherence Shiri (R) talks with Army Commander Constantine Chiwenga and Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Vitalis Zvinavashe (L) at the funeral of the late Defence Minister Moven Mahachi May 29, 2001. Mahachi, who was killed in a motor accident 26 May was buried at the national shrine Heroes Acre. ( Reuters/Howard Burditt)

Genocide and other massacres cast a long shadow over contemporary politics. In Africa, the genocide in Rwanda and massacres in Burundi and the eastern Congo come immediately to mind. As Zimbabwe spirals down under Robert Mugabe and the unresolved questions about his successor, the 1983-84 massacre of Ndebele in Matabeleland will be part of the context of whatever regime finally emerges. The International Association of Genocide Scholars estimates that the 5th Brigade of the Zimbabwean army murdered some 20,000 Ndebele in Matabeleland. Read more »

ANC Leadership Contest Heating Up

by John Campbell
South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa gestures at an election rally of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa April 16, 2016. (REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa all but announced his candidacy to succeed Jacob Zuma as the leader of the African National Congress (ANC) at a speech on April 23. The party’s election will take place at the 54th ANC National Conference in December. Ramaphosa’s speech, at an event sponsored by the South African Communist Party (SACP) in the Eastern Cape, was his first since Zuma sacked well-regarded Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan (which resulted in multiple international credit rating agencies downgrading South African credit to junk status). Prevalent themes of Ramaphosa’s speech included: the need to address the “rot” within the party, the need to “root-out corruption,” and concern over outsiders unduly influencing government policy. All of these points were thinly veiled attacks on incumbent President Jacob Zuma. Read more »

High Ranking Nigerian Officials Linked to Mysterious $43 Million

by John Campbell
A trader changes dollars with naira at a currency exchange store in Lagos, February 12, 2015. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

On April 12, Nigeria’s principal anti-corruption agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), announced that it had found $43.4 million stashed in a vacant apartment in Lagos. The cash was in U.S. dollars, British pounds, and Nigerian naira. The EFCC did not reveal the owner of the cash—if it even knows. The EFCC said its seizure was the result of a tip-off under a program whereby the whistle-blower received 2.5 percent of recovered funds. The Federal High Court in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the cash. Read more »

Airport Reopens at Nigeria’s Capital

by John Campbell
Employees arrange the red carpet prior to the departure of the planes of the French delegation at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja, Nigeria, May 14, 2016. (Reuters/Stephane De Sakutin/Pool)

Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja (the second busiest airport in the country after Lagos) reopened on April 18, after having been closed for six weeks since March 8 for runway repairs. Following the repairs, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority has officially certified the airport for operations. The airport reopened one day ahead of schedule, with the first international flight by Ethiopian Airlines. Read more »

Podcast: Politics in Jacob Zuma’s South Africa

by John Campbell
South Africa's Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan speaks to President Jacob Zuma (R) during closing remarks during the 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, March 27, 2013. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

In this episode of Africa in Transition, John Campbell and Allen Grane catch up with Simon Freemantle, senior political economist at Standard Bank Research. Recorded days before President Jacob Zuma’s removal of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, the podcast addresses the complex factors at play in South African politics. Read more »

No Confidence Vote Postponed in South Africa

by John Campbell
President Jacob Zuma looks on as members of Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party raise objections during Zuma's question and answer session in Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, September 13, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Speaker of the South African National Assembly Baleka Mbete has postponed the date for a vote of no confidence in the government of Jacob Zuma from April 18 to early May. The delay was caused by the request to the Constitutional Court from the United Democratic Movement (UDM) that the vote be by secret ballot. The court has agreed to review the case, but has not yet made a decision. The speaker, who agreed to wait on the courts decision, is a political ally of President Jacob Zuma and is the national chairperson of his African National Congress (ANC). Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: April 8 – April 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 April 8 to April 14, 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 »

Former President George W. Bush, advocates for PEPFAR and Africa

by John Campbell
Former US President George W. Bush poses for a photograph with children at a school in Gaborone, Botswana, April 4, 2017. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Former President George W. Bush’s trip to Botswana and Namibia is a reminder of perhaps his signature achievement in office, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR. In an April 7, 2017 op-ed in the Washington Post the former president urged the Trump administration to continue full funding for the program. He argued that PEPFAR was “a program that works” citing the almost twelve million lives that the program has saved since its inception in 2003. Read more »

Executions Down, Death Sentences up in Sub-Saharan Africa

by John Campbell
Protesters take part in a protest against Indonesia's decision to execute 14 drug convicts, including one Nigerian national, outside the Indonesian embassy in Abuja, July 28, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

It is easy to lose sight of the decline in capital punishment in Africa. Of the fifty-four states with UN membership, sixteen maintain the death penalty and use it; eighteen permit it (but have carried out no executions during the past ten years), and twenty have abolished it. Further abolition continues: Benin abolished the death penalty in 2016, Congo in 2015, and Madagascar in 2015. Perhaps the most famous example of abolition of capital punishment is South Africa, where it was abolished by the country’s constitutional court in 1995, following a five-year moratorium. Read more »