John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Ethiopia and Eritrea Clash: Who Is to Blame and What Is to Be Gained?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
Eritreans walk past a tank abandoned during the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, in Shambuko Town, December 23, 2005. (Courtesy/Ed Harris) Eritreans walk past a tank abandoned during the 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, in Shambuko Town, December 23, 2005. (Courtesy/Ed Harris)

This piece has been co-authored by John Campbell and Nathan Birhanu. Nathan is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. He is a graduate of Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development. Read more »

Massive Ivory Shipment Seized in South Sudan

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
A customs officer arranges confiscated elephant tusks before a news conference at the Port Authority of Thailand in Bangkok, April 20, 2015. (Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom) A customs officer arranges confiscated elephant tusks before a news conference at the Port Authority of Thailand in Bangkok, April 20, 2015. (Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom)

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

Last week, authorities at Juba International Airport seized nearly a ton and a half of ivory in South Sudan. This seizure highlights some of the critical factors in the fight against wildlife trafficking. Read more »

Nigerian Security Developments: Niger Delta Avengers, Boko Haram, and New Police Inspector General

by John Campbell
Niger soldiers provide security for an anti-Boko Haram summit in Diffa city, Niger September 3, 2015. Picture taken September 3, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Warren Strobel) Niger soldiers provide security for an anti-Boko Haram summit in Diffa city, Niger September 3, 2015. Picture taken September 3, 2015. (Courtesy Reuters/Warren Strobel)

International attention has been focused on the devaluation of the national currency, the naira, but there have been important security developments meanwhile.

Militants, called the “Niger Delta Avengers” (NDA), have attacked oil infrastructure, resulting in a decline in production, with estimates ranging from 40 to 60 percent. As profits from oil and gas account for more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange and more than 70 percent of the government’s total revenue, the events have harmed the Nigerian economy. Read more »

‘Brexit’ and South Africa

by John Campbell
A statue of South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela is seen silhouetted after its unveiling in London's Parliament Square August 29, 2007.  (Courtesy Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico) A statue of South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela is seen silhouetted after its unveiling in London's Parliament Square August 29, 2007. (Courtesy Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico)

Asmita Parshotam, Cyril Prinsloo, and Elizabeth Sidiropoulos have written a thoughtful analysis of the impact on South Africa should the UK vote to exit the European Union on June 23. Their analysis was published June 21 by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: June 11–June 18

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 June 11, 2016 to June 18, 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 Devalues its Currency

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

In the face of low international oil and gas prices, the domestic and international business community, academics, and journalists have all urged President Muhammadu Buhari to devalue the national currency, the naira. Buhari steadfastly refused. Based on his 1983-85 experience as head of state, also a period characterized by falling oil prices, he seems to believe that in an economy as dependent on imports as Nigeria, devaluing the naira would increase the cost of living for the poor, the majority of Nigeria’s citizens. Buhari famously observed that “Nigeria even imports toothpicks.” 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 »

Remarks on Morning in South Africa

by John Campbell
Wild flowers bloom on Cape Town's Table Mountain heralding the coming southern hemisphere spring, August 19, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Wild flowers bloom on Cape Town's Table Mountain heralding the coming southern hemisphere spring, August 19, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

The following text is the entirety of John Campbell’s speech delivered as part of the Department of State’s Ralph J Bunche Library Series, on June 8, 2016. 

From a certain perspective, South Africa is a mess. Many South Africans are disappointed by the way the country has seemingly squandered its promise as the ‘Rainbow Nation.’ Under the Jacob Zuma presidential administration, the country is treading water with respect to poverty and addressing the lasting consequences of apartheid. Corruption is rife. You can read all about it in the Mail and Guardian or the Daily Maverick. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: June 4–June 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 June 4, 2016 to June 10, 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 »

Reform the Nigerian Military

by John Campbell
A Nigerian military officer directs civilians at a checkpoint along Sapele-Warr road in the Niger Delta region May 26, 2009. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) A Nigerian military officer directs civilians at a checkpoint along Sapele-Warr road in the Niger Delta region May 26, 2009. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Once the most effective military force in West Africa, the Nigerian military played a highly positive role in peacekeeping missions. However, Nigeria was unable to subdue the Niger delta insurgency; in 2012, it could not deploy for front line operations in Mali; and, it suffered a series of reverses in the fight against Boko Haram until it was stiffened by troops from its neighbors and South African-led mercenaries in 2015. What happened? Read more »