John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Podcast: Africa and The New Administration

by John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama walks off stage as he finishes his news conference at the conclusion of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the U.S. State Department in Washington, August 6, 2014. (Reuters/Jim Bourg)

Africa in Transition announces a new podcast series. For our inaugural effort the CFR Africa program’s own John Campbell and Allen Grane discuss the United States’ policy priorities in Africa and what the new Trump administration means for America’s relationship with its African partners. There is also a discussion of the focus of the CFR Africa program. Read more »

African Elite Reaction to President Trump’s Travel Ban

by John Campbell
African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (L) and Chadian President Idriss Deby attend a news conference at the close of the 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU) at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, January 31, 2016. (Reuters/Tiksa Negeri)

It is too soon to say what the lasting consequences will be of President Trump’s “travel ban” of the citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries and his 120-day suspension of all refugee admissions to the United States. But, it could have serious effects on U.S.-African relations. In 2010 the Pew Research Center found that of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population of 823 million, 234 million were Muslims. The Islamic population is heavily concentrated in West Africa where U.S. strategic and economic interests on the continent are the greatest, especially Nigeria, where at least 50 percent of the country’s population of two-hundred million is Muslim. However, there are Muslim minorities in nearly all African countries. Read more »

Biafra and the U.S.-Nigeria Relationship

by John Campbell
Supporters of Nnamdi Kanu are seen outside the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria January 10, 2017. (Reuters/Stringer)

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a separatist movement that seeks to recreate Biafra as an independent state. From 1967-70, there was a civil war over Biafra’s attempt to secede that left up to two million Nigerians dead. Ever since, the Nigerian government has tried to crack down on Biafra secessionist movements. Hence, it’s imprisonment of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu. Read more »

Ten of Top Twenty Emergency Aid Recipients are African States

by John Campbell
Somali displaced families receive food donation from a Qatari charity organization for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in the Somali capital Mogadishu, June 20, 2015. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)

A survey by IRIN, an independent, non-profit news agency now separate from the UN, lists the top twenty recipients and donors of emergency aid. Citing the OECD, it reports that total emergency aid spending in 2016 was $22 billion, about 16 percent of the $131.6 billion in total international aid spending. Read more »

The Dilemma of U.S. High-Profile Visits to African Conflict Zones

by John Campbell
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Samantha Power visits the Mugunga III camp for internally displaced people in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, October 6, 2013. (Reuters/Kenny Katombe)

High profile visits to war or disaster zones have long been common and popular among senior U.S. officials, as has foreign travel in general. Hillary Clinton was proud that she had traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state. At the same time, security requirements have grown, seemingly exponentially, often causing indignation among local people because of the disruption in their daily lives. And sometimes tragedy happens, as in Cameroon, where U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s speeding motorcade killed a child in April. But, U.S. officials welcome the U.S. media attention such visits provide, as do local elites and politicians who ae often disconnected from the people they ostensibly govern. Read more »

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka “Disengages” from the United States

by John Campbell
Nigerian writer and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka looks on as he sits before his interview with Reuters in Pretoria, February 1, 2012. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Wole Soyinka, the first African to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, says he has “torn up” his green card and left the United States to return to Nigeria. Soyinka’s act is in protest against the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president. During the campaign, Soyinka had said that he would leave the United States if Trump were elected. As reported in the British media, Soyinka said “I had a horror of what is to come with Trump… I threw away the card and I have relocated, and I’m back to where I have always been.” (Holders of a green card are alien permanent residents of the United States with most of the privileges of U.S. citizenship, including the ability to freely travel abroad.) Read more »

Ignoring Africa

by John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump (L) to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

One of the aspects of the utterly dispiriting, just-concluded U.S. campaign and election cycle was the all but complete absence of discussion about the United States and sub-Sahara Africa. It is true that the murder of the American ambassador in Benghazi was a political issue in the campaign. But, Libya is not part of sub-Sahara Africa and the Benghazi debate was about the war on terror and partisan point-scoring, not Africa, even North Africa. Read more »

Sub-Saharan Africa and a Trump Administration

by John Campbell
A man hands a newspaper to a customer at a news stand in New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

Media indicates that sub-Saharan African opinion is as astonished as everybody else at Donald Trump’s presidential victory. As appears to be true in much of the rest of the world, African opinion makers do not welcome itThe New York Times cites a Nigerian political science professor as saying that most Nigerians believe that a Trump administration will focus little on international issues. It also quotes Kenyan columnist Mafdharia Gaitho as saying, “If Trump wins, God forbid, then we will have to reassess our relations with the United States.” These views accord with what I am hearing. Read more »

Elections: U.S. Prestige Takes a Hit in Africa

by John Campbell
Katie Hartman, a correspondent for Seriously.TV, poses outside Hofstra University, the site of the September 26 first presidential debate between U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in Hempstead, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

The U.S. image in Africa has been based on more than trade and aid. Africans admire and seek to emulate U.S. rule of law and institutions of governance largely free of corruption. They seek to emulate American elections that are credible and accepted by winners and losers. U.S. ethnic and religious pluralism has long been admired. So, too, has been the American tradition of at least some civility in politics. With the ambiguous exception of Liberia, the United States was not a colonial power and public opinion (if not government policy) was generally hostile to colonialism. The success of American democracy and governance made U.S. criticism of “big man” and other sleazy governments credible to Africans. Read more »

The “K-word” in South Africa and Proposed New Penalties Against Hate Speech

by John Campbell
Members of South African President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) political party march to the headquarters of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) during a march against racism in Cape Town, in this picture taken January 22, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Following the social media circulation of a video in which a white woman lashes out at black police officers using racial slurs, the Zuma administration is proposing harsher penalties against hate speech. Proposed legislation would move hate speech cases from civil courts to criminal courts in South Africa. Currently punishable only by fines, “racist utterances and many other incidents of vicious crimes perpetrated under the influence of racial hate…has necessitated further measures,” according to the minister of justice. If the proposed legislation becomes law, a first-time offender could face three years in prison and a repeat offender up to ten years. Read more »