John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Showing posts for "United States"

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) 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) 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) 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) 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) 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 »

United States Foreign Policy Priorities in West Africa

by John Campbell
Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (R) greets U.S. President Barack Obama before the start of the second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, April 1, 2016. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst) Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (R) greets U.S. President Barack Obama before the start of the second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, April 1, 2016. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

The below remarks come from a speech delivered on August 16, at an Area Studies Seminar at the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, Foreign Service Institute, Arlington, Virginia.

I would like to open with thanks to the Foreign Service Institute for the opportunity to talk about U.S. foreign policy priorities in the Sahel and West Africa. I would hope that these formal remarks will help to frame our subsequent discussion. Read more »

“Talking Past Each Other”: U.S. Citizen Security Messages in Africa

by John Campbell
The Victoria Island waterfront is seen from the Ikoyi neighbourhood in Lagos June 3, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney) The Victoria Island waterfront is seen from the Ikoyi neighbourhood in Lagos June 3, 2014. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

On July 5, 2016, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria issued a “security message” for U.S. citizens advising that “groups associated with terrorist activity” might attack Lagos hotels during the Eid al-Fitr holidays. Read more »

Are U.S. Efforts Successfully Countering Terrorism in Africa?

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) puts his arm around Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta as they depart after their joint news conference after their meeting at the State House in Nairobi, July 25, 2015. (Courtesy/Jonathan Ernst ) U.S. President Barack Obama (L) puts his arm around Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta as they depart after their joint news conference after their meeting at the State House in Nairobi, July 25, 2015. (Courtesy/Jonathan Ernst )

This post was co-authored by Cheryl Strauss Einhorn and Andrea Walther-Puri. Cheryl is an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School. Andrea is a researcher focusing on security sector reform and a PhD candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Read more »

BREXIT and Africa

by John Campbell
People chat in front of an electronic board displaying movements in major indices at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange building in Sandton Johannesburg July 9, 2015.
(Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) People chat in front of an electronic board displaying movements in major indices at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange building in Sandton Johannesburg July 9, 2015. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

It is early to assess the long term consequences for sub-Saharan Africa of the United Kingdom’s (UK) vote to leave the European Union (EU) on June 24. However, in the short term, it is useful to look at the performance in the exchange rates and stock exchanges of Nigeria and South Africa since the referendum. They provide something of an indication of the wider impact Brexit had on Africa. Nigeria and South Africa together account for more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product. Both have long had close ties with the UK, especially with respect to trade and financial services. In addition, there are myriad other ties between the UK and Nigeria and South Africa. For example, there is a large British expatriate community living in South Africa. The Nigerian expatriate population in the UK is also significant, and wealthy Nigerians have long favored the UK for education, health services, and second homes. 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 »