John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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Zimbabwe and an “Arab Spring”

by John Campbell
Zimbabwean protesters wait outside the Harare Magistrates court before the arrival of arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe July 13, 2016. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo) Zimbabwean protesters wait outside the Harare Magistrates court before the arrival of arrested Pastor Evan Mawarire, in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe July 13, 2016. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwe is rapidly deteriorating, if not imploding. In the midst of a drought, estimates are that up to half of the rural population will face hunger or famine in the coming year. The economy is contracting, and the government is running out of hard currency, British sterling, the U.S. dollar, and the South African Rand, which it uses since it abandoned its own currency. The government is failing to pay its civil servants and some of its security forces and has imposed a ban on imports from South Africa. Unemployment figures are so high – up to 85 percent –as to be meaningless. The government’s diamond revenue is running out or diverted. President Robert Mugabe – at times referred to as “Uncle Bob” – is 92 years of age, and it shows. His political behavior is increasingly quixotic. He has abandoned a traditional pillar of his regime, the “war veterans,” who played a crucial role as Mugabe’s thugs and drove the white farmers out. He has even threatened the “veterans” with mayhem if they dabble in succession politics. Read more »

Boko Haram’s Shekau Replaced? Not So Fast

by John Campbell
Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou, Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi, Chad's President Idriss Deby and Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (L-R) pose during the presentation of the communique of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, June 11, 2015. Nigeria and its neighbours agreed on Thursday to set up a joint military force to counter Boko Haram, a sign of President Muhammadu Buhari's intent to crush the Islamist militant group early in his tenure. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou, Benin's President Thomas Boni Yayi, Chad's President Idriss Deby and Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari (L-R) pose during the presentation of the communique of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, June 11, 2015. Nigeria and its neighbours agreed on Thursday to set up a joint military force to counter Boko Haram, a sign of President Muhammadu Buhari's intent to crush the Islamist militant group early in his tenure. (Courtesy Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Chadian President Idriss Deby’s August 11 comments that Abubakar Shekau has been replaced by Mahamat Daoud and that the latter is open to negotiations with Nigeria’s Buhari government, has predictably stirred the Western media. (As of August 12, the story is not yet featured by the Nigerian media.) As is usual with stories about potential negotiations, Western media ties this story to hopes for freedom for the more than 200 Chibok school girls. Read more »

The BBC and Nigerian Islamist Terror

by John Campbell
DATE IMPORTED:August 4, 2009A girl hawks drinking water packed in sachets along a street after days of religious clashes in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, August 4, 2009. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters) DATE IMPORTED:August 4, 2009A girl hawks drinking water packed in sachets along a street after days of religious clashes in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, August 4, 2009. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)

Northern Nigeria is a dangerous place. Even President Goodluck Jonathan waited to make his first visit to Yobe and Borno states until earlier this month, almost two years into his presidential term. Western journalists rarely visit there, and diplomatic travel by Western embassies appears to be limited. Information about the Islamist insurrection—labeled “Boko Haram”—largely comes from Nigerian commentators. There may also be the temptation among Americans who follow Africa to become fatigued over the violence. Read more »

Nigerian Terrorist Threatens the United States

by John Campbell
Confiscated weapons are displayed after a military raid on a hideout of suspected Islamist Boko Haram members in Kano 11/08/2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Confiscated weapons are displayed after a military raid on a hideout of suspected Islamist Boko Haram members in Kano 11/08/2012. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau delivered a video speech in Arabic posted November 29, on jihadist websites. In it, he associates the United States, Britain, Nigeria, “and other crusaders” with Israeli oppression. Shekau salutes fighters for “the Islamic state in Mali,” Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Palestine. Unless the Nigerian police repent, they will be killed: “Allah the Glorious and Almighty made your blood permissible to us, because you worship the laws of the government and not the laws of Allah the Almighty.  Democracy is also a disbelieving system, O Obama, O Jonathan…” Read more »

Key Issues in Nigeria

by John Campbell

Some short background videos on key issues in Nigeria:

Christian-Muslim Relations in Nigeria

CFR Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies John Campbell discusses the relations between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria. Campbell emphasizes that where religious divisions correspond to ethnic and economic differences, conflict often acquire a religious coloration. Read more »

Nigeria’s Polarizing Politics

by John Campbell

Last week as I mentioned here it looked like the Atiku Abubakar consensus candidacy would stick. Now I’m not so sure.  One of the most important northern power brokers and Abubakar rival, former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida is now threatening to bolt the ruling party. Whether Babangida remains in the party or not, the stage is now set for a potentially polarizing contest that may split the party along the country’s already existing regional and religious cleavages. Read more »