John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

No “First Lady” for Nigeria

by John Campbell Thursday, June 18, 2015
Chief Justice of Nigeria Mahmud Mohammed swears in Muhammadu Buhari (C) as Nigeria's president while Buhari's wife Aisha looks on at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria May 29, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Chief Justice of Nigeria Mahmud Mohammed swears in Muhammadu Buhari (C) as Nigeria's president while Buhari's wife Aisha looks on at Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria May 29, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

For many Nigerian political figures, “too much of a good thing is perfectly wonderful.” Extravagant display, whether it be of honorifics, dress, cars, official residences, or entourages  is very common. The former first lady, “Dame” Patience Jonathan was a highly visible and controversial figure. Nobody was allowed to forget that she was “First Lady of Nigeria.” Read more »

South African Rule of Law Threatened

by John Campbell Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (L) reacts next to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma during the opening of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg, June 14, 2015. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (L) reacts next to South Africa's President Jacob Zuma during the opening of the 25th African Union summit in Johannesburg, June 14, 2015. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

From the perspective of the expectations of Nelson Mandela, South Africa has been treading water, if not worse, especially since the national elections of 2014. Economic growth remains an anemic 2 percent or less, thereby challenging Mandela’s assumption that poverty could be eliminated rapidly. Public concerns about corruption remain unaddressed. Parliament appears increasingly dysfunctional. Its procedures are under assault by Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters and stonewalling tactics by the Zuma government over corruption. Read more »

Al-Bashir and the Rule of Law in South Africa

by John Campbell Tuesday, June 16, 2015
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir greets his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma (L) at the Palace in Khartoum February 1 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah) Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir greets his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma (L) at the Palace in Khartoum February 1 2015. (Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

The media’s take on the failure of South Africa’s Zuma government to hold Sudanese President al-Bashir is that it is a slap in the face of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The press drama is focused on al-Bashir and the credible charges of genocide that he faces before the ICC, and the many African objections to the way the court operates. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update June 6-June 13

by John Campbell Monday, June 15, 2015
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 6, 2015 to June 13, 2015. 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 »

Bans on Wildlife Trade Gaining Steam

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, June 12, 2015
An elephant walks through a swamp during sunset in Amboseli National Park, January 26, 2015. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic). An elephant walks through a swamp during sunset in Amboseli National Park, January 26, 2015. (Reuters/Goran Tomasevic).

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

At the end of May the Chinese government announced that following a one year ban on ivory imports, it will “strictly control ivory processing and trade until the commercial processing and sale of ivory and its products are eventually halted.” If the Chinese are able to follow through, this could be one of the most important actions taken to end the illicit trade of Ivory that is contributing to the decimation of elephant populations in Africa (China is the largest market for elephant ivory). Read more »

The Mind of the African Strongman

by John Campbell Thursday, June 11, 2015
South African Nobel Peace laureates Nelson Mandela (L) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2nd L) arrive for the 70th birthday celebrations of fellow laureate former President FW de Klerk (2nd R) in Cape Town, March 17, 2006. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) South African Nobel Peace laureates Nelson Mandela (L) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2nd L) arrive for the 70th birthday celebrations of fellow laureate former President FW de Klerk (2nd R) in Cape Town, March 17, 2006. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Herman J. Cohen, former assistant secretary of state for Africa, former ambassador, and former special assistant for African affairs to President Reagan, has written a fascinating and clear-eyed book on his “conversations with dictators, statesmen, and father figures.” His interlocutors, including more than sixteen African heads of state, range from Leopold Senghor to Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk. Read more »

Boko Haram Factions Divided over Loyalty to the Islamic State

by John Campbell Wednesday, June 10, 2015
A cross sign inscribed at the entrance of a room is seen chiselled in a compound once occupied by Boko Haram in Michika town, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state, May 10, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A cross sign inscribed at the entrance of a room is seen chiselled in a compound once occupied by Boko Haram in Michika town, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state, May 10, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

This is a guest post by Jacob Zenn, an analyst of African Affairs for the The Jamestown Foundation. Read more »

Muhammadu Buhari Moves Against Boko Haram

by John Campbell Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Nigeria's President-elect Muhammadu Buhari departs after meeting with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street in London, England, May 23, 2015. (Reuters/Neil Hall) Nigeria's President-elect Muhammadu Buhari departs after meeting with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron at Downing Street in London, England, May 23, 2015. (Reuters/Neil Hall)

The Nigeria Security Tracker shows that Boko Haram activity has escalated over the past two weeks, though it is still below the levels seen before the March elections when there was widespread fighting involving government security services. Buhari has visited Niger and Chad to consult with heads of state about next moves, and he is at present at the G-7 meeting in Germany. According to the Nigerian media Boko Haram is at the top of his agenda. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update May 30-June 5

by John Campbell Monday, June 8, 2015
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 May 30, 2015 to June 5, 2015. 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 »

The Danger of False Narratives: Al-Shabaab’s Faux Ivory Trade

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, June 5, 2015
A pile of 15 tonnes of ivory confiscated from smugglers and poachers is arranged before being burnt to mark World Wildlife Day at the Nairobi National Park March 3, 2015. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters) A pile of 15 tonnes of ivory confiscated from smugglers and poachers is arranged before being burnt to mark World Wildlife Day at the Nairobi National Park March 3, 2015. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jessica L. Anderson, a PhD student in political science at the George Washington University.

Elephants are being slaughtered and their tusks sold, in order to finance deadly attacks by Somalia’s terrorist group al-Shabaab. This narrative linking poaching and al-Shabaab financing has been widely touted. It hit the international spotlight thanks to high profile attention from U.S. congressmen, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow also released a short film on the topic in 2014. Read more »