John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

South African Icon Disillusioned with Ruling Party Leadership

by John Campbell Wednesday, January 27, 2016
A copy of a combo picture showing Rivonia trialists with their names written by hand is seen on the wall in Maybuye Center in Cape Town, March 10, 2005. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Dennis Goldberg. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti) A copy of a combo picture showing Rivonia trialists with their names written by hand is seen on the wall in Maybuye Center in Cape Town, March 10, 2005. From L to R on the top row are Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Gowan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba and on the bottom row are Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Dennis Goldberg. (Reuters/Radu Sigheti)

On January 24, in London, UK Prime Minister David Cameron honored Nelson Mandela’s three surviving co-defendants at the 1964 Rivonia trial. They were Denis Goldberg, Ahmad Kathrada, and Andrew Mlangeni. Cameron also honored their suriviving defense attorneys, Lord Joel Joffe and George Bizos, who succeeded in avoiding the death penalty for their clients, though not twenty-six years of imprisonment. Read more »

Mugabe and Obiang Call for Security Council Reform

by John Campbell Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (R) and his Equatorial Guinea counterpart Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo arrive for the opening of the Harare Agricultural Show, August 31, 2007. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo) Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (R) and his Equatorial Guinea counterpart Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo arrive for the opening of the Harare Agricultural Show, August 31, 2007. (Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is a perennial African chestnut. The UNSC is more involved in Africa than in any other region, and many Africans feel it is acutely unjust that none of the permanent members are from the continent. (The permanent members are the victorious powers in World War II: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States.) Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update January 16-22

by John Campbell Monday, January 25, 2016
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 to January 16, to January 22, 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 »

New Frontier in Nigeria’s War on Corruption

by John Campbell Friday, January 22, 2016
A man on a motorcycle sits near a signboard campaigning against corruption along a road in Dangi district in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A man on a motorcycle sits near a signboard campaigning against corruption along a road in Dangi district in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Confronting Nigeria’s culture of corruption was a primary campaign theme of Muhammadu Buhari’s successful campaign for the presidency. Since taking office, he has fired numerous high officials widely regarded as corrupt, made a reputation for incorruptibility a prerequisite for high appointments (though there have been exceptions), and directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to launch investigations into the allegedly corrupt behavior of numerous high-ranking military and civilian officials. Read more »

Comedy and Democracy in South Africa

by John Campbell Thursday, January 21, 2016
South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool) South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool)

For most Americans, their first exposure to South African comedy has been Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Noah’s January 20, riff on Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump is an example of South African standup comedy at its best, with the added dimension of an African “seeing us as others see us.” One example is his comment that America is such a great place because “…presidents might have term limits but Sarah Palin is forever.” Read more »

“Corruption Fights Back” in Nigeria

by John Campbell Wednesday, January 20, 2016
A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt December 4, 2012. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt December 4, 2012. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

President Muhammadu Buhari successfully ran for the presidency on an anti-corruption ticket and a promise to restore security by destroying Boko Haram. His geographical support was based in the north and the west of the country, and he also benefitted from a general sense among the political class that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was incompetent and had to go. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update January 9-15

by John Campbell Tuesday, January 19, 2016
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 to January 9, to January 15, 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 »

The Fiftieth Anniversary of Nigeria’s First Military Coup

by John Campbell Friday, January 15, 2016
Traditional ruler Prince Ozo Onna joins supporters of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu in a rally, as he is expected to appear at a magistrate court in Abuja, Nigeria, December 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Traditional ruler Prince Ozo Onna joins supporters of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu in a rally, as he is expected to appear at a magistrate court in Abuja, Nigeria, December 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

It is almost a cliché that history determines the options available to a society. But, the 1966 string of bloody military coups, starting with that of January 15 by “junior officers” (mostly majors) in Nigeria still effects the country today. It was against a civilian, ostensibly democratic government widely regarded as corrupt. There were counter-coups and massacres of Christian Igbos in the Muslim north. Igbo efforts to secede from Nigeria and establish an independent state, Biafra, led to the 1967-70 civil war in which it is estimated that at least one million died, mostly from starvation and disease, before Biafra was defeated. Read more »

Some Good News From South Africa

by John Campbell Thursday, January 14, 2016
Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings) Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings)

It is unduly gloomy in sunny South Africa. The national currency, the rand, is falling; the economy is hardly growing at all; the Zuma administration appears mired in corruption and mismanagement. There has been an upsurge in racist rhetoric. Hence the South African surprise and delight at the announcement that two of the richest South Africans, Allan and Gill Gray, are essentially giving away their wealth to their family foundation. Read more »

Anniversary of Nigeria’s Baga Massacre

by John Campbell Wednesday, January 13, 2016
This map shows where Baga is in relation to Maiduguri, Abuja, and Lagos in Nigeria. (Allen Grane/Google Maps) This map shows where Baga is in relation to Maiduguri, Abuja, and Lagos in Nigeria. (Allen Grane/Google Maps)

The Guardian (London) reminds its readers that it has been one year since Boko Haram massacred an estimated 2,000 people and, in effect, destroyed Baga, a city of 300,000 in northern Nigeria. Its correspondent, Eromo Egbejule reports that the city remains virtually empty, with less than one thousand people still living there. The Guardian reports that the Buhari administration has not commented on the Baga anniversary, and there are no plans to commemorate what up to now is the largest Boko Haram massacre. Local people report that Boko Haram no longer occupies major towns, but are ambushing travelers and attacking villages. Read more »