John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

President Zuma Unlikely to Exit Early

by John Campbell Friday, March 20, 2015
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma greets supporters of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party during their final election rally in Soweto, May 4, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters) South Africa's President Jacob Zuma greets supporters of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party during their final election rally in Soweto, May 4, 2014. (Mike Hutchings/Courtesy Reuters)

When Jacob Zuma succeeded Thabo Mbeki as African National Congress (ANC) party leader and eventually became the South African chief of state, his flaws were already well known: personal financial issues, a rape trial (he was acquitted), and corruption scandals. The ANC was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Read more »

Nigeria’s Former President Acknowledges Boko Haram Grievances

by John Campbell Thursday, March 19, 2015
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo sits with the family of late Emir of Kano Ado Bayero in Kano, June 7, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo sits with the family of late Emir of Kano Ado Bayero in Kano, June 7, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

According to the Nigerian media, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a conference in Dubai, said, “they (Boko Haram) have legitimate grievances. We don’t need anyone to tell us that that is a problem: a problem of disparity, a problem of marginalization.” Read more »

South Africa’s President Zuma Stonewalls

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 18, 2015
South African President Jacob Zuma arrives to give his State of the Nation address at the opening session of parliament in Cape Town, February 12, 2015. (Nic Bothma/Courtesy Reuters) South African President Jacob Zuma arrives to give his State of the Nation address at the opening session of parliament in Cape Town, February 12, 2015. (Nic Bothma/Courtesy Reuters)

For many South Africans, the expenditure of roughly 246 million Rand (about $24.6 million) on President Jacob Zuma’s private residential compound, Nkandla, has become symbolic of the corruption at the upper reaches of the African National Congress (ANC). Parliamentary members of the ANC’s opposition have increasingly complained about the misuse of public money to fund Zuma’s ostentatious home. Read more »

Council on Foreign Relations Publishes a Contingency Planning Memorandum on Zimbabwe

by John Campbell Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stands during celebrations to mark his country's 34th Independence Day in Harare, April 18, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo) Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stands during celebrations to mark his country's 34th Independence Day in Harare, April 18, 2014. (Courtesy Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo)

Zimbabwe, once an African garden spot, is now characterized by bad governance, ubiquitous human rights abuses, abrogation of the rule of law, and poverty. These negatives are closely associated with Robert Mugabe, 91, who rules the country with an iron hand and with no apparent succession plan in place. Mugabe’s policies have resulted in humanitarian disaster and waves of refugees, mostly to South Africa. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update March 7-March 13

by John Campbell Monday, March 16, 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 March 7, 2015 to March 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 »

Mercenaries in Nigeria, Part II

by John Campbell Friday, March 13, 2015
Mercenary "Skoloza" (R) carrying a sniper rifle wrapped in camouflage netting, surveys a construction compound in this black township north of Durban, South Africa, May 9, 1994. (Desmond Boylan/Courtesy Reuters) Mercenary "Skoloza" (R) carrying a sniper rifle wrapped in camouflage netting, surveys a construction compound in this black township north of Durban, South Africa, May 9, 1994. (Desmond Boylan/Courtesy Reuters)

With the detailed March 13 New York Times story on the presence of mercenaries in Nigeria, further comment is required. Read more »

Mercenaries in Nigeria

by John Campbell Thursday, March 12, 2015
A Chadian soldier walks past an armored vehicle that the Chadian military said belonged to insurgent group Boko Haram that they destroyed in battle in Gambaru, Nigeria, February 26, 2015. (Emmanuel Braun/Courtesy Reuters) A Chadian soldier walks past an armored vehicle that the Chadian military said belonged to insurgent group Boko Haram that they destroyed in battle in Gambaru, Nigeria, February 26, 2015. (Emmanuel Braun/Courtesy Reuters)

Reuters reported early Thursday that the Abuja government is using foreign mercenaries in the struggle against Boko Haram. They cite a security source as saying that each mercenary is paid $400 per day in cash. Additionally, they quote other sources as saying that the mercenaries are South African and from the former Soviet Union, especially Georgia. They ostensibly number in the hundreds, if not more. The numbers seem to be far larger than the two private companies providing “trainers and technicians” to which President Goodluck Jonathan referred in an interview with the Voice of America late Wednesday. And, the mercenaries appear to be using their own sophisticated military equipment. According to Reuters, Nigerian government and military spokesmen are refusing to comment. Read more »

Nigeria’s Boko Haram Moving Toward ISIS?

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 11, 2015
A still from a video of Abubakar Shekau standing in front of the black flag released by Boko Haram in October 2014. A still from a video of Abubakar Shekau standing in front of the black flag released by Boko Haram in October 2014.

In a recording Boko Haram released last week Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The recording appears to be authentic. Shekau’s pledge goes further than his previous statements of support for ISIS, and was a Boko Haram propaganda coup: once again, the movement made the front page of the New York Times and became a brief media sensation. However, it is unclear what, if any, practical effects this pledge will have. Read more »

Nigerian First Lady on the Campaign Trail

by John Campbell Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Patience arrive for a dinner with the French President and other dignitaries as part of the Summit for Peace and Security in Africa at the Elysee Palace in Paris, December 6, 2013. (Benoit Tessier/Courtesy Reuters) Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Patience arrive for a dinner with the French President and other dignitaries as part of the Summit for Peace and Security in Africa at the Elysee Palace in Paris, December 6, 2013. (Benoit Tessier/Courtesy Reuters)

First Lady Dame Patience Jonathan has a big personality and is a powerful political figure. She holds multiple Nigerian university degrees. She has been the permanent secretary in the Bayelsa state government, usually the most senior civil service position. She was appointed by the governor who is a political ally of her husband, President Goodluck Jonathan. She has consistently advocated on behalf of more women in national life. She also acquired brief notoriety in the United States when she initially described the Chibok kidnapping as a fraud designed to embarrass her husband. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update February 28-March 6

by John Campbell Monday, March 9, 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 February 28, 2015 to March 6, 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 »