John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Kicking the Western Sahara Question Down the Road

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, May 13, 2016
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic flag flies in Boudjdour desert refugee camp in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 4, 2016. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra) The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic flag flies in Boudjdour desert refugee camp in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 4, 2016. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

Tyler Falish is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program, and a student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

On April 29, ten of the fifteen UN Security Council members voted to renew the mandate for the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), one day before its expiration. Prior to the vote, Angola, a non-permanent member, requested an informal, confidential Security Council meeting held outside the Security Council room, to allow Joaquim Chissano, Special Envoy of the African Union (AU) for the Western Sahara, to brief the council. NGOs were barred from attending and no translation services were provided. Morocco, which is the only African country without AU membership and considers the AU biased toward the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), opposed the meeting with Chissano on the grounds that the UN is the sole intergovernmental organization legitimately involved in the issue. Angola—along with Russia and New Zealand—ultimately abstained from the vote, while Venezuela and Uruguay voted in opposition. Read more »

South Africa Moves Against Secretly-Owned Companies

by John Campbell Thursday, May 12, 2016
Demonstrators carry placards as they march to protest against corruption in Cape Town, September 30, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Demonstrators carry placards as they march to protest against corruption in Cape Town, September 30, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

The Tax Justice Network-Africa has issued a press release praising the South African government’s commitment to register and make public the “beneficial owners” of all companies incorporated in the country. “Beneficial owners” are those who ultimately benefit from a company. In many countries, governments do not require such information, resulting in anonymously owned companies that may be used by corrupt politicians or others who want to hide their identity. The “Panama Papers” highlight the role such companies play in activities ranging from money laundering to tax evasion. Read more »

Attacks Accelerate on Nigeria’s Oil Infrastructure

by John Campbell Wednesday, May 11, 2016
Villagers stand near jerrycans containing crude oil collected at the shore of the Atlantic ocean near Orobiri village, days after Royal Dutch Shell's Bonga off-shore oil spill, in Nigeria's delta state December 31, 2011. Amnesty International called into question Royal Dutch Shell's accounting in Nigeria for oil spill amounts and causes, saying the oil major was seeking to avoid compensation payments and damage to its reputation. Picture taken December 31, 2011. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) Villagers stand near jerrycans containing crude oil collected at the shore of the Atlantic ocean near Orobiri village, days after Royal Dutch Shell's Bonga off-shore oil spill, in Nigeria's delta state December 31, 2011. Amnesty International called into question Royal Dutch Shell's accounting in Nigeria for oil spill amounts and causes, saying the oil major was seeking to avoid compensation payments and damage to its reputation. Picture taken December 31, 2011. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

According to Bloomberg, militant attacks on the oil infrastructure in the Niger delta have resulted in the lowest level of production in Nigeria in twenty years, falling below 1.7 million barrels a day. As such, Nigeria is no longer Africa’s largest oil producer; Angola is. Bloomberg, citing the International Energy Agency, estimates that the Nigerian government could lose $1 billion in revenue by the end of May. It appears that some of the oil companies are withdrawing “non-essential” workers out of concern for their safety. Read more »

Theft, the Nigerian Security Services, and Boko Haram

by John Campbell Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Nigerian soldiers, handcuffed in pairs, leave the court premises after the opening of the General court-martial in Abuja, October 2, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Nigerian soldiers, handcuffed in pairs, leave the court premises after the opening of the General court-martial in Abuja, October 2, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

From 2011, when it re-emerged, until early 2015, Boko Haram inflicted one defeat after another on the Nigerian security services, principally the army. Boko Haram carved out a territory the size of the U.S. state of Maryland, and threatened Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and a major Nigerian city. For many observers, the seeming collapse of the Nigerian military, once regarded as the best in West Africa, was bewildering, and a sign that Boko Haram was a formidable fighting force. Boko Haram was beaten back in 2015 by a multinational effort, South African mercenaries, and a revived Nigerian military. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: April 30 – May 6

by John Campbell Monday, May 9, 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 April 30, to May 6, 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 »

South Africa and Iran Aim to Resume Strong Trade Relationship

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, May 6, 2016
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 26, 2016. (Reuters/Faisal Mahmood) Iran's President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, March 26, 2016. (Reuters/Faisal Mahmood)

Tyler Falish is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program, and a student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

South African President Jacob Zuma was in Iran for a two-day state visit on April 24 and 25. While in Tehran, Zuma and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed eight bilateral trade agreements as part of a commitment to increase non-oil trade between the two countries. Trade between the two nations plummeted after the imposition of expanded sanctions on Iran by the U.S., EU, and UN. According to UN Comtrade, in 2012—the most recent year of significant trade between the two countries—trade was valued at approximately $1.3 billion. By comparison, bilateral trade in 2015 totaled only $30 million. Read more »

What Is New About Sectarian Fighting in Nigeria’s Middle Belt

by John Campbell Thursday, May 5, 2016
A tribal Fulani boy stands near cows at a local milk collecting centre in Dangwala Karfi village on the outskirts of Nigeria's northern city of Kano January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A tribal Fulani boy stands near cows at a local milk collecting centre in Dangwala Karfi village on the outskirts of Nigeria's northern city of Kano January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Sectarian conflict in Nigeria’s Middle Belt is attracting more attention both at home and abroad. Typically, conflict involves Muslim Fulani herdsmen clashing with Christian Barome (or other small tribes) farmers. Conflict between pastoralists and farmers has been endemic for years in the Middle Belt, where the predominately Christian south and the mostly Muslim north meet. The coincidence of boundaries between religions, land use, and ethnic groups promotes conflict, as does its manipulation by politicians to advance their particular agendas. Historically, the Fulani preyed on minority tribes to feed the slave trade. When Christianity arrived in the Middle Belt, it was embraced by the minority tribes, as opposed to the Islam of the slave catchers. Read more »

New U.S. Defense Cooperation Agreement With Senegal

by John Campbell Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Senegalese soldiers and European trainers return to base after training during Flintlock 2016, a U.S.-led international training exercise with African militaries in Thies, Senegal, February 11, 2016. (Reuters/Sylvain Cherkaoui) Senegalese soldiers and European trainers return to base after training during Flintlock 2016, a U.S.-led international training exercise with African militaries in Thies, Senegal, February 11, 2016. (Reuters/Sylvain Cherkaoui)

Emblematic of the growing U.S. defense presence in West Africa is a new defense cooperation agreement signed on May 2 with Senegal. According to the low-key report carried by Associated Press (AP), the agreement improves access for the U.S. military to Senegal should they need to deploy in the event of a security or humanitarian crisis. In Dakar, U.S. Ambassador James Zumwalt said, “With this agreement, the United States military and the Senegalese military can plan better together, accomplish more with joint training, and better prepare to respond in concert to risks to our shared interests.” Read more »

South African President Zuma’s Legal Problems Unlikely to Drive Him From Office

by John Campbell Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Protesters call for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma as the country commemorates the anniversary the country's first democratic elections in Cape Town, April 27, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Protesters call for the removal of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma as the country commemorates the anniversary the country's first democratic elections in Cape Town, April 27, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

South Africa’s High Court has ruled against the president yet again. It has determined that the prosecutor’s decision to drop 783 charges of corruption against Zuma should be reviewed. According to the BBC, Judge Aubrey Ledwaba characterized the 2009 decision to drop the charges as “irrational.” The ruling allows the National Prosecuting Authority to reinstate the charges, though it is unclear whether it will do so. Nevertheless, once again, South Africa’s judiciary has demonstrated its independence from the executive. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: April 23-29

by John Campbell Monday, May 2, 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 April 23, to April 29, 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 »