John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

The Ransom of Nigeria’s Chibok School Girls

by John Campbell Friday, April 15, 2016
Women carrying placards attend a street protest campaigning for the rescue of abducted Chibok girls, in the Ikeja district of Lagos, Nigeria April 14, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) Women carrying placards attend a street protest campaigning for the rescue of abducted Chibok girls, in the Ikeja district of Lagos, Nigeria April 14, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

The fate of the 219 school girls Boko Haram kidnapped in 2014 has become a feature of the “face” of Nigeria abroad and also increasingly at home. On April 15, for the first time, the Nigerian Senate asked the relevant security agencies for a briefing on the Chibok girls. This is in response to the release of a ‘proof of life‘ video depicting the girls. Read more »

Gains Against Poaching at Risk in Southern Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, April 14, 2016
An elephant drives a lioness away in Amboseli National Park, southeast of Kenya's capital Nairobi, March 25, 2016. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya) An elephant drives a lioness away in Amboseli National Park, southeast of Kenya's capital Nairobi, March 25, 2016. (Reuters/Thomas Mukoya)

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

In recent years, southern Africa has been the last bastion for elephant protection. Countries such as Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe have been regarded as the leaders of elephant conservation in Africa. While countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania have seen substantial decreases in their elephant populations, many southern African countries have seen an increase in their numbers. Read more »

Fissures Within South Africa’s Governing Party

by John Campbell Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave a party flag during the party's 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg, South Africa, January 9, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) Supporters of the African National Congress (ANC) wave a party flag during the party's 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg, South Africa, January 9, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has long been a big tent, with its membership united by opposition to apartheid and, less salient, support for “nonracial” democracy. Conventional wisdom has seen the ANC membership, policy, and electoral support as revolving around four poles or tendencies:  the “democrats,” devoted to Nelson Mandela’s vision of nonracial democracy and the protection of human rights; the South African Communist Party (SACP), in many ways a Marxist party of a generation ago in Western Europe, but also devoted to a nonracial state; the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), which promotes the interests of the country’s “labor aristocracy” rather than the unskilled unemployed; and the “Africanists,”  those who want a redistribution of wealth from whites to blacks and an assertion of black identity that recalls the Black Power movement in the United States. (Many of them would drop the nonracial modifiers of democracy.) Depending on the issue, support varies for each of these “tendencies,” and there is substantial overlap. In any event, however sliced and diced, the ANC is likely to remain intact to contest the August provincial and local government elections. Read more »

Nigeria’s Female Suicide Bombers

by John Campbell Tuesday, April 12, 2016
A security officer scans a woman entering a health clinic at Minawao refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. (Reuters/Joe Penney) A security officer scans a woman entering a health clinic at Minawao refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

Boko Haram’s suicide bomber female recruits are objects of fascination and horror. The New York Times, citing the Long War Journal, says that Boko Haram has used at least 105 women and girls for suicide attacks since June 2014. In addition, UNICEF reports that Boko Haram has used an increased number of child suicide bombers; 75 percent of these children are young girls. As a tactic, suicide bombing is remarkably successful, killing hundreds and undermining popular confidence in the Nigerian government’s ability to provide security in areas liberated from Boko Haram. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: April 2-8

by John Campbell Monday, April 11, 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 2, to April 8, 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 »

One More Sign that South Africa’s Zuma is in Trouble with his Party

by John Campbell Friday, April 8, 2016
South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma stand during the playing of the national anthem at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 11, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) South Africa's Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and President Jacob Zuma stand during the playing of the national anthem at the opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 11, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

In the aftermath of the Constitutional Court’s unanimous ruling that President Zuma and the National Assembly failed to uphold the Constitution over Nkandla, there are signs that the grassroots of the governing African National Congress (ANC) is losing patience. (Nkandla is Zuma’s private estate on which the public protector ruled public money was improperly spent; the presidency and the National Assembly stonewalled the public protector, actions which the Constitutional Court ruled unanimously violated the Constitution.) The ANC used its huge parliamentary majority to block an April 5 effort to impeach Zuma, but prominent ANC leaders are saying that Zuma must go. Read more »

The International Criminal Court and Kenya’s Deputy President

by John Campbell Thursday, April 7, 2016
Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto smiles in Nairobi (C, L) after judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday threw out post-election violence charges against him, in this April 5, 2016,handout picture. (Reuters/Charles Kimani/Presidential Press Service/Handout) Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto smiles in Nairobi (C, L) after judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday threw out post-election violence charges against him, in this April 5, 2016,handout picture. (Reuters/Charles Kimani/Presidential Press Service/Handout)

Contrary to misleading headlines, the International Criminal Court (ICC) did not acquit Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and radio personality Joshua Arap Sang of charges related to violence in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. (Amnesty International cites an estimate that there were 1,200 deaths and 350,000 persons displaced by the violence.) Instead of acquittal, the ICC vacated the charges and discharged the accused, but without prejudice to the prosecutor’s right to reprosecute in the future. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update March 26 – April 1

by John Campbell Wednesday, April 6, 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 March 26, to April 1, 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’s National Assembly Debates Impeachment of Zuma

by John Campbell Tuesday, April 5, 2016
South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane listens in Parliament in Cape Town during a motion to impeach President Jacob Zuma after the constitutional court ruled that he breached the constitution, April 5, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane listens in Parliament in Cape Town during a motion to impeach President Jacob Zuma after the constitutional court ruled that he breached the constitution, April 5, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Last week, the Constitutional Court ruled that President Jacob Zuma and the National Assembly had violated the constitution with respect to the use of public money on the president’s Nkandla private estate and their collective failure to implement the ruling of the public protector. In the wake of that decision, Mmusi Maimane, leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), tabled a motion on the National Assembly to impeach the president. National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete scheduled debate on the impeachment motion for today, April 5. Conventional wisdom that the ANC’s overwhelming majority in the National Assembly would protect Zuma from impeachment proved correct, and the motion was defeated. Read more »

Major Nigerian Terrorist Arrested

by John Campbell Monday, April 4, 2016
Nigerian special forces conduct a mock casualty evacuation during Flintlock 2015, an American-led military exercise, in Mao, February 22, 2015.  (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun) Nigerian special forces conduct a mock casualty evacuation during Flintlock 2015, an American-led military exercise, in Mao, February 22, 2015. (Reuters/Emmanuel Braun)

The Nigerian Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, and a spokesman for the Nigerian army announced on April 3 the capture and arrest of Khalid al-Barnawi, the leader of Ansaru (“Vanguard for the Protection of Muslims in Black Lands”), a splinter group of Boko Haram. (The confirmation by Lai Mohammed makes the capture claim credible.) Ansaru has carried out a campaign of high-profile targeted assassinations and has kidnapped foreigners, especially Europeans. Read more »