John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Now, They are Killing Each Other

by John Campbell Friday, September 9, 2016
A Boko Haram flag flies in Damasak, Nigeria March 24, 2015. (Reuters/Joe Penney) A Boko Haram flag flies in Damasak, Nigeria March 24, 2015. (Reuters/Joe Penney)

Agence France Press (AFP) is carrying a report of fighting between the Boko Haram factions led respectively by Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi. The fighting took place in villages near Lake Chad: Yewle, Arafa, and Zuwa. The number killed appears to have ranged from three to “several” to “unspecified.” Nevertheless, the report has an unusual degree of specificity that lends it credibility, though the Nigerian military declined to comment when contacted by AFP. Based on eye-witness reports, the al-Barnawi faction seems to have been the aggressor. Read more »

“Desire for Theocracy”

by John Campbell Thursday, September 8, 2016
People gather at the mosque located outside the palace of the emir of Zazzau to watch the Durbar parade in Zaria, Kaduna state, Nigeria, September 26, 2015. (Reuters/Stringer) People gather at the mosque located outside the palace of the emir of Zazzau to watch the Durbar parade in Zaria, Kaduna state, Nigeria, September 26, 2015. (Reuters/Stringer)

Emma Green has published in The Atlantic her interview with Shadi Hamid, author of Islamic Exceptionalism. Her interview amounts to a riff of his book’s arguments. His focus is on why Muslims, especially in Europe, would turn to violent extremism. It has insights that are also applicable to jihadi movements in Africa, such as Boko Haram. Read more »

Murder and Rape in South Africa

by John Campbell Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Police duck bricks thrown during a protest by students over planned increases in tuition fees at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, October 23, 2015. (Reuters/Sydney Seshibedi) Police duck bricks thrown during a protest by students over planned increases in tuition fees at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, October 23, 2015. (Reuters/Sydney Seshibedi)

South Africa’s minister of police reports that the country’s murder rate increased by 4.9 percent from March 2015 to March 2016. That is more than fifty people killed every day. Official statistics show 142.2 sexual offences per day in the same time period, a slight reduction that likely is due to under reporting. South Africa’s population is estimated at approximately fifty-three million. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: August 27 – September 2

by John Campbell Tuesday, September 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 August 27, 2016 to September 2, 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 »

Credibility and the Nigerian Military

by John Campbell Thursday, September 1, 2016
DATE IMPORTED:August 31, 2016Major General  Lucky Irabor, commander of "Operation Lafiya Dole", the counter insurgency operation in the northeast, attends an interview with Reuters in Maiduguri, Borno, Nigeria, August 30, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) DATE IMPORTED:August 31, 2016Major General Lucky Irabor, commander of "Operation Lafiya Dole", the counter insurgency operation in the northeast, attends an interview with Reuters in Maiduguri, Borno, Nigeria, August 30, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

During the second half of August, the Nigerian military announced numerous successes in the fight against Boko Haram, the militant, jihadist movement that seeks to overthrow the Nigerian state. On August 30, the commander of the fight against Boko Haram, Lucky Irabor, announced that the military will root the group out from its remaining locations within weeks. Previously, Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman, an army spokesman, said that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had been “fatally injured” during an air raid. The same day, the chief of air staff, Air Vice-Marshal Sadiq Abubakar, said that the air force killed over three-hundred Boko Haram militants during night airstrikes on August 19. Read more »

South Africa: Fat Politicians and Thin Voters

by John Campbell Wednesday, August 31, 2016
People queue at a voting station during South Africa's local government elections in Umlazi, Durban, South Africa, August 3, 2016. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) People queue at a voting station during South Africa's local government elections in Umlazi, Durban, South Africa, August 3, 2016. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

A month after the governing African National Congress (ANC) lost heavily in South Africa’s municipal elections, the party is at war with itself. From my perspective, the struggle is between democratic reformers who want to restore public confidence in the ANC and win back lost voters, and those around President Jacob Zuma who are seeking to preserve their patronage networks based on publicly owned enterprises and sleazy contracts. An effort, apparently orchestrated by the president’s allies, if not the president himself, is underway to remove Pravin Gordhan, the well-regarded treasury minister. (Gordhan has sought to introduce a wide range of reforms in the publicly owned enterprises.) But, the heart of the matter is not the treasury minister or government contracts but rather control of the ANC in a period of leadership change. President Zuma must leave office in 2019, if not forced out earlier. Read more »

Polio in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell Tuesday, August 30, 2016
A local health worker carries vaccination kits at a distribution centre ahead of the start of a nationwide polio immunization campaign on Wednesday, in Lagos February 21, 2011. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A local health worker carries vaccination kits at a distribution centre ahead of the start of a nationwide polio immunization campaign on Wednesday, in Lagos February 21, 2011. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

The appearance of two cases of polio in northern Nigeria is an unmitigated tragedy. Anybody who has traveled in the region and seen firsthand the victims of paralysis caused by polio can but weep. And now there are two more. Victims often have no wheel-chairs and, as elsewhere, health care is rudimentary if it exists at all. The tragedy is only mitigated by the courage the victims show in carrying on, and in the support they receive from their families and communities. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: August 20 – August 26

by John Campbell Monday, August 29, 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 August 20, 2016 to August 26, 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 »

Home Truths About the Size of Nigeria’s Economy

by John Campbell Thursday, August 25, 2016
Traders work at the Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos, February 13, 2015. The naira has crashed through the key level of 200 to the dollar this week in a rout sparked by weak oil prices and escalating tension over the postponement of a presidential election in Africa's biggest economy. (Reuters /Joe Penney) Traders work at the Nigerian Stock Exchange in Lagos, February 13, 2015. The naira has crashed through the key level of 200 to the dollar this week in a rout sparked by weak oil prices and escalating tension over the postponement of a presidential election in Africa's biggest economy. (Reuters /Joe Penney)

In 2014, following the first revision of Nigeria’s gross domestic product data in two decades, Abuja announced that its economy had overtaken South Africa’s as the largest in Africa. Using the rebased data, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that that Nigeria’s economy grew at 12.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Thereafter, there was some triumphalist rhetoric about the size and strength of the economy from personalities in then-president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in the run up to the 2015 elections and among those promoting foreign investment in Nigeria. However, in 2016, reflecting the dramatic fall in petroleum prices and the value of the national currency, the naira, the IMF concluded that Nigeria’s GDP had fallen behind that of South Africa. The Economist noted that foreign investors are likely to be discouraged by the latest figures. Read more »

The New Architecture of South African Politics

by John Campbell Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Leader of South Africa's Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane looks on next to Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, ahead of a media briefing in Sandton, South Africa, August 17,2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) Leader of South Africa's Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane looks on next to Congress of the People (COPE) leader Mosiuoa Lekota, ahead of a media briefing in Sandton, South Africa, August 17,2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

Following the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) decline in the August 3 municipal elections, in effect a referendum on the scandal plagued administration of President Jacob Zuma, South African politics looks dramatically different. The big winners were the formal opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a radical party based in the townships. But, minority parties are also more important now. In the elections, in four metropolitan areas and twenty-three smaller local councils, no single party secured the necessary 50 percent plus one majority. A largely monolithic ANC (it had controlled all of the major metropolitan areas except Cape Town and still has a huge majority in the National Assembly), now faces multiparty coalitions in Johannesburg, Tshwane (Pretoria), Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth), and Rustenburg. These metros are at the heart of South Africa’s modern economy; Johannesburg is the richest city in sub-Saharan Africa and the country’s economic engine. Of the largest metros, the ANC retains unchallenged control only of Durban. Read more »