John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Ignoring Africa

by John Campbell Tuesday, November 15, 2016
U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump (L) to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque) U.S. President Barack Obama meets with President-elect Donald Trump (L) to discuss transition plans in the White House Oval Office in Washington, U.S., November 10, 2016. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

One of the aspects of the utterly dispiriting, just-concluded U.S. campaign and election cycle was the all but complete absence of discussion about the United States and sub-Sahara Africa. It is true that the murder of the American ambassador in Benghazi was a political issue in the campaign. But, Libya is not part of sub-Sahara Africa and the Benghazi debate was about the war on terror and partisan point-scoring, not Africa, even North Africa. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: November 5 – November 11

by John Campbell Monday, November 14, 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 October 29, 2016 to November 3, 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 Jacob Zuma’s Nine Lives

by John Campbell Thursday, November 10, 2016
Floyd Shivambu, a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) reacts ahead of the no-confidence vote, which the South African President Jacob Zuma survived, over what the opposition called his "reckless leadership," after the anti-graft watchdog called for an inquiry into allegations of influence-peddling in the government, at the National Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, November 10, 2016. (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham) Floyd Shivambu, a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) reacts ahead of the no-confidence vote, which the South African President Jacob Zuma survived, over what the opposition called his "reckless leadership," after the anti-graft watchdog called for an inquiry into allegations of influence-peddling in the government, at the National Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa, November 10, 2016. (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham)

The publication on November 2 of the South Africa Public Protector’s report on “state capture” by the president and his cronies, the Gupta family, would seem to indicate Jacob Zuma’s direct involvement in corruption. The publication has created a media stir, with the quality Western media devoting more extensive coverage to it than is usual. Yet, the report does not contain a “smoking gun,” but rather calls for an extensive (and well-financed) formal investigation. Read more »

Sub-Saharan Africa and a Trump Administration

by John Campbell Wednesday, November 9, 2016
A man hands a newspaper to a customer at a news stand in New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton) A man hands a newspaper to a customer at a news stand in New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

Media indicates that sub-Saharan African opinion is as astonished as everybody else at Donald Trump’s presidential victory. As appears to be true in much of the rest of the world, African opinion makers do not welcome itThe New York Times cites a Nigerian political science professor as saying that most Nigerians believe that a Trump administration will focus little on international issues. It also quotes Kenyan columnist Mafdharia Gaitho as saying, “If Trump wins, God forbid, then we will have to reassess our relations with the United States.” These views accord with what I am hearing. Read more »

Elections: U.S. Prestige Takes a Hit in Africa

by John Campbell Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Katie Hartman, a correspondent for Seriously.TV, poses outside Hofstra University, the site of the September 26 first presidential debate between U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in Hempstead, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton) Katie Hartman, a correspondent for Seriously.TV, poses outside Hofstra University, the site of the September 26 first presidential debate between U.S. Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, in Hempstead, New York, U.S., September 26, 2016. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

The U.S. image in Africa has been based on more than trade and aid. Africans admire and seek to emulate U.S. rule of law and institutions of governance largely free of corruption. They seek to emulate American elections that are credible and accepted by winners and losers. U.S. ethnic and religious pluralism has long been admired. So, too, has been the American tradition of at least some civility in politics. With the ambiguous exception of Liberia, the United States was not a colonial power and public opinion (if not government policy) was generally hostile to colonialism. The success of American democracy and governance made U.S. criticism of “big man” and other sleazy governments credible to Africans. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: October 29 – November 3

by John Campbell Monday, November 7, 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 October 29, 2016 to November 3, 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 »

A Review of Stephen Ellis’ “This Present Darkness”

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, November 4, 2016
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, from left, Sarah Chayes, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari take part in a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Thursday, May 12, 2016. (Reuters/Frank Augstein/Pool) World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, from left, Sarah Chayes, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari take part in a panel discussion at the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, Thursday, May 12, 2016. (Reuters/Frank Augstein/Pool)

This is a guest post by Tyler Lycan. Tyler is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program, he recently obtained his Masters in International Security Studies from the University of St. Andrews, and is a former U.S. Marine. Read more »

Huge Oil Discovery in Nigeria

by John Campbell Thursday, November 3, 2016
An oil tanker discharges petroleum products at a fuel depot in the commercial city of Lagos, Nigeria, June 5, 2006. (Reuters/George Esiri) An oil tanker discharges petroleum products at a fuel depot in the commercial city of Lagos, Nigeria, June 5, 2006. (Reuters/George Esiri)

Last week, ExxonMobile announced the discovery of between 500 million to one billion barrels of oil in Nigeria. The discovery is located in the Owowo-2 and Owowo-3 oil fields. ExxonMobile owns a 27 percent interest in the field, it shares ownership with Chevron Nigeria Deepwater (27 percent), Total (18 percent), Nexen Petroleum Deepwater Nigeria Limited (18 percent), and the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company Limited (10 percent). The president of ExxonMobile Exploration Company, Stephen M. Greenlee, said that Exxon “…will work with our partners and the government on future development plans.” Read more »

The “K-word” in South Africa and Proposed New Penalties Against Hate Speech

by John Campbell Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Members of South African President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) political party march to the headquarters of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) during a march against racism in Cape Town, in this picture taken January 22, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings) Members of South African President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress (ANC) political party march to the headquarters of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) during a march against racism in Cape Town, in this picture taken January 22, 2016. (Reuters/Mike Hutchings)

Following the social media circulation of a video in which a white woman lashes out at black police officers using racial slurs, the Zuma administration is proposing harsher penalties against hate speech. Proposed legislation would move hate speech cases from civil courts to criminal courts in South Africa. Currently punishable only by fines, “racist utterances and many other incidents of vicious crimes perpetrated under the influence of racial hate…has necessitated further measures,” according to the minister of justice. If the proposed legislation becomes law, a first-time offender could face three years in prison and a repeat offender up to ten years. Read more »

South Africa’s President Zuma as Mafioso

by John Campbell Tuesday, November 1, 2016
South African President Jacob Zuma laughs ahead of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's medium term budget speech in Cape Town, South Africa, October 26, 2016. (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham) South African President Jacob Zuma laughs ahead of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's medium term budget speech in Cape Town, South Africa, October 26, 2016. (Reuters/Sumaya Hisham)

Critics worldwide of South African President Jacob Zuma characterize his administration as “Mafiosi” in style. South African society is characterized by gross inequality, generally with blacks on the bottom and whites on top. Ostensibly, the president’s goal is the “transformation” of this characterization of society, even if that means an assault on constitutional institutions and the rule of law. However, in cahoots with personal allies, notably the Gupta family, instead of “transformation” he is seeking to remain in power and preserve his wealth. Thus far, he has been successfully countered by the strength of South Africa’s institutions, a mobilized civil society, and the democratic faction within the African National Congress (ANC). Calls for his early recall are mounting within the ANC. A trenchant exposition of this “Mafioso” perspective is provided by Richard Poplak, in the Daily Maverick. Read more »