John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

The looming showdown in the Gambia

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh receives a delegation of West African leaders including President John Mahama of Ghana and Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari for a meeting on election crisis in Banjul, Gambia, December 13, 2016. (Reuters/Stringer) Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh receives a delegation of West African leaders including President John Mahama of Ghana and Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari for a meeting on election crisis in Banjul, Gambia, December 13, 2016. (Reuters/Stringer)

This is a guest post by Mohamed Jallow, an Africa watcher, following politics and economic currents across the continent. He works at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

The Gambia is in a political crisis. The country’s longtime strongman, President Yahya Jammeh lost his bid for re-election to a fifth term earlier this month. After initially conceding defeat, he is refusing to step down. Citing irregularities on the part of the Electoral Commission, Jammeh has rejected the results, and is calling for fresh elections. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: December 24 – December 30

by John Campbell Tuesday, January 3, 2017
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 December 24, 2016 to December 30, 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 »

The Truth About Boko Haram in Nigeria’s Sambisa Forest

by John Campbell Friday, December 30, 2016
Writings describing Boko Haram are seen along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, August 31, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Writings describing Boko Haram are seen along a street in Bama, in Borno, Nigeria, August 31, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

On Christmas Eve, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the Nigerian army had driven the remnants of Boko Haram out of its last stronghold, the Sambisa Forest. A Nigerian army spokesman said that it had recovered Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau’s personal copy of the Koran and his flag from “Camp Zero,” apparently the Boko Haram headquarters. An army spokesman said that the chief of Army Staff would present the holy book to President Buhari. The army also said that it had arrested 1,240 suspected Boko Haram terrorists. Read more »

After Shift from East to West, Maritime Piracy Remains Threat to U.S. Seafarers and Interests

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Thursday, December 29, 2016
A machine gun is seen on a sandbag on a boat off the Atlantic coast in Nigeria's Bayelsa state, December 19, 2013. (Reuters/Stringer) A machine gun is seen on a sandbag on a boat off the Atlantic coast in Nigeria's Bayelsa state, December 19, 2013. (Reuters/Stringer)

This is a guest post by Michael Clyne. Michael is an assistant director at Drum Cussac, a global risk management consultancy.

When President Obama took office nearly eight years ago, his first national security test came within one-hundred days, not from al-Qaeda or the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but pirates. It was the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, the merchant mariner kidnapped aboard U.S. container-ship Maersk Alabama off the Somali coast, which triggered the president’s first known standing order for lethal force. At the time, the Gulf of Aden, which separates the Middle East from East Africa, was the world’s piracy hotspot, spawned from the lawless destitution of lower Somalia. Read more »

Update on Nigeria’s Kidnapped Chibok School Girls

by John Campbell Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Some of the twenty-one Chibok schoolgirls released by Boko Haram are pictured during their visit to meet President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, October 19, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Some of the twenty-one Chibok schoolgirls released by Boko Haram are pictured during their visit to meet President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, October 19, 2016. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu has confirmed that negotiations are ongoing to secure the release of the remaining Chibok schoolgirls held captive by Boko Haram. On the government side, the Department of State Service (DSS) leads the negotiations. Garba Shehu did not identify the Boko Haram interlocutors. He expressed optimism about the negotiations, but cautioned that they were still underway: “To my friends spreading the news of a further release of the Chibok girls, we not there yet.” Recently, army spokesman have said that the Nigerian military has rescued nearly 1900 other Boko Haram kidnap victims over the past week, but Reuters has been unable to verify the claim. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker Weekly Update: December 17 – December 23

by John Campbell Tuesday, December 27, 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 December 17, 2016 to December 23, 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 ‘White’ Homeland in South Africa

by John Campbell Friday, December 23, 2016
People attend an Afrikaans Sunday service in a makeshift tent church at a squatter camp for poor white South Africans at Coronation Park in Krugersdorp, March 7, 2010. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly) People attend an Afrikaans Sunday service in a makeshift tent church at a squatter camp for poor white South Africans at Coronation Park in Krugersdorp, March 7, 2010. (Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly)

South Africa is a notoriously divided nation. There are eleven legal languages and four races with degrees of legal recognition (Indian/Asian, Black, Coloured, and White). Though Black Africans are about 80 percent of the population, they are divided into numerous ethnic groups, of which the Zulus are the largest, about a quarter of the population. South Africans sometimes say that there is no “majority” or “minority” in the country, with an overall, encompassing national identity as Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s Rainbow Nation. Coloured’s are mostly Afrikaans speaking and Dutch Reformed in religion, but the ‘Cape Coloured’s” are a Muslim minority. Among Whites, the division is between Afrikaans speakers and English speakers, with the former the majority. White Afrikaners sometimes identify themselves as the “white tribe.” The South African constitution recognizes the freedom of legal and cultural self-determination, including the possibility of establishing an ‘ethnic homeland.” Read more »

Ten of Top Twenty Emergency Aid Recipients are African States

by John Campbell Thursday, December 22, 2016
Somali displaced families receive food donation from a Qatari charity organization for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in the Somali capital Mogadishu, June 20, 2015. (Reuters/Feisal Omar) Somali displaced families receive food donation from a Qatari charity organization for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in the Somali capital Mogadishu, June 20, 2015. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)

A survey by IRIN, an independent, non-profit news agency now separate from the UN, lists the top twenty recipients and donors of emergency aid. Citing the OECD, it reports that total emergency aid spending in 2016 was $22 billion, about 16 percent of the $131.6 billion in total international aid spending. Read more »

The ANC’s Next Party Leader and the Next South African Chief of State

by John Campbell Wednesday, December 21, 2016
South African President Jacob Zuma (2nd L) stands behind a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela outside Parliament in Cape Town, June 17, 2014. (Reuters/Schalk van Zuydam) South African President Jacob Zuma (2nd L) stands behind a statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela outside Parliament in Cape Town, June 17, 2014. (Reuters/Schalk van Zuydam)

Under South Africa’s system of proportional representation, the public does not vote directly for the president. Rather it is parliament that votes for the president. Because of the governing African National Congress’s (ANC) huge parliamentary majority, since the end of apartheid, parliament has always selected its party leader as head of state. The ANC will choose its next party leader no later than December 2017. (Incumbent party leader Jacob Zuma has said that he will not run for a third term, as is party tradition.) South Africa’s next national elections will take place in 2019. In theory, Zuma could remain as president of South Africa after he leaves office as party leader. However, precedent is that the president resigns his office when he is no longer party leader. Read more »

The Dilemma of U.S. High-Profile Visits to African Conflict Zones

by John Campbell Tuesday, December 20, 2016
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Samantha Power visits the Mugunga III camp for internally displaced people in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, October 6, 2013. (Reuters/Kenny Katombe) U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) Samantha Power visits the Mugunga III camp for internally displaced people in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, October 6, 2013. (Reuters/Kenny Katombe)

High profile visits to war or disaster zones have long been common and popular among senior U.S. officials, as has foreign travel in general. Hillary Clinton was proud that she had traveled to 112 countries as secretary of state. At the same time, security requirements have grown, seemingly exponentially, often causing indignation among local people because of the disruption in their daily lives. And sometimes tragedy happens, as in Cameroon, where U.S. ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s speeding motorcade killed a child in April. But, U.S. officials welcome the U.S. media attention such visits provide, as do local elites and politicians who ae often disconnected from the people they ostensibly govern. Read more »