John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

New Frontier in Nigeria’s War on Corruption

by John Campbell Friday, January 22, 2016
A man on a motorcycle sits near a signboard campaigning against corruption along a road in Dangi district in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A man on a motorcycle sits near a signboard campaigning against corruption along a road in Dangi district in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, January 19, 2016. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Confronting Nigeria’s culture of corruption was a primary campaign theme of Muhammadu Buhari’s successful campaign for the presidency. Since taking office, he has fired numerous high officials widely regarded as corrupt, made a reputation for incorruptibility a prerequisite for high appointments (though there have been exceptions), and directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to launch investigations into the allegedly corrupt behavior of numerous high-ranking military and civilian officials. Read more »

Comedy and Democracy in South Africa

by John Campbell Thursday, January 21, 2016
South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool) South African President Jacob Zuma laughs as he delivers his State of the Nation Address after the formal opening of Parliament in Cape Town, February 14, 2013. (Reuters//Rodger Bosch/Pool)

For most Americans, their first exposure to South African comedy has been Trevor Noah, the host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” Noah’s January 20, riff on Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump is an example of South African standup comedy at its best, with the added dimension of an African “seeing us as others see us.” One example is his comment that America is such a great place because “…presidents might have term limits but Sarah Palin is forever.” Read more »

“Corruption Fights Back” in Nigeria

by John Campbell Wednesday, January 20, 2016
A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt December 4, 2012. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A girl walks on a gas pipeline running through Okrika community near Nigeria's oil hub city of Port Harcourt December 4, 2012. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

President Muhammadu Buhari successfully ran for the presidency on an anti-corruption ticket and a promise to restore security by destroying Boko Haram. His geographical support was based in the north and the west of the country, and he also benefitted from a general sense among the political class that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was incompetent and had to go. Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update January 9-15

by John Campbell Tuesday, January 19, 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 to January 9, to January 15, 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 Fiftieth Anniversary of Nigeria’s First Military Coup

by John Campbell Friday, January 15, 2016
Traditional ruler Prince Ozo Onna joins supporters of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu in a rally, as he is expected to appear at a magistrate court in Abuja, Nigeria, December 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Traditional ruler Prince Ozo Onna joins supporters of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu in a rally, as he is expected to appear at a magistrate court in Abuja, Nigeria, December 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

It is almost a cliché that history determines the options available to a society. But, the 1966 string of bloody military coups, starting with that of January 15 by “junior officers” (mostly majors) in Nigeria still effects the country today. It was against a civilian, ostensibly democratic government widely regarded as corrupt. There were counter-coups and massacres of Christian Igbos in the Muslim north. Igbo efforts to secede from Nigeria and establish an independent state, Biafra, led to the 1967-70 civil war in which it is estimated that at least one million died, mostly from starvation and disease, before Biafra was defeated. Read more »

Some Good News From South Africa

by John Campbell Thursday, January 14, 2016
Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings) Early morning smog shrouds suburbs of the coastal South African city of Cape Town as the sun rises June 8, 2006. (Reuters\Mike Hutchings)

It is unduly gloomy in sunny South Africa. The national currency, the rand, is falling; the economy is hardly growing at all; the Zuma administration appears mired in corruption and mismanagement. There has been an upsurge in racist rhetoric. Hence the South African surprise and delight at the announcement that two of the richest South Africans, Allan and Gill Gray, are essentially giving away their wealth to their family foundation. Read more »

Anniversary of Nigeria’s Baga Massacre

by John Campbell Wednesday, January 13, 2016
This map shows where Baga is in relation to Maiduguri, Abuja, and Lagos in Nigeria. (Allen Grane/Google Maps) This map shows where Baga is in relation to Maiduguri, Abuja, and Lagos in Nigeria. (Allen Grane/Google Maps)

The Guardian (London) reminds its readers that it has been one year since Boko Haram massacred an estimated 2,000 people and, in effect, destroyed Baga, a city of 300,000 in northern Nigeria. Its correspondent, Eromo Egbejule reports that the city remains virtually empty, with less than one thousand people still living there. The Guardian reports that the Buhari administration has not commented on the Baga anniversary, and there are no plans to commemorate what up to now is the largest Boko Haram massacre. Local people report that Boko Haram no longer occupies major towns, but are ambushing travelers and attacking villages. Read more »

Racist Facebook Comments Ignite South African Anger

by John Campbell Tuesday, January 12, 2016
People visit the beach on New Year's Day in Durban, January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward) People visit the beach on New Year's Day in Durban, January 1, 2014. (Reuters/Rogan Ward)

Penny Sparrow, age sixty-nine, a white real estate agent in Durban and a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), in a Facebook post characterized black beach goers over New Year’s as “monkeys.” (For many years, young black South Africans living inland have gathered on Durban’s beaches to celebrate New Year’s.) At about the same time, a bank economist tweeted about “majority (black) entitlement” as a barrier to economic growth. Others, evidently also white, on-line have expressed admiration for certain apartheid and pre-apartheid era political figures, including P.W. Botha and Cecil Rhodes. Black social media response has been fierce, including calls to take action “against all white people to end racism.” Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update January 2-8

by John Campbell Monday, January 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 to January 2, to January 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 »

The Year China Solidifies the Renminbi’s Place in Africa

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Friday, January 8, 2016
Chinese President Xi Jinping, accompanied by his wife wife Peng Liyuan, walks with South African President Jacob Zuma upon his arrival at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, December 2, 2015. (Reuters/Sydney Seshibedi) Chinese President Xi Jinping, accompanied by his wife wife Peng Liyuan, walks with South African President Jacob Zuma upon his arrival at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, December 2, 2015. (Reuters/Sydney Seshibedi)

This is a guest post by John Causey, a private equity and transaction advisor with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa.

The U.S. dollar’s dominance in sub-Saharan Africa is no longer certain. Despite the current volatility of the Chinese renminbi an auspicious moment may exist for China’s currency to challenge the dollar’s hegemony in the region. Read more »