John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

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 »

The Constitution and Rule of Law Reaffirmed in South Africa

by John Campbell Friday, April 1, 2016
Mosiuoa Lekota (C) of the opposition party, Congress of the People (COPE) celebrates with Kevin Malunga deputy public protector after South Africa's constitutional court ordered President Jacob Zuma to pay back some of the $16 million of state money spent upgrading his private home in Johannesburg, March 31, 2016. (Reuters/Felix Dlangamandla/Pool) Mosiuoa Lekota (C) of the opposition party, Congress of the People (COPE) celebrates with Kevin Malunga deputy public protector after South Africa's constitutional court ordered President Jacob Zuma to pay back some of the $16 million of state money spent upgrading his private home in Johannesburg, March 31, 2016. (Reuters/Felix Dlangamandla/Pool)

On March 31, the eleven justices of South Africa’s highest judicial body, the Constitutional Court, ruled unanimously that President Jacob Zuma and the National Assembly had violated the Constitution. The president, the court ruled, had improperly spent public money on his private estate, Nkandla. The National Assembly had improperly defended the president by refusing to implement the ruling of the public protector, a constitutionally mandated official, when she concluded that the expenditure had been improper. Read more »

Therapy for a Broken Nigerian Community

by John Campbell Thursday, March 31, 2016
A local vigilante checks a vehicle at a check point in Michika town, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state, May 10, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) A local vigilante checks a vehicle at a check point in Michika town, after the Nigerian military recaptured it from Boko Haram, in Adamawa state, May 10, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

The consequences of the brutal war between Boko Haram and the Nigerian security services will be with us for a long time. In the BBC’s series, “Letter from Africa,” Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani describes how the experience of Boko Haram occupation and subsequent liberation exacerbated the division between Christians and Muslims in the town of Michika. Christians and Muslims now hold their markets on different days of the week, and children from each community taunt those from the other. Nwaubani sums it up, “These days, the Christians and Muslims cannot stand each other.” She reports that the town was liberated by the Nigerian military after seven months of Boko Haram occupation, but security is now in the hands of “professional game hunters” and “vigilantes,” two informal, nongovernmental groups that are also suspicious of each other, even though their memberships are religiously mixed. Read more »

Flare-up Threatens Saharan Ceasefire

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Wednesday, March 30, 2016
An indigenous Sahrawi woman walks at a refugee camp of Boudjdour in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 3, 2016. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra) An indigenous Sahrawi woman walks at a refugee camp of Boudjdour in Tindouf, southern Algeria, March 3, 2016. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

Tyler Falish is an intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program, and a student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

On March 22, at the request of the Moroccan government, the United Nations (UN) closed its military liaison office in Dakhla, a city in Western Sahara, the disputed stretch of sand in northwest Africa claimed by the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front. Two days earlier—also prompted by Rabat—seventy-three UN personnel were “temporarily reassigned” away from the headquarters of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). These steps—along with the threat from Rabat to call home the 2,300 soldiers and police it contributes to UN peacekeeping missions—are the kingdom’s reaction to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s use of the term “occupation” to describe the Moroccan presence in the territory on his recent visit to refugee camps in southern Algeria, home to an estimated 150,000 ethnic Sahrawis. Read more »

Fire Destroys Market in Nigeria’s Second Largest City

by John Campbell Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping mall in Balogun market at the business district in Lagos January 12, 2015.  (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye) Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping mall in Balogun market at the business district in Lagos January 12, 2015. (Reuters/Akintunde Akinleye)

Over the weekend—near the end of the Christian observance of Holy Week—a fire broke out in Kano’s Sabon Gari market. It eventually destroyed 3,800 shops, according to the Nigeria Emergency Management Administration (NEMA), obliterated at least two trillion naira (approximately ten billion dollars) worth of goods, and affected at least 18,000 traders. The NEMA director general said, “This is the biggest market fire outbreak Nigeria has ever witnessed. This is a serious calamity.” (Despite the magnitude of the disaster it has not been reported in the mainstream Western media.) Read more »

Nigeria Security Tracker: Weekly Update March 19-25

by John Campbell Monday, March 28, 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 19, to March 25, 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 »

Nigerian Muslim Views on Suicide Bombing

by John Campbell Friday, March 25, 2016
Smoke is seen after an suicide bomb explosion in Gombe, Nigeria on February 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde) Smoke is seen after an suicide bomb explosion in Gombe, Nigeria on February 1, 2015. (Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde)

Historically, there has been no West African tradition of martyrdom by suicide. Suicide, in fact, continues usually to be viewed as anathema. Nigeria’s first case of suicide bombing occurred only five years ago, in 2011. Since then, it has become associated with Boko Haram, the radical, Islamist movement that seeks to destroy the secular government in Nigeria. Read more »

Caution Required About New Video from Boko Haram’s Shekau

by John Campbell Thursday, March 24, 2016
A screenshot from the video most recently credited to Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram, March 24, 2016. A screenshot from the video most recently credited to Abubakar Shekau of Boko Haram, March 24, 2016.

Abubakar Shekau has been the face of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist terrorist movement associated with the killing of more than twenty thousand in northern Nigeria since 2009. The group is responsible for about two hundred deaths thus far in 2016, and more than two million internally displaced persons. In the past Shekau regularly issued videos, many of which featured grisly scenes of beheadings and other violence against Nigerian security service and other official personnel. Some of the videos were long. Shekau usually spoke in Hausa and Arabic, and occasionally in English. Then he went silent and his videos were replaced by no one. His last video appeared in March 2015 when he pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State. In August 2015 he (or someone) issued a brief audio recording, though it was unclear where or when it was made. However, on March 24, 2016 he allegedly issued a video, seven minutes in length, also in Hausa and Arabic. Read more »

South Africa’s ANC Ups the Heat on President Zuma

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 23, 2016
South Africa's President and African National Congress (ANC) party president Jacob Zuma, flanked by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Treasury General Zweli Mkhize, reacts ahead of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) three-day meeting in Pretoria, South Africa March 18, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko) South Africa's President and African National Congress (ANC) party president Jacob Zuma, flanked by National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC Treasury General Zweli Mkhize, reacts ahead of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) three-day meeting in Pretoria, South Africa March 18, 2016. (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

The National Executive Committee (NEC) of South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) met March 19-20. Among issues discussed was President Jacob Zuma’s relationship with the wealthy Gupta family, which critics accuse of “state capture,” that is, exercising undue influence over presidential, high level appointments and government contracts for their own benefit. For many in South Africa, the relationship between President Zuma and the Gupta family has become the face of corruption. Concern about corruption is a major political issue in the run up to local and municipal elections that will take place between May 18 and August 16. Indeed, according to South African media, the NEC also discussed the upcoming elections in Johannesburg and Pretoria, where the ANC faces stiff competition from the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which has also called for Zuma’s resignation over corruption. Read more »