John Campbell

Africa in Transition

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

Carnage at Giwa Barracks in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell Friday, March 21, 2014
Two boys stand near the charred chassis of a vehicle after a bomb attack near a busy market area in Ajilari-Gomari near the city's airport, in Maiduguri, March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Two boys stand near the charred chassis of a vehicle after a bomb attack near a busy market area in Ajilari-Gomari near the city's airport, in Maiduguri, March 2, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 14, insurgents labeled “Boko Haram” attacked the Giwa Barracks, a major army facility in the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. At the time, military spokesmen said that a significant number of “Boko Haram” members were killed. However, in a horrific article in the March 21 New York Times, Adam Nossiter reports that the victims of the killing spree outside the gates of the Giwa Barracks were young men who had previously been indiscriminately rounded up and detained in Giwa Barracks without charge. Read more »

South African President Jacob Zuma’s “Let Them Eat Cake” Moment?

by John Campbell Thursday, March 20, 2014
A general view of the Nkandla home of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, August 2, 2012. (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters) A general view of the Nkandla home of South Africa's President Jacob Zuma in Nkandla, August 2, 2012. (Rogan Ward/Courtesy Reuters)

There is an apocryphal story that in France, King Louis XVI’s queen Marie Antoinette was once told, “Madame, the people have no bread.” To which she replied, “then let them eat cake.” The reality behind the story was of a self-centered court widely perceived as isolated from the French people. The French Revolution followed shortly after. Read more »

“Africa Rising” and Freedom of the Press

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Major General Fred Mugisha, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander, shows the media examples of components of improvised explosive devices that have been found on the streets of Mogadishu, which were subsequently defused, removed and deactivated by AMISOM in Mogadishu in a photograph released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team November 29, 2011. (AU-UN/Stuart Price/Courtesy Reuters) Major General Fred Mugisha, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) Force Commander, shows the media examples of components of improvised explosive devices that have been found on the streets of Mogadishu, which were subsequently defused, removed and deactivated by AMISOM in Mogadishu in a photograph released by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team November 29, 2011. (AU-UN/Stuart Price/Courtesy Reuters)

The “Africa Rising” narrative that reflects GDP growth of many African economies is strongly supported by sub-Saharan governments, African popular opinion, and by business interests, at home and abroad. Mohamed Keita from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) writes a salutary reminder that the authorities in too many cases try to suppress home media challenges to this positive and optimistic narrative. Read more »

Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Families from Gwoza, Borno State, displaced by the violence and unrest caused by the insurgency, are pictured at a refugee camp in Mararaba Madagali, Adamawa State, February 18, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Families from Gwoza, Borno State, displaced by the violence and unrest caused by the insurgency, are pictured at a refugee camp in Mararaba Madagali, Adamawa State, February 18, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

The ongoing insurgency in northern Nigeria, called “Boko Haram,” and the government’s often brutal attempts to suppress it, have produced a tide of refugees and internally displaced in one of the world’s poorest regions. With the “fog of war,” government restrictions on news agencies, and a poor communications infrastructure, it is difficult to survey needs with precision. Read more »

Uganda and the African Standby Force

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Monday, March 17, 2014
A soldier from the Somali National Army uses a belt acting as a weapon during a training exercise in Mogadishu, March 28, 2013. (Tobin Jones/Courtesy Reuters) A soldier from the Somali National Army uses a belt acting as a weapon during a training exercise in Mogadishu, March 28, 2013. (Tobin Jones/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Allen Grane, intern for the Council on Foreign Relations Africa Studies program. Allen is currently an officer in the Army National Guard. His interests are in Africa, conflict, and conflict resolution.

Since 2003, The African Union Peace and Security Council has sought to establish an African Standby Force, whose purpose would be to rapidly respond to conflicts and emergency situations in Africa. Since then the Council has proposed several structural versions of a standby force to fill this rapid reaction role, none of which have yet yielded results. In the meantime it appears that the Ugandan government is using its own military to fill this role. Read more »

Standoff Between Nigeria’s New Defense Minister and the Chief of Defense Staff

by John Campbell Friday, March 14, 2014
New Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh (L), and the new Air Force Chief Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu salute during a handing over ceremony in Abuja January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) New Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh (L), and the new Air Force Chief Vice Marshal Adesola Nunayon Amosu salute during a handing over ceremony in Abuja January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Earlier in the week a guest blogger and I published separate posts on Nigeria’s new defense minister, Aliyu Mohammed Gusau. The two blog posts, while covering different aspects of the appointment, saw it as a positive step, providing the possibility for a new Abuja approach to the “Boko Haram” insurrection in northern Nigeria.  Read more »

Health Services Collapse in Northeast Nigeria

by John Campbell Thursday, March 13, 2014
Volunteer Health officials wait to immunise children at a school in Nigeria's capital Abuja February 1, 2010. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) Volunteer Health officials wait to immunise children at a school in Nigeria's capital Abuja February 1, 2010. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

Recently an Agence France Press (AFP) article reported that health services have collapsed in Borno state in northeast Nigeria due to the onslaught of “Boko Haram.” AFP reports that hospitals and clinics have been attacked, and medical personnel kidnapped either for ransom or to treat wounded Boko Haram fighters. AFP also reports that Boko Haram has been carrying out attacks on pharmacies–usually Christian-owned–for looting and destruction. Read more »

Dust Up Between Pretoria and Kigali

by John Campbell Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame (2nd L) pays his respects to former South African president Nelson Mandela on the last day of Mandela's lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, December 13, 2013. (Alexander Joe/Courtesy Reuteres) Rwanda's President Paul Kagame (2nd L) pays his respects to former South African president Nelson Mandela on the last day of Mandela's lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, December 13, 2013. (Alexander Joe/Courtesy Reuteres)

South Africa on Monday expelled three Rwandan officials from its embassy in Pretoria. They are charged with complicity in an assassination attempt against a Rwandan dissident living in South Africa. In response, Kigali expelled six South African diplomats. Read more »

All the King’s Men: Goodluck Jonathan and Aliyu Mohammed Gusau

by Guest Blogger for John Campbell Tuesday, March 11, 2014
New chief of naval staff, Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin (centre seated L), and outgoing Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba attend a handing over ceremony in Abuja,January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters) New chief of naval staff, Rear Admiral Usman O. Jibrin (centre seated L), and outgoing Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba attend a handing over ceremony in Abuja,January 20, 2014. (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters)

This is a guest post by Jim Sanders, a career, now retired, West Africa watcher for various federal agencies. The views expressed below are his personal views and do not reflect those of his former employers.

The accession of retired general Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, whose career extends back to Nigeria’s civil war, to a newly empowered Ministry of Defense evidences the gravity of the war in northeastern Nigeria, the president’s inability to deal with it, and the tendency of a political system sustained by patronage and corruption to look backward in crisis, rather than forward. Read more »

Aliyu Mohammed Gusau Named Nigeria’s Defense Minister

by John Campbell Monday, March 10, 2014
Soldiers from Lagos, part of an expected 1,000 reinforcements sent to Adamawa state to fight Boko Haram Islamists, walk near trucks as they arrive with the 23rd armoured brigade in Yola, May 20, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Soldiers from Lagos, part of an expected 1,000 reinforcements sent to Adamawa state to fight Boko Haram Islamists, walk near trucks as they arrive with the 23rd armoured brigade in Yola, May 20, 2013. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Approximately 1,300 people have been killed since the beginning of the year, and 130 in the first week of March, in violence associated with “Boko Haram” in northern Nigeria. The carnage is accelerating. President Goodluck Jonathan’s counter-terrorism strategy would appear to be failing, and one northern governor (among others) is saying that “Boko Haram” fighters outgun the government’s troops. If Jonathan is not looking for another approach, he should be. Read more »