What Our Analysts Are Reading — 10/25

Navanti’s data collection and analysis are based on networks of on-the-ground researchers from all walks of life: journalists, academics, and humanitarian workers, to name a few. But our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, Navanti analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important articles they read over the past two weeks, and added some insightful recent quotes from researchers. Some of these articles are breaking news items, while others are academic studies published months ago; all will advance the reader’s understanding of current conflict dynamics.


East Africa

Jihadists in northern Mozambique are exploiting growing grievances against powerful, politically well-connected figures, whom residents believe are trying to drive inhabitants out of the area in order to profit from the land. Furthermore, the existence of organized crime networks contributes to instability in the region, and the corruption that links these networks to government actors only increases grievances that jihadists can exploit. — Africa Center for Strategic Studies

(For Navanti’s April 2019 analysis of northern Mozambique’s growing insurgency movement, click here.

This Wardheer News opinion piece argues that Somalia’s power-sharing federal system, which is outlined in the country’s constitution, is the only way to prevent it from falling back into civil war. The author says that the central government must allow regional elections to take place and support their results, rather than interfering in elections to manipulate outcomes. — Wardheer News

This article argues that the prevalence of al-Shabaab (AS) in Kenya comes from the marginalization of the country’s Muslim minority. Accordingly, the government of Kenya must address the long-term political and socioeconomic deprivation prevalent among the Kenyan Muslim community, especially those of Somali origin, which fuels their grievances and makes them susceptible to radicalization. — Africa Policy Institute

A Navanti researcher, a trader in Mogadishu, recently had this to say about Al-Shabaab activity in Somalia: 

“Al-Shabaab is engaging in a war of attrition against African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces. Such incidents aim to degrade AMISOM capabilities gradually, regardless of the contingent to which they belong, and reduce the cost of war for AS. A handful of AS fighters can launch small ambushes and escape when things escalate, so they use more IEDs, which have proven to be cost-effective in asymmetric warfare. Furthermore, AS increasingly controls supply routes for AMISOM contingents, which further constrains their operations.” 

Climate extremes threaten the livelihoods of vulnerable communities such as women and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Somalia. In particular, the lack of fuel in a post-disaster environment causes families to go hungry, or put themselves in dangerous situations in search of fuel. Possible solutions include the promotion of energy-efficient technologies and other alternatives, such as non-wood sources of fuel. — El Sevier 


West Africa

This 2018 Crisis Group Report illustrates how Burkina Faso’s weak security apparatus has facilitated the country’s steady rise in VEO activity since late 2015, particularly in the northern and eastern regions. When arrangements between VEOs and the former President Blaise Compaoré’s regime fell through and the Burkinabé security forces began to confront VEOs militarily, they found themselves inadequately equipped and trained to combat multiple local and regional insurgency groups, which went on to destabilize the country. — International Crisis Group (French)


North Africa

On October 16th, 2019, the Government of National Accord (GNA) registered a formal complaint with the Chinese Embassy over the deployment of Chinese-made Wing Loong attack drones by their Libyan National Army (LNA) opponents. International violations to Libya’s arms embargo have allowed combatants access to sophisticated military technologies; armed drones are regularly used by both sides to conduct nominally “precision” airstrikes, which often result in civilian casualties. — Libya al-Ahrar (Arabic)

Libya may be oil-rich, but affordable fuel is increasingly difficult to come by, because various actors participate in a lucrative smuggling trade in which subsidized fuel is siphoned off official channels and into the black market for a profit. Tim Eaton explains how fuel smuggling plays into Libya’s conflict economy that allows powerful actors to become increasingly wealthy at the expense of most Libyans. — Chatham House

In Tunisia, Kais Saied marked his first presidential speech with a challenge to militants operating in the country, stating that “a bullet from a terrorist will trigger bursts of bullets from our side.” However, critics point out that Saied has laid out very few concrete plans for fulfilling his ambitious campaign pledges. Barralaman outlines the key points from Saied’s opening speech. — Barralaman



Yemen’s current fuel crisis significantly restricts access to clean water. Oxfam assesses 15 million people have had a severe reduction in water access from piped water systems and water trucks since August 2019, following import restrictions on fuel into Al Hudaydah from both the Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) and the Houthis. While ships carrying fuel continue to be delayed from docking, the risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases increases. — ReliefWeb

Migrants fleeing the Horn of Africa are flooding the coastal village of Ras al-Arah in Lahij governorate, where local smugglers often detain and torture these migrants in attempt to extort money from them. In 2018, there was a 50% increase in migrant arrivals to Yemen from the year prior, yet Yemeni security forces appear both ill-equipped and unwilling to quell local smuggling or prevent the torture of migrants. — AP News

The Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) are reportedly on the verge of signing the Riyadh Agreement to form a new government. However, vague language in the agreement and opposition from ROYG officials who will be excluded from the new government may cause friction and protract the signing of the agreement. — Al-Mashhad Al-Yemeni (Arabic)

Saudi Armed Forces have sent large deployments of military hardware to Aden to replace withdrawing Emirati forces. While the move represents an expansion of the Saudi footprint in Yemen, questions remain as to how Emirati-funded units, like the Security Zone Forces, will be integrated within the ROYG security apparatus. — Aden al-Ghad (Arabic)



An Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) spokesman claimed a significant number of individuals related to a “network” loyal to Iranian dissident Ruhollah Zam has been identified in Iran. Zam is an Iranian exile who lived in Paris for 12 years and is the founder of Amad News, an anti-government Telegram Channel which played a role in inciting the protests that took place in Iran between December 2017 and January 2018. Zam was lured to Iraq on October 13th and arrested. — Radio Farda (Farsi)

In response to protests in Iraq and Lebanon, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei delivered a speech during a graduation ceremony at Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Academy in Tehran, stating “I suggest the empathetic people in Iraq and Lebanon prioritize restoration of security and tranquility to their countries,” and emphasizing that “legitimate demands can only be met within the framework of legal structures.” The geographic proximity of the protest movements to Iran, and the fact that Shiite communities have participated forcefully in the demonstrations, may be worrying to Iranian politicians.— MehrNews (Farsi)

ISNA, a news outlet run by Iranian students and financially supported in part by the Iranian government, reports 233 cities and towns in Iran face water shortages, affecting a combined population of 28.6 million, or about one-third of the country’s total inhabitants. The latest figures are high despite heavy rainfall and floods that occurred early this year, inundating vast areas of the country. — ISNA (Farsi)



The Iraqi army said in an October 23 statement that American forces entering the country as they evacuate from Syria must leave soon. However, Iraqi politicians tell al-Monitor that they do not believe US troops will withdraw from Iraq, and that their presence is actually an attempt to pressure Baghdad to try to block a proposed law requiring a withdrawal of US troops. — AlMonitor 



Egyptian experts in salafi jihadism lay out their predictions for ISIS after the killing of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. One expert predicts that some ISIS fighters will return to al-Qaida, particularly because Baghdadi was found hiding among leaders with Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaida affiliated group. Another analyst expects that the next ISIS leader will enjoy far less power than al-Baghdadi due to internal organizational divisions. — Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Arabic)

US officials have announced that American troops will remain in northeast Syria for the time being, to guard oil fields under control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The purpose of this is to deny oil revenue to ISIS, and the Syrian government. However, because the SDF has long sold oil to Damascus, it is unclear how the current policy will achieve its stated aims. — NPR

The Syrian government’s crackdown against organized criminal gangs with links to the Assad family has resulted in an armed backlash. Forces loyal to Marwan Dib, the son of the late Hafez al-Assad’s sister Bahija, besieged the house of the Latakia governor following the killing of Marwan Dib’s son at the hands of security forces. This dynamic points to the difficulty the Syrian government will face reigning in militias it empowered during the war. — Almodon (Arabic)