What Our Analysts Are Reading – October, 2020

What Our Analysts Are Reading — October, 2020

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. Our analysts also keep abreast of open source reports to inform their work. Below, these analysts have summarized and contextualized the most important articles they have read over the past month.


Hiraal Institute released its report on Al-Shabaab (AS) financial systems, concluding that AS had become more effective at collecting taxes, and its efforts better received in comparison to the FGS. AS is confirmed to be collecting taxes throughout Southern Somalia, and across all major businesses in Mogadishu, including near the presidential palace and at the Mogadishu port. — Hiraal Institute

The Mozambican insurgent group Ansar Al Sunna (known locally as Al Shabaab, no known ties to the Somali Al Shabaab) appears to fluctuate between strategies to win the support of the local population and tactics that aim to oppress them through terror and violence. Keeping track of the group’s approach to civilians will aid the military in creating a counterinsurgent strategy to protect the population and to effectively combat the group. — The Defense Post

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the number of migrant departures from West Africa to the Canary Islands has significantly increased in recent weeks, possibly due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. On October 24th, a ship carrying around 200 migrants left from Senegal bound for the Spanish islands but caught fire and capsized only a few hours after departure. According to the Senegalese and Spanish navies, 59 people were rescued by local fisherman and least 140 people drowned, making it the deadliest shipwreck this year. IOM has been monitoring departures from the coast with the help of local citizens since the beginning of September. In September alone, they recorded the departure of 14 boats carrying 663 migrants. Of these departures, 26 percent were reported to have experienced an incident or shipwreck. So far in 2020, IOM estimates there have been around 11,000 migrant arrivals to the Canary Islands as opposed to 2,557 arrivals recorded from the same period in 2019.— IOM

The West African route, by sea or by land, was one of the preferred migration routes to Europe, taken by tens of thousands of migrants in the mid-2000s. The Canary Islands, a hundred kilometers from the Moroccan coast, offered one of the main gateways to the European Union until strict measures implemented by Madrid to prevent illegal migration reduced the flow, causing migrants to turn to other routes including the Mediterranean by way of North African countries. However, the western route has seen a relative revival in recent years due to measures taken against migration passing through Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration. — Le Monde

As tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across Nigeria in October to demand an end to polices violence from the Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS), there have been increased cases of looting of government-run warehouses across the country. These storage facilities contain tons of COVID-19 relief materials, including food meant for distribution during previously enforced lockdowns. However, distributions have since been halted and news emerged that relief items were still being stored in these facilities, as well as in the private homes of politicians, angering many citizens. With 40 percent of the population below the poverty line, many families struggle to have just one meal a day. The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), a civil rights organization, has expressed disappointment at the non-distribution of food items to poor Nigerians and has called for timely, effective, efficient and transparent distribution of the palliatives to the poorest and most vulnerable people. — Al Jazeera


According to recent UN Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) malnutrition analysis of southern Yemen, the coronavirus pandemic, economic problems, and ongoing conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi armed movement have led to the highest malnutrition levels ever recorded in parts of the country. Cases of acute malnutrition in children under age five have increased around 10 percent in 2020, and cases of severe acute malnutrition rose 15.5 percent in children under five years. Additionally, the UN has warned that at least a quarter-million breastfeeding women also need treatment for malnutrition. Although humanitarian aid helped offset famine in the years since the conflict began in 2015, donations have dropped in 2020, forcing the UN to end one-third of its major programming. As the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80 percent of the population dependent on aid, the UN has called for donations to Yemen in order to bolster nutrition programs as well as water, health, and sanitation support. — Al Jazeera

The United Nations warned in June that the world is on the brink of its worst food crisis in 50 years. The pandemic and extreme weather have disrupted agricultural supply chains across the globe, leaving food prices sharply higher in many countries. In China, fresh foods of all kinds are in short supply, prompting Beijing to launch the “Clean Plate Campaign” in August with the aim of curbing food use by encouraging citizens to restrict portion size and minimize food waste. Akin to the American Victory Gardens of World War II, the campaign is as much about trying to unite the country around a patriotic mission in a time of hardship as it is about securing the food supply. Food security is one of the oldest concerns of the Chinese Communist Party, as millions starved to death in the famine of the late 1950s to early 1960s during Mao Zedong’s rule. Many who survived remember eating tree bark or grass to get through. Although not in an immediate food crisis, with enough wheat on reserve to feed the population for the whole year, China’s restrictions this year have helped ease the effects of inflation on some food costs with the hopes of offsetting a future food security crisis reminiscent of the past. — The Washington Post

As the one-year anniversary of the Riyadh Agreement passes without implementation, Yemen observers fear hope for a unity government across Yemen’s South is dwindling. Saudi Arabia has struggled to maintain momentum in negotiations between the internationally recognized Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) and the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) since the STC declared self-administration on 25 April 2020. However, on 29 July 2020, Saudi Arabia announced a mechanism for accelerating implementation of the agreement after getting the STC’s commitment to abandon their self-administration policy. Despite this, the deadlines for these mechanisms have passed once again and the military and political stipulations of the Riyadh Agreement have been left unimplemented. Without considerable trust building exercises and a change to implementation mechanisms, the conflict between the STC and ROYG is likely to continue redirecting resources away from civilian infrastructure and counter-Houthi efforts and towards STC-ROYG war efforts. — Anadolu Agency

The arrival of a former military official as the Iranian Ambassador to the Houthis may prelude increased military coordination between the two groups. On 17 October 2020, Iranian Ambassador to Yemen Hasan Eirlo arrived in Houthi-controlled Sana’a. Eirlo was a commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and has strong ties throughout the Iranian military. Eirlo’s credentials, in addition to Iranian statements promising to improve the Houthi’s defensive military capabilities, likely indicates this move will strengthen the group’s diplomatic and military coordination. This may allow Iran to exert more military pressure on Saudi Arabia as the two nations vie for regional dominance. — Al Arab


An American Christian media conglomerate has spent the last 5 years developing a network within the Ukrainian political system. The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) was instrumental in the creation of the Ukraine for Family Alliance, an anti-LGBTQ lobbying organization. In addition to pouring financial support into this supposed “family values” agenda, CBN has imported American conversion therapy into Ukraine. — CBN

This piece traces the legacy of the Soviet historical narrative of Babyn Yar, one of Ukraine’s most prominent symbols of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Attempts to cover up the executions of 150,000 Jews at this site contributed to the 1961 Kurenivka mudslide, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people. The historical memory and trauma of Babyn Yar and Kurenivka continue to challenge Ukrainian society as it reflects on the implications of its Soviet history. — Zaborona

Despite claims by the Kremlin that they do not meddle in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, the Dossier published a five-part investigative report that shows otherwise. In the latest, the organization investigates Russian influence in Moldova. Moldovan presidential elections took place on 01 November 2020, with incumbent Igor Dodon and former Prime Minister Maia Sandu advancing to a runoff scheduled for 15 November 2020. Moldovan politics are frequently viewed through a geopolitical lens: where Dodon is considered the pro-Russian candidate, and Maia Sandu the pro-EU candidate. The latest elections were met with allegations that Russian “consultants” flew to Moldova to offer advice to Dodon’s campaign. The Dossier Center takes a look at exactly who in the Kremlin is responsible for Moldovan policies and what their relations are to current President Igor Dodon and his inner circle. — Dossier Center