What Our Analysts Are Reading – November, 2020

What Our Analysts Are Reading — November, 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 pieces they have read and listened to over the past month.


A recent joint report from the UN’s theWorld Food Programme (WFP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assesses the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security in major migration and hunger hotspots around the world, revealing linkages between food insecurity and drivers of migration. According to the report, almost all of the world’s worst food crises are in countries with the largest number of internally displaced persons, and the majority of displaced people are located in countries affected by acute food insecurity and malnutrition.

Measures and restrictions put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 worldwide have strained the ability of migrant and displaced people to afford food and other basic needs. WFP has stated that the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic are more devastating than the disease itself. Migrant workers, especially those working in the temporary or informal sector, are some of the worst hit by the pandemic and its fallout. Without sustained income, many will be pushed to return home, which will cause at least a temporary drop in remittances that provide an essential lifeline for around 800 million people around the world. At the same time, disruptions to seasonal agricultural work could hit food production, processing, and distribution, affecting food availability and affordability at local and regional levels.

WFP and IOM have urged the international community to ensure that every effort is made to limit the immediate impact on the most vulnerable, while ensuring longer term investments for a pathway to recovery. They also highlighted the need to recognize the positive contributions of migrants and to promote their inclusion in social protection systems and improve data and analysis to better understand the dynamics between the pandemic, mobility, remittances and food security. — UN News


The New York Times explores the lives of prominent leaders attempting to oppose entrenched heads of state and political parties in various East African countries, and the role of the coronavirus in stifling any dissent. From Uganda’s Bobi Wine whose presidential bid against Yoweri Museveni resulted in his arrest and torture; to Tundu Lissu in Tanzania who was exiled for challenging John Magufuli; and even Ethiopia’s Jawar Mohammed, who was arrested under the pretext of terrorism for challenging Abiy Ahmed, opposition movements are facing a strict crackdown throughout the region. — The New York Times

The Institute for Security Studies released a report that examines how communities in Kenya which suffer threats from violent extremism demonstrate resilience, encourage dialogue amongst themselves, and address and resolve problems that ultimately result in radicalization and violent extremism. The study detailed the factors that enable communities to adopt processes, strategies and relationships that bolster responses to violent extremism. It also highlights the vital role that law enforcement and the justice sector play in supporting community resilience and dialogue. — Institute for Security Studies

This podcast features an interview with Robert Kyagulanyi – a popular reggae musician, legislator, and challenger for Uganda’s presidency. Kyagulanyi was twice arrested in November 2020, with the second arrest resulting in protests by his supporters, from which at least seven people were killed but which facilitated his liberation. This interview, which was released before his arrests, portended these threats and helped clarify Kyagulanyi’s strategy in pushing Ugandan democracy forward. — CSIS

In this paper, the authors argue that the appearance of insurgent violence in Tillabéri region, Niger, is not simply a product of weak governance or proximity to insurgent violence in Mali. Rather, it can be attributed to the emergence of competing modes of governance in the region and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara’s (ISGS’s) ability to appropriate local conflicts, particularly the herder-farmer conflict that is prevalent in Tillabéri as in much of the Sahel. The Nigerian state’s failure to manage this and other conflicts provides a window for ISGS to gain legitimacy in the eyes of a population that might not otherwise be inclined to support it. — Tandfonline

The Egyptian military-led government has recently intensified its crackdown on human rights organizations, as part of its larger campaign since the 2013 military coup to arrest its critics under pretenses of supporting terrorism. The latest targets are three employees of a leading Egyptian human rights organization, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR). The arrests follow a human rights briefing led by EIPR on November 3 with ambassadors and diplomats from at least 12 Western countries. Human rights watchdogs have stated that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi could wish to exploit the last two months under current U.S. President Donald Trump — who referred to his Egyptian counterpart as his “favorite dictator” — as a crucial window to lock up political foes. President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. has indicated he would take a harsher approach toward rebuking Egypt for its controversial human rights record. — Madamasr

In Tunisia, overtly anti-democratic political forces are gathering steam as numerous governance challenges generate popular disillusionment with the country’s democratic transition. Anne Wolf tracks the rise of Abir Moussi, a remnant of the Ben Ali regime whose Free Destourian Party is currently leading in the polls as she campaigns to outlaw her main rival, the Islamist Ennahda party. — Pomed


Russia’s republics in the North Caucasus, Ingushetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Dagestan, have seen recent changes in their regional and financial autonomy that point to Moscow’s economic troubles. In Ingushetia, the regional government has lost independent control over several key financial powers as it sits on the brink of bankruptcy. In Kabardino-Balkaria, the tourism-reliant region was forced to hand the federal government all stocks in one of its major tourist companies. In Dagestan, which shares a southern border with Azerbaijan, the governor was replaced by a former Kremlin envoy to the region. — James Town

The Dayton Agreement ended the Bosnian War and genocide in 1995, and was a crowning diplomatic achievement for the West. Over the past 25 years, it is clear that the Dayton agreements are not enough to ensure lasting peace between the two autonomous entities that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH); Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH). This article shows how the Dayton agreements have been unable to stop the deterioration between the two entities and what steps can be taken in order to improve security in BiH. — Wilson Center

On 15 NOV 20, former Moldovan Prime Minister Maia Sandu was elected the country’s first female president. Sandu is often viewed as a contrast to incumbent Igor Dodon. She is regarded as a reformist who supports closer ties with the European Union, while Dodon seeks closer ties with Russia. This article details Sandu’s platform, the electorate that backed her including a sizable diaspora population, and how the election has changed the status quo in Moldova. Moving forward, Sandu will face challenges balancing the desires of divided populace and rooting out institutional corruption. — New Eastern Europe

As a country that struggled to separate itself from its Soviet past, Estonia has made tremendous progress in digital governance and has become a world-leader in innovation. Recent changes in Estonia’s political landscape, however, have stalled the country’s progress forward. The inclusion of the far-right Estonian Conservative Peoples’ Party (EKRE) in the Estonian Parliament’s governing coalition in 2019 and the troubling comments made by its leaders has worried former government officials and western observers, who believe Estonia is backsliding on its progress towards democracy and prosperity. The EKRE is led by father-son duo – former Interior Minister Mart Helme and Finance Minister Martin Helme – who have made racist and xenophobic comments that detract from Estonia’s democratic path. The author believes Estonia will rebound from its democratic backsliding when Estonian politicians put aside personal differences and stand up for democracy. The article includes a joint-statement from six former Estonian leaders who denounced the Helmes’ recent comments disparaging the US election results, which prompted Mart Helme to resign from his position as Interior Minister last month. — Up North

An American extremist is exporting his brand of white supremacy to Eastern Europe. Robert Rundo, a founding member of the violent alt right gang Rise Above Movement, has been present at neo-Nazi marches in Budapest, Hungary and Sofia, Bulgaria, but is most frequently in Belgrade, where he has grafted himself into the Serbian nationalist movement. This latest public display of intercontinental white supremacist cooperation should be a stark warning about the future of the movement. — Bellingcat

The strong influence of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) in the run up to Moldova’s presidential election was noticeable through its affiliated media outlets and public events featuring church leaders, who strongly supported the pro-Russian incumbent Igor Dodon and parroted conspiracy theories alleging US interference in the election. The ROC and its branch in Moldova, the Moldovan Orthodox Church, play a large role in the country’s politics and are among the top-trusted institutions. CEPA’s Emily Ferris posits that Russia, through the ROC, will continue to retain its influence in Moldova and expects it to play a more active role in the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2021. —CEPA

Middle East

Yemen’s national coronavirus committee announced in early November there were zero recorded coronavirus cases in the government-controlled provinces. Despite recording zero cases, the committee has ordered health facilities across Yemen to prepare for a second wave of the virus as severe weather is affecting parts of the country. The committee has approved measures to stem a potential outbreak of the virus, including boosting capacity of health facilities, raising public awareness about health guidelines, enhancing cooperation between the committee and local authorities for a unified response and approving an emergency fund. Although the government is preparing, the Yemeni public has largely abandoned health guidelines, believing they have achieved herd immunity. People attend large gatherings such as weddings and mass prayers and almost no one wears a mask.

The war-torn country has been hit hard by coronavirus since April. Hundreds of people, including dozens of health care workers, have died as cases overwhelmed local hospitals. The total number of confirmed cases since April 10 – when the first case was detected – is 2,066, including 601 deaths and 1,377 recoveries. Local health officials reported that the virus and other diseases killed 1,800 people in May in Aden alone. Additionally, several graveyards in Sanaa and other provinces in northern Yemen were closed due to the influx of the dead. Local and international health workers believe that the number of virus fatalities is much higher than official reports say. The Houthis, who control densely populated provinces, have not disclosed the number of coronavirus cases. — Arab News

Throughout November 2020, the black market Yemeni rial (YER) to USD exchange rate fell to a record low of 875 in Yemen’s southern governorates. The Yemeni rial’s depreciation has been caused by diverging policies by financial institutions under Houthi and Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) control. This rise in inflation is likely to negatively impact food security across Yemen’s south worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis. — Al Araby

After more than five and a half years of war in Yemen, more than 128,000 people have been killed and over 164,000 people have been forced to flee for their lives in 2020 alone. The economy has collapsed, and the currency has crashed. Many of those who had savings have exhausted them, meaning more people are forced to make difficult decisions, such as how to ration meals. The impacts of displacement, job loss, inflation, price rises, and aid cuts are forcing Yemenis to eat less nutritious foods or to skip meals altogether, pushing the country into varying degrees of malnourishment, effecting the most vulnerable in society first.  While famine has not been declared in Yemen, severe acute malnutrition remains a major concern. Children suffering from acute malnutrition are susceptible to other diseases and conditions. Babies born in the past six years are at risk of growing up with various health issues, including mental development problems. The long-term effects of food insecurity and malnutrition are likely to affect Yemeni society for generations into the future. — The New Humanitarian