What Our Analysts Are Reading – June, 2020

What Our Analysts Are Reading — June, 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. 


Academic Tadeusz Giczan’s piece offers a succinct analysis of how Lukashenko’s long rule has caused Belarus’ biggest political crisis in decades. Contextualizing the economic and social impacts caused by Lukashenko’s long rule since 1994, Giczan argues that the coronavirus pandemic was the spark that ignited the recent country-wide protests and fierce opposition in the wake of the upcoming presidential election. According to Giczan, Lukashenko’s brutal crackdown on an opposition and active civil society is his only way to stay in power, unless he finally reforms the country. — Waidelotte

In July 2020 Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) reported that a 5-meter “Ö”-letter statue would go up on Estonian island of Saaremaa, a year after such a statue was removed by the Road Administration for having incorrect dimensions. According to the article, the statue plays on the stereotype that Saaremaa residents pronounce the Estonian letter, “Õ” more like “Ö.” While the islanders of Saaremaa are proud of their dialect, the strict language law aims to persevere the titular language. This statue not only serves as a cool photo-op, but it also honors the dialect of Saaremaa islanders, a hallmark of their identity, which enriches the Estonian language and culture. — ERR (Estonian)

UNDP-supported JAMnews provides insight on a twist in recent protests against police brutality amid reinstated COVID-19 lockdowns in Baku, Azerbaijan. This article highlights an alleged government “PR stunt” following widely shared videos of excessive forced deployed by Baku police officers to enforce lockdown measures. The piece highlights the strength of social media in protests against government-actions in addition to allegedly concerted efforts by Baku to restore its image amid discontent and anger across the city, providing a glimpse into Baku’s current state of affairs. — JAMnews


A study investigates the relationship between violent conflict, food price, and climate variability, using data from 113 markets in 24 African states between 1997 and 2010. The authors found that higher food prices increase conflict rates, and vice versa; they also found an inverse relationship between rainfall and food prices. However, the data gathered showed that higher levels of democracy and economic growth contribute to lower levels of conflict, indicating that the negative impact of climate variability on violent conflict can be mitigated through interventions including effective food price management in local markets. —  Science Direct 

The article argues that al-Shabaab (AS) invests efforts and resources on psychological operations (PSYOPS), especially in the form of reporting and propaganda, because despite being a major threat to stability in Somalia, it remains unable to defeat the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali National Army (SNA) militarily. The group is limited economically and militarily, and although it continues to rely on asymmetric warfare to damage its enemies, it also conducts these media operations to weaken support for AMISOM and for other international operations in Somalia. AS appears to recognize that PSYOPS are low-cost and potentially high-impact operations, and by exposing the alleged failures of the Somali government and its allies, while broadcasting its own claims of victory, AS aims to chip away at the resilience and endurance of its enemies. — West Point Academy

Terrorist groups have had to adapt and innovate from more traditional methods of funding to sustainably secure their funding sources. The long-term success of securing a terrorist organization’s funding streams depends on its capacity to operate in various fields. As such, a deeper understanding of not only how terrorist organizations fund themselves, but also what causes them to seek different funding sources helps develop more sophisticated responses to terrorist funding. — Tandfoline

Yahia H. Zoubir explores China’s growing relations with Tunisia and Morocco. Despite its increasing economic footprint, the report argues that China has so far failed to convert economic ties into broader influence, citing poorly developed cultural and political relations. As China continues to see the Maghreb as an important feature of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the article also questions whether China will be able to maintain its policy of non-intervention this politically volatile region. — Chatham House 

Arabian Peninsula 

During his first public appearance since March 2020, Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi urged the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to resume implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and end hostilities in Abyan governorate. Hadi’s move towards rapprochement may represent an attempt to cut the ROYG’s losses in the face of growing STC momentum across Yemen’s South. —   Mareb Press  (Arabic)

Houthi forces scaled up their use of cross-border projectile attacks on targets within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) during the month of June, claiming to use a number of their advanced missiles and explosive-rigged UAVs. The international community has condemned these attacks while the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) has increased sanctions on imports to Houthi territory. The Houthis use of cross-border projectile attacks is likely to spoil peace negotiations and prolong sanctions that exacerbate humanitarian suffering within their territory. — Al-Ain (Arabic)

During a recent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting, UN OCHA head Mark Lowcock reported that COVID-19’s mortality rate in Yemen currently stands at around 25% – a staggering rate nearly five times the global average – and that international humanitarian donations remain insufficient to meet the country’s operational needs. These budgetary shortfalls may prompt vital sanitation and health care programs to close and threaten Yemen’s health system with complete collapse. —   Al-Jazeera