What Our Analysts Are Reading — July, 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. 


Thurston Alex Thurston surveys Mauritania’s political landscape, analyzing the contentious relationship between new president Ould Ghazouani and his predecessor Ould Abdel Aziz. As the two men’s tensions have come out into the open, Thurston argues that Ghazouani overplayed his hand in attempting to shape his successor’s presidency, forcing Ghazouani to push back and consolidate power. Since the article’s publication, Ghazouani has also stacked the military with close allies, supporting Thurston’s thesis that the new president has secured his place as the dominant figure in Mauritanian politics. — World Politics Review

The new open-access online journal – “Lamma: A Journal of Libyan Studies” – released its first issue. The journal aims to provide a forum for critically understanding Libya and its complexities. In one contribution, Lisa Anderson reviews several books on the 2011 revolution, offering compelling reading suggestions for Libya newcomers as well as urging foreign observers to better explore the complex motivations and justifications for foreign interference in Libya. — Punctum Books

 After months of speculation, the Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire has been ousted by a no-confidence vote in parliament. The vote is the result of a simmering power struggle between the now ousted Prime Minister and the current president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Farmajo). After Khaire expressed interest in standing for president in the upcoming February 2021 elections. Follow the no-confidence vote, internal security minister Mohamed Abukar Islow accused the president and speaker of the house of forcibly removing the PM to solidify their roles and centralize power. The 2021 elections were going to be the first time Somalia held a “one person, one vote” election since 1969, but increasing political tensions have cast doubt on whether the elections will take place as scheduled. — Deutsche Welle

The International Crisis Group report discusses the long-term consequences of Al Shabaab’s increased rate of attacks against schools in northeastern Kenya, and area populated mostly by ethnically Somali Kenyans. In response to these attacks, the Government of Kenya shut down numerous schools and pulled most teachers out of the region. While these security measures may be effective to decrease attacks in the short-term, they threaten to leave an already marginalized population behind in terms of education and preparing the youth for a successful future. This may only further the conditions that prompt young people to radicalize, creating a breeding ground for AS recruitment. — International Crisis Group


Amid protests challenging the legitimacy of Aleksandar Vucic’s re-election, Serbia is reportedly looking to purchase more military aircraft from a historic ally: Russia. As a recent purchase request to the US allegedly went unanswered, it is likely that the Balkans state may look further east to meet its military demands. — Voanews

In a recent investigation into Russian YouTube news channels in the Baltic states, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab found that the majority of the most viewed channels are from fringe outlets or individual YouTubers as opposed to Kremlin-backed media. According to the article, these channels appear to be pushing Kremlin narratives to earn a quick profit from views, rather than for ideological reasons. — Medium

Bulgaria has entered its third week of protests with thousands of citizens demanding that the current government, led by Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov, step down. These protests are Bulgaria’s largest since 2013 and share similarities to northern neighbor Romania’s 2018 anti-corruption protests. According to this article from the European Council on Foreign Relations, the European Union has stood by as citizens have demanded corruption reforms in the country—and inaction and lack of substantial backing in the fight against corruption in Bulgaria has the potential to threaten the country’s position as a western-oriented EU member state. — ECFR

Arabian Peninsula 

Political competition for the right to represent the oil-rich governorate of Hadramawt within Yemen’s proposed unity government intensified throughout July 2020. As the Southern Transitional Council (STC) mobilized its supporters in Mukalla to amplify calls for a united southern bloc, Hadramawt Tribal Confederation (HTC) President and Deputy Governor Amr bin Habrish announced that he would not perform his duties until Hadramawt was guaranteed 40% of cabinet positions in the new government. These attempts to monopolize Hadrami representation reflect growing tension between governorate-level political structures and the STC’s wider agenda of Southern unity. — Aden Post 

Since May 2020, Houthi forces have accused the Saudi-led Coalition of enforcing a brutal embargo on fuel that has limited the operations of hospitals, water systems, and other humanitarian infrastructure. However, research from the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies suggests that Houthi forces have restricted the commercial supply of fuel in an attempt to artificially raise prices and minimize economic losses from low global fuel prices. Houthi market manipulations demonstrate the inefficacy of agreements over fuel imports and profit sharing and provide insight into Houthi framing tactics. — Sana’a Center

Following months of military build-up in southern Ta’izz, clashes erupted in al-Turbah between the Coalition-backed Joint Resistance Forces (JRF) and local Islahi-backed units within the National Army (NA) allegedly supported by Qatar and Turkey. While engagement remains limited, these clashes indicate that Ta’izz is becoming an increasingly important arena for competition between regional powers for influence in Yemen. — Debriefer