What Our Analysts Are Reading – December, 2020

What Our Analysts Are Reading — December, 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.


According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nigeria had about 50 percent of West Africa’s total food insecure population in 2019. Climate change, the pandemic and the recession are already worsening living conditions in Nigeria, and the effects of ongoing violence and conflict have been dire. Farming communities faced by insurgency in the northeast are unable to access sufficient humanitarian aid; while over 10.6 million people in the region need assistance, only about 7.8 million can be reached. About 4.3 million people are already predicted to be facing acute hunger in the Northeast. — Reliefweb

Farmers in northern Nigeria risk their lives to produce food as a surge in violence in the region threatens the nation’s food reserves, putting millions at risk of starvation. It is estimated the recent agricultural output has decreased by 60 percent. Deteriorating security issues compound the ongoing effects of climate change and the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on food security. Farmers in the northeast are especially vulnerable to attacks by armed bandits and organized criminals such as Boko Haram because they work in remote areas for long hours with no protection. In order to combat the crisis, experts agree that the Nigerian government must invest in protection for its farmers. — Al Jazeera

Sahel Climate Conflicts? When (Fighting) Climate Change Fuels Terrorism. This article adds nuances to the increasingly popular argument that implementing programs to combat climate change in the Sahel will also work to improve security by ameliorating resource conflicts. The author analyzes three programs that successfully addressed challenges related to climate change in the Sahel, while failing to substantially improve security. Ultimately, he argues that top-down approaches to climate change lead to ill-fitting solutions and, rather than improving security, risk inadvertently reinforcing the sociopolitical dynamics that contribute to violent extremism. — The European Union Institute for Security Studies

The new year marks the start of the African Continental free Trade Area (AFCFTA), the world’s largest economic trading bloc with 54 of 55 participating nations. The agreement is aimed at creating a single market for goods and services, a continental customs unions, the elimination of tariffs on intra-African goods, as well as aid in the movement of capital and people across borders, encourage external investment and reduce non-tariff barriers. Despite years of planning and investment, fears of mismanagement and insufficient infrastructure remain. — Quartz

Much media attention has focused on Turkish and Russian military intervention in the Libyan conflict, but less covered is the role of Chadian fighters. This paper from 2018 offers a deep dive into the complex dynamics drawing hundreds of Chadians across Libya’s southern border to fight in its wars. This has serious implications for Libya’s Tebu minority, who are often labelled as foreign aggressors due to their cross-border ties with Chad. — Smalls Arm Survey


More than 50 people were injured and at least 26 killed in an attack at the Aden airport in Yemen on December 30th, 2020. The attack came shortly after the arrival of a plane carrying members of the new union government. Formed on December 18th, a year after both parties signed the Riyadh agreement in Saudi Arabia, the new union cabinet brings together the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and southern separatists, including the Southern Transitional Council (STC). Despite ongoing violence over competition for power in the south, these two parties have remained principle allies for over six years against the Houthi rebels supported by Iran who have seized much of the north of the country, including the capital, Sanaa. According to witnesses and Saudi media, no members of the new cabinet were killed or injured in the attack, and all arrived safely to the presidential palace. — Le Monde

The Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen achieved several breakthroughs in December 2020 in unifying the political factions vying for control of Yemen’s South. After over a year of political stalemate and periodic conflict, the internationally recognized Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) and Southern Transitional Council (STC) agreed to a military drawdown in Abyan governorate and the formation of a unity government between the two parties. While a number of challenges remain for the new government, these achievements represent a major step towards unifying Yemen’s fractured political landscape and achieving lasting peace. — Al Ayyam and Al Arabiya


Novaya Gazeta investigates an active campaign by leading Crimean politicians to wiretap, collect information, and even redistribute the property of possible dissidents from 2016-2018. On October 23rd, 2018, four defendants were named under Article 138 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, that they had violated the privacy of others by using their political office. However, their case was never brought to court. Two years later, their case is likely to be terminated due to the statute of limitations despite confessions, phone records, and eyewitness reports. Novaya Gazeta attempted to communicate with the Investigative Committee of Crimea to discuss this case in DEC 2020, but were repeatedly rebuffed. — Novaya Gazeta

In Belarus, women have been at the forefront of the ongoing protests against the Lukashenko regime and the opposition is led by former presidential candidate Sviatlana Tshianouskaya. In this article, the Village profiled Belarus’ most powerful female politician – Natalya Konchanova, the Speaker of the Council of the Republic and an ardent supporter and close ally of Luksahenko. Konchanova broke barriers for women in Belarus as she made her way from a wastewater engineer to the top of the presidential administration. The article highlights Konchanova’s harsh statements against protesters in defense of the Lukashenko regime, showing how the country’s most powerful female politician is at odds with the thousands of women who are leading the charge against the regime that brought her to power. — The Village

Serbian press has lauded the changes made to Montenegro’s freshly passed religious freedom law. The initial drafts of the law, introduced earlier this year, were seen as targeting the Serbian Orthodox Church and sparked protests in both Montenegro and neighboring Serbia. The changes made to the law in the Church’s favor indicate that Montenegro’s new government is likely more willing to appease Serbia than the long-time ruling party the was defeated in August elections. — N1