What Our Analysts Are Reading – June, 2021

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.

Food Security

A new paper from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s Food, Security and Peace Programme called “Food Systems in Conflict And Peacebuilding Settings: Pathways and Interconnections,” illustrates the interconnected nature of food systems, food insecurity, and conflict. War and conflict are the world’s major disruptors of food systems, accounting for roughly 60 percent of the 155 million food insecure individuals worldwide. At the same time, food insecurity itself can also be a driver of a conflict. Therefore, sustainable and equitable food systems are a key path to peacebuilding and preventing conflict.

The World Food Program warns of famine risk in remote areas of northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state, as well as neighboring Yobe and Adamawa states, as violence continues to disrupt access to livelihoods and farmland. Insecurity along shipment corridors has also prevented the distribution of humanitarian aid in these areas. Borno state’s governor has called for displacement camps to be dismantled due to the lack of available resources and inadequate security provisions. However, many continue to reside in the camps as instability persists across the region. At the same time, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) has encouraged people to return to their villages by promising safety, security and economic support following the suicide of former Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. In the absence of government authority in the remote northern regions, ISWAP has reportedly developed a rudimentary administration based on the exchange of taxes for protection and services. Local trends portend a period of insecurity as ISWAP’s violent efforts to consolidate control coincide with rising food prices and northern Nigeria’s lean season, where an estimated 4.4 million people already face critical food shortages.


After months of conflict, Ethiopia’s government declared an immediate, unilateral ceasefire in the northern Tigray region after rebel fighters retook Mekelle, the regional capital. The conflict in Tigray began in November 2020 when Ethiopia’s army, with support from Eritrean troops, clashed with the ruling party in Tigray, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The conflict displaced nearly two million people and pushed hundreds of thousands of people towards famine conditions, making it one of the most extreme food security situations since the famine a decade ago in Somalia, according to the UN. The cease-fire brings renewed hope and will allow farmers to produce food and humanitarian aid organizations to operate without movement restrictions.

The South African Development Community (SADC) ended months of deliberation and disagreement over appropriate interventions in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region in response to jihadist insurgency by an armed group known locally as Al Shabaab, announcing it has agreed to deploy forces to the area. The conflict is rooted in longstanding grievances against the ruling government party, the Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO), by a disenfranchised group of the population who believe the government to be corrupt. The insurgency has fueled existing social problems and ethnic rivalries. Since the conflict escalated in 2017, more than 800,000 people have been displaced and nearly 3,000 killed. Furthermore, the lack of government presence in the northern Cabo Delgado region has caused a security vacuum that has put the local population at risk. Thus, SADC troops on the ground will be critical to increasing Mozambique’s security capacity in the region.


Al-Jazeera reports that Bulgaria’s media independence has significantly declined over the last two decades as a result of democratic backsliding, corruption, and financial difficulties. At the center of many of the problems facing Bulgarian media is former three-term Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who has protected the business interests of those close to him, including Delyan Peevski, who was recently sanctioned by the US under the Global Magnitsky Act. Peevski is believed to be in control of around 80 percent of all print media in Bulgaria, and he uses his media outlets to smear those who speak against him.

Serbian journalist Željko Pantelić dissects the various forces threatening Montenegro’s stability. At the national level, the political coalitions supporting the newly elected government have the barest majority over the opposition, meaning that total support is needed for the Prime Minister to enact policies; this allows each coalition to “blackmail” the government for their own interests. Montenegro’s neighbors are intensely involved in the country’s politics, with Serbia, Bosnia, and Albania each backing political factions or, in the case of Serbia, exerting influence through the Serbian Orthodox Church. Last but certainly not least, both Russia and China seek to foster Montenegrin dependance on them. Last but certainly not least, both Russia and China seek to foster Montenegrin dependence on them. In tandem, these dynamics threaten political upheaval and instability in Montenegro.

Media Literacy continues to be a concern in the Western Balkans according to a recently published index report by the Open Society Institute in Sofia. The region performed poorly in comparison with other areas of Europe, with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and North Macedonia holding the four lowest media literacy scores across the entire report. The index raises questions about local society’s ability to withstand fake news and disinformation in these countries amidst an ongoing pandemic and continued trends of ethnic tension.

Arabian Peninsula

The Houthis refusal to acknowledge the COVID-19 crisis or receive vaccines from the international community has had knock-on effects in areas of Republic of Yemen Government (ROYG) control. As the ROYG has rolled out its vaccination campaign, civilians in Houthi territory have crossed into government-held areas in search of health centers that can provide the vaccine. The rapid rise in demand for vaccines has generated concerns over the ROYG Health Ministry’s ability to provide second doses in a timely manner.

During negotiations in Sana’a, Houthi officials refused Omani proposals to reopen Sana’a Airport and allow for the return of commercial flights in and out of the city. The Houthis have maintained that the humanitarian dimension of the Yemeni conflict must be addressed separately from political negotiations, mandating that Sana’a Airport and al-Hudaydah Port be reopened prior to the beginning of any wider discussions of peace. The Houthis’ attempts to extract additional concessions out of the Saudi-led Coalition will continue to pose a stumbling block for diplomatic initiatives.

In early June 2021, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) initiated a crackdown on ROYG media operations in Aden, occupying the headquarters of both the ROYG-run Saba News Agency and the ROYG’s al-Thawrah Newspaper. The STC has since clarified that the takeover of these media institutions will facilitate the re-establishment of the Aden News Agency – South Yemen’s state-run media outlet during the period of southern independence. The STC’s actions against ROYG newspapers and channels represents a considerable escalation in the war over the information environment in Aden.