What Our Analysts Are Reading – August, 2023

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

The World Bank’s Food Security Update, posted on August 1st, 2023, highlights the escalating trade-related policies in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, exacerbating the global food crisis. Numerous countries have imposed food trade restrictions aimed at bolstering domestic supply and reducing prices, with 20 nations implementing 27 export bans and 10 implementing 14 export-limiting measures as of June 5, 2023. On July 17, 2023, Russia’s decision to not renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) had minimal immediate impact on grain markets, as geopolitical tensions had anticipated this move. Wheat, corn, and soybean futures briefly surged before returning to pre-announcement levels. Despite Russia’s withdrawal, global commodity markets remained relatively stable. The Agricultural Market Information System Market Monitor for July 2023 revealed improved wheat production prospects in several countries, including Canada, Kazakhstan, and Türkiye, while maize forecasts remained steady, and rice and soybean production saw slight adjustments. Additionally, a $130 million loan was extended to Tunisia to mitigate the effects of the Ukraine war, supporting vital soft wheat imports, covering barley imports for dairy production, and providing seeds for smallholder farmers for the upcoming planting season.


Edgar Morin, a philosopher and sociologist, explores the complexity of multiple global crises and their impact on France’s current situation. Morin discusses the historical evolution of multiculturalism in France, from early waves of immigration to the challenges faced by newcomers in recent times. He highlights the need for recognition of the human dignity of marginalized communities and the potential for both peaceful and sometimes violent expressions of this need. The article also delves into the historical divisions within French society, including political, ideological, and social conflicts that have persisted over the years. Morin emphasizes how these divisions have shaped the country’s history, from the Dreyfus affair to the Algerian War and the rise of far-right movements. Ultimately, Morin’s analysis provides insights into the complex dynamics at play in contemporary France, urging readers to consider the multifaceted nature of the challenges facing the country today.

Furthermore, Howard French‘s writes in the Foreign Policy about France’s response to the recent military coup in Gabon and its historical support for dynastic rule in Central Africa. The article highlights France’s consistent rejection of coups as a means of changing governments in Africa while failing to use its influence to promote transparent elections, democratic legitimacy, and respect for the rule of law in its favored client states in the region. Gabon, an oil-rich country, has been under the undemocratic rule of the Bongo family for 57 years, with France’s assistance. The article critiques France for its complicity in supporting leaders with questionable governance and illicit enrichment in Central Africa, and it points out that resource-rich countries in the region, such as Gabon, Congo, Cameroon, and Equatorial Guinea, face issues like a small wealthy elite, poverty, inequality, corruption, and political repression. The article suggests that France needs to take a more proactive approach to address these issues and promote social and democratic progress in the region, rather than merely rejecting military takeovers without addressing the underlying problems.


In a comprehensive analysis by the United States Institute of Peace’s Archibald Henry and Elizabeth Murray, we delve into the recent coup that transpired in Gabon. On August 30, amid contested elections, a faction of Gabonese military officers hailing from the presidential guard orchestrated a coup, culminating in the arrest of President Ali Bongo Ondimba. The coup’s aftermath saw the declaration of General Brice Oligui Nguema as the head of the transition. This coup aligns with a troubling trend of military takeovers occurring across the African continent, with the officers forming the Committee for the Transition and Restoration of Institutions (CTRI). The international response has been swift, characterized by widespread condemnation and calls for a swift return to civilian governance. While the Gabonese coup distinguishes itself from recent coups in the Sahel region, it underscores mounting frustrations stemming from authoritarian rule and economic inequalities. The trajectory of this development will be significantly influenced by regional forums like ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) and the AU (African Union). In this context, the authors argue that it is imperative that the United States and the global community prioritize transparent transitions, comprehensive institutional reforms, and inclusive societal engagement to steer Gabon toward a more stable future.


Historic conflict dynamics between migratory herders and sedentary farmers across West Africa have become increasingly complex, with violence intensifying in recent years in parts of the region. Drivers of the conflicts are many, including climate changes that have exacerbated resource scarcity and increased competition, poor governance and pastoral mismanagement, and tensions driven by ethnic and religious biases. Furthermore, jihadist groups increasingly active in the region have exploited pre-existing tensions to further their own objectives, often heavily recruiting from marginalized communities, like Fulani herders, using resources, protection and promises of justice as incentives. In Nigeria alone, more than 60,000 people have been killed in clashes between farmers and herders in the last two decades. The violence has escalated from mostly spontaneous reactionary violence to more planned attacks and retaliations, particularly in Benue, Plateau, Adamawa, Nasarawa and Taraba states. Earlier this year, Institute of Current World Affairs (ICWA) fellow James Courtright travelled to the town of Numan in eastern Nigeria’s Benue state to try to unravel the causes of an eruption of violence there in late 2017 that left between 150 and 180 people dead, shedding light on the larger phenomenon in West Africa. What he found is that changes in land use patterns over time are the root of the cause. The delicate but symbiotic relationship between the farming and herding communities began to break down following successive droughts in the 70s and 80s, which brought more herders from the dry north into Benue state for longer periods of time. These newly arriving herders did not share the same history and relationships with the settled communities, and fear and mistrust grew. At the same time, advances in farming technologies allowed the farmers to cultivate larger areas of land for longer periods of time, reducing the land available to herders for grazing their cattle. These changes coincided with increasing availability of weaponry across Nigeria allowing Fulani herders to arm themselves for protection, quickly escalating small disputes into deadly altercations. Though the violence in Numan and its vicinity had subsided by early 2018, the tensions and potential for more future conflict remains. In fact, the research revealed that the primary factor for the reduction in violence since then is that local leaders banished Fulani herders from bringing their livestock to the Numan area. However, following pressure from the state government on local chiefs, Fulani herders have recently been allowed to return, rekindling old tensions. Since their return in 2022, there have been several isolated events of violence, and the strong distrust between the farming and herding communities lingers. Notably, both parties revealed dissatisfaction with the government’s response to the conflict, citing government inaction despite its proposals to “protect grazing routes for herders, disarm communities and pay compensation to victims.” Only NGOs have tried to promote dialogue through mediation committees, but both farmers and herders agree that the government must do more.


In a recent episode of the podcast titled “What Underlies the Coup in Niger?” presented by Landry Signé and Adrianna Pita, published on August 9, 2023, the intricate dynamics driving the coup in Niger were thoroughly examined. The episode underscored Niger’s pivotal role as a democratic ally to Western nations and the multifaceted challenges it grapples with amidst shifting political and economic landscapes. Despite the ongoing global challenges, Niger had shown signs of improvement in its security situation. However, its economic terrain remained complex, marked by a notable surge in the cost of living, a phenomenon not limited to Niger but reflective of broader regional trends. The podcast delved into Niger’s historical relationship with its military, referencing the unsuccessful military takeover attempt in March 2021, just prior to President Bazoum’s anticipated inauguration following the election. Niger’s history was marred by a series of both successful and unsuccessful coup attempts, with at least five successful ones occurring over the past five decades. Observers had harbored hopes for a more stable democratic trajectory.


In their article “At long last, there is real hope for peace in Yemen,” published in Al Jazeera, authors Andrew Gilmour and Calum Humphreys, from the Berghof Foundation, cautiously acknowledge the promising developments in Yemen’s conflict. They highlight the endurance of the UN-brokered truce since April 2022, leading to reduced violence and improved humanitarian access. The authors stress the need to solidify this truce into a permanent, comprehensive ceasefire with robust monitoring mechanisms. Direct talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis are commended, with the call to gradually involve other stakeholders while not undermining negotiations between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Ansar Allah. Positive signs in the region, like Saudi-Iranian talks and prisoner exchanges, offer hope for building trust, although challenges persist. The authors urge the international community to support these efforts and maintain momentum, recognizing that Yemenis must ultimately decide their political future.

A recent HRW report has refocused attention on the dire situation in the Yemen conflict, particularly highlighting the suffering of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers. Between March 2022 and June 2023, Saudi border guards have allegedly killed hundreds of Ethiopian migrants attempting to cross the Yemen-Saudi border, using explosive weapons and close-range shootings. Approximately 750,000 Ethiopians reside and work in Saudi Arabia, some fleeing human rights abuses in Ethiopia. For decades, Ethiopian migrants have undertaken the perilous “Eastern Route” through Yemen to Saudi Arabia, with an increasing number of women and girls on this journey. Their passage is marked by abuse and exploitation by smugglers and traffickers. Yemen’s ongoing humanitarian crisis further exacerbates their plight, as documented by Human Rights Watch.