What Our Analysts Are Reading – December, 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.


A draft version of the new amendments to the Constitution was released for national discussion on 27 DEC 2021. The draft proposes several changes, ranging from increased power for the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, stricter eligibility requirements for being elected president, and limitations on presidential power (including the reinstatement of the two-consecutive-term limit, though with delayed implementation). Zerkalo.io has run several articles covering the proposed changes, including a general summary of the draft and a breakdown on the proposed powers for the president and the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly. From an analysis standpoint, their roundup of expert assessments highlights some of the key implications for Belarus’ future, from discussing the means created for Alexander Lukashenka to continue to hold power to the structural issues related to the new proposed balance of power.

Bosnia and Herzegovina 

While the US/EU/NATO has been focusing on Russia’s actions in Ukraine and Belarus’ actions on the Polish and Lithuanian border, tensions have also been rising in the Western Balkans thanks in part to Serbian and Russian meddling. Earlier this month, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska (RS) entity parliament voted to withdraw the RS military, judiciary, and other key institutions from the federal cooperation, a partial secession from Bosnia. Tensions are likely to continue rising the region.


China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is often portrayed as a geopolitical strategy that pushes recipient countries to take on insurmountable debt, effectively “trapping” them and enabling China to achieve undue influence. The authors of a Chatham House report challenge this view using case studies in Sri Lanka and Malaysia, where they find that the most controversial BRI projects were initiated by the recipient governments and that associated debt problems primarily stemmed from misconduct by local elites and Western-dominated financial markets rather than Chinese strategy. The authors further argue that the BRI system is insufficiently unified and coordinated to support detailed strategic objectives, and that policymakers in non-BRI states, civil society groups, and political opposition groups concerned about debt load should focus on improving the transparency of BRI projects.


The polarization of Georgia’s political system continues, as the fallout from alleged election irregularities in SEP 21 and the return of Mikheil Saakashvili threaten a political crisis in Tbilisi. Although elected officials of the ruling Georgian Dream party have taken nominal steps towards an understanding with opposition parties, recent comments by Georgian Dream chairman Irakli Kobakhidze, which compared the opposition party United National Movement (UNM) to the Nazi Party, have undercut reconciliatory rhetoric. On 20 DEC 21, UNM leader Nika Melia called for widespread hunger strikes in downtown Tbilisi to protest the government’s treatment of Saakashvili and narrative about the opposition. The conflict is likely to stretch into January, especially if Saakashvili remains imprisoned and the divisive rhetoric from both sides continues.


Nigeria’s northwest is facing a crimewave of dramatic proportions – persistent, widespread banditry has undermined the state and effectively rendered local government obsolete in many rural areas. Researcher James Barnett spent time with some of these gangs and their leaders for New Lines Magazine, teasing apart a complex mosaic of criminal entrepreneurs whose unchecked theft and kidnappings threaten the livelihoods of millions.


The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime released a report assessing the role of Chadian rebel fighters in the Libyan conflict, with a particular focus on their future trajectory post-ceasefire. The research finds that given the lull in fighting between the Libyan warring parties that historically hired Chadian fighters, these thousands of Chadians are now moving from mercenary work into criminal economies like cross-border drugs trafficking. For those who followed the Libya-based Front pour l’alternance et la concorde au Tchad (FACT)’s incursion into Chad in April 2021 that resulted in the frontline death of long-time President Idriss Deby, the report offers crucial context to the political, economic and security dynamics that influenced those historic events.

Western Balkans

The Western Balkans are having an energy crisis throughout the region.  With prices for electricity and natural gas expected to rise in almost every country in the region.  Western Balkans citizens have also endured shortages leading to planned and unplanned reoccurring blackouts throughout the month of December.


By early December 2021, the Yemeni riyal (YER) in government controlled territories hit an all-time-low value of 1,700 YER against one US dollar on the black market amidst deteriorating economic and political conditions. The rapid devaluation of the currency drove up basic commodity prices and further reduced household purchasing power. In response to the unprecedented currency devaluation, all banks and exchange shops closed in Aden, and a general strike was declared.

War-torn Yemen is split between the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in the north and the internationally recognized government in the south, each of which has its own central bank with opposing monetary and fi policies. In 2017, the Aden-based central bank in the south decided to float the riyal and follow the market-based exchange rate rather than adhere to a fixed rate, and has increasingly turned to printing new currency notes to cover the government’s deficit, which has fueled inflation.

On December 6th, in an effort to curb the rapid devaluation of the riyal, the Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi restructured the management of the Central Bank by presidential decree and replaced the governor and deputy governor. Following the restructuring, the southern version of the riyal recovered around 30% of its value. At the same time, the European Union announced the allocation of an additional 75 million euros in development funding in Yemen aimed at further stabilizing the precarious economy.

Manal Ghanem of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies recently published an analysis entitled, “In Endless Pursuit of Refuge,” detailing the plight of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ma’rib, Yemen. Fighting in Marib’s neighboring governorates as well as Ma’rib’s frontlines has forced many Yemenis to seek refuge within one of the IDP sites in the city, where 70 percent of IDPs in Marib are located. 10,000 reside in one camp, Al Jufaina, alone. 80 percent of Ma’ribs IDPs are women and children. Ma’rib, the internationally recognized government’s last stronghold in the north of Yemen, has 125 IDP camps. Internally displaced people who reside in these camps have often relocated, sometimes twice or thrice, from other war-torn governorates. As the conflict escalates on Ma’rib’s borders, more IDPs converge on the city center, fleeing the frontlines. Repeatedly displaced IDPs are forced to leave behind livelihoods and  are faced with overcrowded conditions, malnutrition, and mental health issues. Repeated displacement inhibits their access to education and health services. These are the costs of prolonged, repeated displacement.