What Our Analysts Are Reading – January, 2022

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.



February 2022 is set to include several significant events for Belarus, including a controversial constitutional referendum and joint exercises with Russian troops amid escalating tensions with Ukraine and NATO. In this context, Chatham House’s recently released results of a NOV 21 public opinion poll highlighting several key trends, including respondents’ continued preference for simultaneous integration with both Russia and the EU despite growing disapproval of proposed Russian airbases in Belarus, as well as a glimpse at public perceptions of Alexander Lukashenka and other Belarusian political figures.

A joint investigation between Radio Liberty and Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) found numerous posts on TikTok where Russian contract soldiers wrote they were being sent from eastern Russia “on a business trip” or “to exercises,” westward, presumably toward Belarus or closer to the border with Ukraine. As the start date of the joint Russian-Belarusian military exercises Allied Resolve approaches (10 February 2022), Russian military equipment is arriving in Belarus, with independent analysts tracking some of it heading toward the border with Ukraine. The number of comments found by CIT suggest that at least some units of Russia’s Eastern Military District are transferring a substantial part of not only their equipment, but also their personnel to Belarus and western Russia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Like many nations around the world, Bosnia and Herzegovina is struggling to deal with a burgeoning far-right extremism problem. As Balkan Insight reports, the country lacks strong legal precedents for the banning of such extremist groups, or even the blocking of their affiliated websites. Steps to counter this growing threat are further hampered by political divisions and linguistic foibles: what constitutes “right-wing”? who decides? A clear roadmap will be needed but forming one that can be agreed upon and implemented equally across the country’s three pseudo-autonomous regions will prove challenging.


A year into the Tigray conflict in Ethiopia, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) conducted an Emergency Food Security Assessment in accessible areas of the Tigray region, finding 83 percent of the population surveyed food insecure as a result of compounding drivers such as conflict, drought, and the disruption of humanitarian aid flows. Furthermore, the 980-household survey, conducted between 15 November and 16 December 2021, revealed that 37 percent of the survey population were severely food insecure. Compared to October 2020, the household consumption of nutritious foods such as meat, vegetables, and fruit had significantly declined to less than once a week on average. During the same period, the study found that the number of households depending on regular incomes has dropped by 24 percent, while over 30 percent of households reported relying on gifts or loans as a primary source of income. Additionally, three-fourths of the population were found to be using severe consumption-based coping strategies, such as limiting portion sizes and reducing the number of meals per day, while 29 percent of households (an increase from 13 percent a year prior) reported using emergency coping strategies, such as begging or selling their last reproductive animals, just to maintain basic food security levels. These findings highlight the devastating impacts of the current conflict on food security in Tigray, despite significant progress in recent years toward improving the food security situation after the region had suffered multiple famines over the last several decades.


A USIP publication discusses the need to build on security gains in Mozambique. A military solution to the insurgency in Cabo Delgado will not be enough to address the underlying issues that have allowed the insurgency to expand in the first place. Insurgents exploited the grievances that had developed among the population, driven by the government’s marginalization of Cabo Delgado province. This mistrust of the government was only furthered by the establishment of foreign liquid natural gas projects in the northern region, which displaced thousands of civilians instead of benefitting the population through their own natural resources. Although the short-term stabilization of the security situation is essential, medium- and long-term strategies to eradicate the insurgency must focus on adequate implementation of humanitarian aid programs, as well as improvement of governance, in order to avoid perpetuating the conditions that allowed the insurgency to flourish.


A CTC publication discusses the “Jihadization of Banditry” in Northwestern Nigeria. As the region has experienced a surge in banditry in recent years, observers have theorized that jihadists based in the northeast may be supporting or otherwise collaborating with these bandits. The authors draw on fieldwork to challenge this theory, arguing that Nigeria’s bandits are at once too powerful and too nebulous — without organizational centers or clear political objectives — for insurgents to co-opt them. While jihadists have been able to seize on the instability to expand their footprint somewhat, the two categories of actors remain largely independent, and jihadists seeking to operate in the northwest are limited by the criminal actors already in the space.


In Kazakhstan on 05 JAN 22, peaceful protests over high liquefied petroleum gas prices turned violent, culminating in many casualties and necessitating CSTO intervention. The demonstrations began in Zhanaozen, in the west of the country, but quickly exploded throughout the entirety of Kazakhstan. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev established a state of emergency and included CSTO troops on 06 JAN 22; however, the unrest revealed a deeper divide within Kazakh society. Protesters pulled down a statue of Nursultan Nazarbayev and government forces’ treatment of protesters will have long-term consequences, as over 3,000 demonstrators were detained. While the situation has since stabilized, the Tokayev regime paid a high price to remain in power and is now beholden to Russia, who led the CSTO intervention to preserve the status quo.


The UN Panel of Experts released its annual report on Yemen for 2021. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the political, humanitarian, economic and military trends underpinning Yemen’s escalating conflict. Among its most important findings, the Panel says it has seen a list of 1,406 children recruited by Yemen’s Ansar Allah (the Houthis) who died on the battlefield in 2020, in addition to a further 562 between January and May 2021. The child soldiers were between the ages of 10 and 17. The report also details the systematic Houthi efforts to indoctrinate and recruit these children, including at summer camps where children learn to clean and evade rockets.

Robert Muggah wrote in Foreign Policy that the al Houthis are actively engaging in cyberspace as a virtual battleground in a war to control the narrative. The al Houthis have undercut sea cables, utilized cryptocurrency mining operations, and even seized Yemen’s .ye domain—the .com equivalent in Yemen. Despite these efforts to monopolize the information space in Yemen and populate servers with disinformation, they’ve gained more trust in the process. DT Global administered a survey last year in which respondents cited Houthi network Al Masirah to be one of the most reliable media outlets. Another survey in 2020 determined that almost 80 percent of respondents living in areas under al-Houthi control trusted their local government. Muggah, however, is hopeful that the generation of tech-savvy Yemenis will leverage social media sites like Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok to keep viewers informed of the conflict and act as a vital line of defense against digital warfare.