What Our Analysts Are Reading – July, 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.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Debate over election law reform for the October 2022 elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has prompted critical examination of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the Bosnian War and forged the current, wildly complicated, ethnic-confessional government system. In this criticism, Aida A. Hozić argues that the Dayton Agreement exemplifies toxic masculine tropes of “muscular diplomacy”, enshrining territory and power sharing, and highlights the need for women in the diplomatic spaces, as traditionally feminized issues such as education, healthcare, and reparations for war time violence, were almost entirely ignored in the Dayton process, much to the detriment of modern BiH. The piece also highlights the weakness of the Women Peace and Security Program as implemented in BiH which Hozić describes as “add women and stir;” that is, placing women in positions of authority in flawed structures and expecting a nigh magical result, rather than addressing the socio-economic issues at play in the country. The ethnic divisions baked into governance and security in BiH further hinder any such program, forcing women into the same exclusionary and inherently corrupt roles that have hampered progress to the present.

Burkina Faso

The New Humanitarian article titled “In post-coup Burkina Faso, jihadist attacks grow fiercer despite junta pledge” summarizes the growing threat of jihadist violence, linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State, across Burkina Faso. In January 2022, a military coup overthrew the democratically elected president, promising to improve security conditions in the country against jihadist violence. To tackle the violence, the junta reshuffled the army command, requested civilians evacuate large swathes of territory in “military interest zones” to conduct planned operations, and promoted community dialogue with jihadists to encourage them to lay down their arms. Despite these efforts, violence has only increased in the several months since the junta took power, weakening public confidence in the new regime. Since January, at least 160,000 people have been displaced and over 530 security-related incidents have occurred, according to ACLED data. Jihadists are adopting new tactics to take over territory and are spreading into new regions of the country and into neighboring Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, and Togo. Hunger levels have risen to a new high since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, with around 3.5 million of the country’s 21 million facing food insecurity, a 20 percent increase from 2021, according to the United Nations. Due to the increasing insecurity, particularly along roadways in rural areas, humanitarian aid groups are struggling to access areas where people are most in need; many of those areas are now only accessible by helicopter. Furthermore, humanitarian efforts have been hindered by a funding gap: only around 15 percent of the $590 million requested by the UN has come through so far this year, affecting aid missions across the globe. According to a 2021 report by the Norwegian Refugee Council, Burkina Faso is ranked the world’s second-most neglected displacement crisis.


Unrest in the semi-autonomous Karakalpakstan region in northwestern Uzbekistan broke out in early July after a proposed constitutional resolution that would curb its autonomy and take away its right to secede through a referendum. Karakalpakstan had been a relatively peaceful region in Uzbekistan and had no active plans to secede, however the ability to do so by referendum is a valued right for the ethnic minority Karakalpak people. In the Karakalpak capital of Nukus, huge demonstrations were violently suppressed by Uzbek soldiers, resulting in the deaths of 18 protesters and the wounding of a further 200. Law enforcement officials announced a month-long state of emergency in the region and indicated they had arrested 516 individuals after protesters burned trucks and assaulted police officers.

The spate of violence in Karakalpakstan is the third major demonstration-turned-violent in Central Asia this year, after January 2022 protests in Kazakhstan and ongoing ethic unrest in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast. While each of the respective protests began organically, government officials in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan followed a similar narrative of accusing “outside influences” and malicious forces attempting to disrupt the status quo in Central Asia.


In a piece for CEPA, Kseniya Kirillova discusses how contradictory Pro-Kremlin narratives impact media consumers in Russia. Even though Russian officials and state-backed media propagandists often contradict each other on basic views and specific wording regarding Russia’s war in Ukraine, most Russians do not dwell on these contradictions. Kirillova argues that self-preservation through “conformism,” combined with a distorted perception of reality, and an “ideological cynicism” contribute to pro-Kremlin propaganda’s success in Russia.


A study titled “Customary Characters in Uncustomary Circumstances: Traditional and Religious Authorities’ Resilience to Violent Extremism in Mali, Niger, And Burkina Faso” examines the role of traditional and religious authorities in general resilience in the Sahel. The authors conducted 1,437 surveys and 656 key informant interviews (KIIs) in six border regions in the Sahel. They found that community resilience has a moderately strong correlation four in dimensions of traditional and religious leadership: the extent to which these authorities are perceived to serve their communities’ interests, the extent to which they are perceived to treat men and women equally, the extent to which they perceive these authorities to be influenced by state officials, and the extent to which they perceive these authorities to be influenced by police and state security forces. Based on these findings, the authors stressed the importance of implementing the “whole-of-society” approach in preventing and countering violent extremism, as well as the importance of strengthening traditional and religious leaders without politicizing them or using them as security actors.


Somali group Al Shabaab recently conducted its biggest operation in Ethiopia, with approximately 500 fighters crossing the border from Somalia into Ethiopia. Although Ethiopian forces killed 85 fighters following the incursion, and Ethiopian authorities claim the forces have been “destroyed,” the threat still remains. Al Shabaab has long tried to expand to countries surrounding Somalia, but according to analysts, this could be the first successful step of a long-term strategy to establish an active presence in Ethiopia. Despite the group’s self-portrayal as a Somali-focused group that fights for the Somali population, this type of expansion would not only increase its legitimacy as a fighting force for jihad, but would also carry out its nationalist efforts by reclaiming regions of Ethiopia that are historically considered part of Somalia, as the group has done in northern Kenya.


International attention and resources have focused on the millions of refugees entering Europe because of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, while local grassroots initiatives have handled the needs of the millions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who remain in the country. Ukraine’s state policy regarding integration of IDPs was weak before the February 2022 invasion, which has only exacerbated the crisis. While the government has undertaken various initiatives, such as digitizing the registration process via the Diia app, local grassroots initiatives, and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with the ability to respond to the dynamic situation, have driven much of the response to the IDP crisis in Ukraine. As international organizations and policymakers try to alleviate the IDP crisis in Ukraine, cooperation with local initiatives is necessary to find a lasting solution.


Much attention is currently focused on freedom of movement in the Yemeni city of Ta’izz, with roads closed by frontlines around the city being a key obstacle in negotiations towards extending the nationwide truce between government forces and Houthis. But the fragmented security sector within government-held areas also significantly impacts the day-to-day lives of Ta’izz residents, with armed groups often pursuing criminal activities and security/military duties in a hybrid (both formal and informal) manner. For the Yemen Policy Center, Mohamed al-Iriani explores how these dynamics have eroded Ta’izz’s civilian police forces’ operations, degrading resources, funding, infrastructure and personnel. The article also shows how police officers have adapted to this landscape through commercialization of security duties (corruption), social networks, and personal investment. The findings have important implications for any consideration of local state institution resilience in times of conflict.