What Our Analysts Are Reading – March, 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.


As Libya’s national political crisis drags on, with parallel Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha pledging to enter Tripoli amid intensive diplomatic efforts to avoid another round of conflict, observers often neglect considerations of the local level drivers of the conflict. But writing for the Peaceful Change Initiative, Tom Eaton assesses six Libya municipalities with a focus on local conflict economy dynamics, considering the various impacts of weak centralized governance such as black market activity and human trafficking, as well as the impact of local factors that drive the national conflict economy, such as community cohesion. Seeing the national crisis and local instability as intrinsically linked, Eaton ultimately argues for a twin track approach that “starts local” – national-level reforms combining with local interventions to address Libya’s conflict rather than relying on top-down elite bargaining.


The authors of “Fragmented We Fall: Security Sector Cohesion and the Impact of Foreign Security Force Assistance in Mali,” map the provision of security force assistance (SFA) by different actors to Mali’s hybrid security sector to analyze the effects of SFA on security force cohesion. They argue that security force cohesion is a key factor determining the effectiveness of SFA’s programs, and by this same token, Mali’s security force fragmentation is key in explaining Mali’s security forces’ inability to establish control over the state territory, despite extensive SFA support. The authors further argue that fragmented SFA can be counterproductive, as in Mali, where training delivered by numerous actors worsens problems with cohesion in Mali’s security forces.


The emergence and escalation of the insurgency in Cabo Delgado threatens Africa’s third largest Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) reserves during a time of global scarcity. The presence of the US’s Green Berets will be helpful in training Mozambique’s forces, but the author argues that the US should gain a deeper understanding of the roots of the conflict and the insurgency in order to help stabilize the country in the long-term. The grievances caused by government corruption and the foreign exploitation of Mozambique’s natural resources, displacing and failing to benefit the population, will remain even if the insurgency is tactically defeated, creating a breeding ground for continued radicalization. According to the author, the US should help local partners defeat the insurgency in the short-term, while influencing the government of this resource-rich country to establish better policies in order to prevent further conflict.

Newlines Magazine published an investigative report into the ties between the Russian government and far-right political actors across Europe. Communications unearthed by the journalists reveal direct communications between Italian nationalist party the League and a Russian neo-Imperialist foundation with close ties to the Kremlin, outlining how representatives of the parties could meet and how to coordinate (and disguise) funding for the League. The same Russian organization, Tsargrad, had similar relations with the French far-right National Rally party, as well as the Austrian far-right Freedom Party.  In a rather telling quote from Tsargrad internal emails, a senior officer wrote “Without our active engagement and tangible support for the European conservative parties, their popularity and influence in Europe will continue to wane.”

Central Asia expert Bruce Pannier recently posited that Russian military setbacks in Ukraine have shaken the governing elite in Central Asia, who historically have relied on the Kremlin for enhanced defense capabilities. The threat of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, while on the back-burner of geopolitics at the moment, lingers as a potential catalyst of instability for all of Central Asia. While the Russian-led CSTO intervention helped quash dissent in Kazakhstan on 22 January 2022, many in Central Asia now worry larger scale conflicts would pose significant issues to regimes.


Since 1982, the Casamance region of Senegal—sandwiched between Guinea-Bissau to the south and The Gambia to the north—has seen low-level conflict between the government of Senegal and the Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC), a small separatist movement calling for regional independence. The Casamance is not only physically separated from the rest of Senegal by The Gambia, but is linguistically and culturally unique as well, and has historically received fewer resources than other regions of the country closer to the capital, Dakar. Though largely dormant since a ceasefire in 2014, the conflict reignited in January 2022 when two Senegalese soldiers were killed by rebels of the movement. In response, the Senegalese military has launched an offensive to wipe out the movement, one of the longest ongoing conflicts on the African continent. In just two weeks, over 6,000 people in the Casamance and The Gambia have been displaced by the operation and many are in need of humanitarian assistance.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently gave his first extensive interview to Russian journalists since the beginning of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine. The full interview, the video of which lasts just over one hour and 32 minutes, is also available on YouTube. The interview gives insight into a variety of topics, including humanitarian conditions, Ukrainian attitudes towards Russians, the future status of the Russian language in Ukraine, and the possible Ukrainian referendum on the points covered in the ongoing negotiations. Russian censorship agency Roskomnadzor reportedly demanded that Russian media outlets not publish the interview, with the Russian Attorney General’s Office reportedly wanting to assess the contents.

In mid-March, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released a report assessing the global impacts of the war in Ukraine on trade and development. The two primary commodities of concern were food and fuel, as Russia and Ukraine together are major exporters of staple foods and oil—Russia being the second-largest oil exporter in the world, and a top supplier of chemical products, including fertilizers. Together, Russia and Ukraine account for 53 percent of all sunflower oil and seed exports, and 27 percent of all wheat exports. Furthermore, some individual countries rely heavily on food imports from Russia and Ukraine. In Africa, at least 25 countries import over a third of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and 15 of those import over half. The report anticipates a looming food security crisis across the continent, as many of the least-developed African countries have limited ability to replace wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine for other sources, and are lacking in regional supplies, transport infrastructures, and storage capacity.


Drastic global food price increases exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, fuel shortages in the north, and currency depreciation in the south continue to make food unaffordable for Yemeni families, which has worsened at the start of the month of Ramadan. While ACAPS predicts an 18% decrease in fuel prices in the north following the resumption of fuel imports into Al Hodeidah Port following the April 2022 truce between the Saudi-led Coalition and the Houthis, prices are expected to remain high. Prior to Ramadan, with global food prices at 11 year highs,  WFP’s monitoring data shows that a minimum food basket was already 100% higher in February 2022 compared to the previous year in February 2021. Then, at the end of March and into April food prices in Yemen continued to soar.  Reuters reports families in Aden are facing prices on key staples of sugar and flour even 40% higher at the start of Ramadan in April than the previous month, while Almushahid reports food prices 50% higher in Lahij governorate.