What Our Analysts Are Reading – November, 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.

Burkina Faso 

Around one-fifth of all schools in Burkina Faso, particularly in the country’s remote northeast Sahel region, are closed because of ongoing conflict with armed groups since 2015. Due to the closures, an estimated 700,000 students are not in school, and around 20,000 teachers are unable to work. Lack of education has a profound impact on youth in the region; girls who do not attend school are more likely to be married at an early age, while young men are more vulnerable to be recruited by armed groups, perpetuating the cycle of violence. Armed groups such as al-Qaeda-affiliated Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) often target schools specifically because they are a symbol of the state as well as French and secular education.

Such extremist groups operating in the area have leveraged local grievances around corrupt politicians and social inequities to advance their position and to recruit youth, particularly those of marginalized groups, such as Fulani pastoralists. As a result, displaced Fulani fleeing the conflict face increasing stigma in other parts of the country, particularly in the capital Ouagadougou, which has cracked down on IDPs entering the city, sending them instead to under-funded camps outside of the capital. Those who do make it into Ouagadougou also tend to live in extreme hardship, isolated from society by their ethnic and linguistic differences. An interview with Fulani IDPs in Ouagadougou revealed that non-Fulani are increasingly fearful of anyone from the ethnic group and even use this fear to unfairly target members of the group. These IDPs said they are counting on the government to restore peace in the country so they can leave the capital city and return home.

Food Security – Horn of Africa 

The Horn of Africa is experiencing the most prolonged drought in recent history, which began in the October-December 2020 season and is projected to extend to the March-May 2023 rainy season and possibly beyond. A November 2022 revised OCHA report outlined the dire situation and noted the particular threats faced by pastoralists in the region. Since the prolonged drought began, over 9.5 million livestock—which pastoralists rely on for food and livelihoods— have died, and many more are at risk. This loss of livestock translates to the loss of over 120 million liters of milk, which has severe nutrition consequences for children in the region.  According to the report, it generally takes at least five years for pastoralists to rebuild their herd after a drought, but with more frequent and more severe droughts, many pastoralists may be forced to abandon their livelihood. Hundreds of thousands of farmers and pastoralists have been displaced due to the drought, migrating to nearby cities.

The report also noted the unique consequences of the drought on older adults—particularly in pastoralists communities—who have increasingly taken over the role of caring for children in their households as younger adults travel further in search of food and work. Around 88 percent of older adults in the region are caring for at least one child, with the majority caring for as many as five children. As a result of the phenomenon, many older adults are skipping meals to provide for these children, with more than half eating only one meal a day, according to the report.

The war in Ukraine has further compounded the crisis, causing supplies of staple foods to decrease and food prices to soar. Photos from the Banadir Maternity & Children’s Hospital in Somalia show the dire impacts of the drought on food security in the region.


Almost a year on from the postponement of Libya’s UN-promoted presidential elections, much-lauded by the international community as the only viable route out of Libya’s institutional and military fragmentation, the vote has remained elusive. For Noria Research, Jalel Harchaoui surveys the domestic and international forces of Libya’s political landscape to understand why the country is contending with this electoral limbo. He finds answers in, among other factors, the efforts of elite players on both sides of the political divide to subvert the electoral process and safeguard their privileges, the divisive role of Said al-Islam Qaddafi’s candidature, and shortcomings in the UN’s mediation strategy. While a large majority of Libyans see elections as a way to topple the political class that has consolidated power since the 2011 revolution, Harchaoui concludes that those controlling the levers of power (including current interim Government of National Unity Prime Minister Dbeibeh) are not genuinely committed to a vote, despite paying lip service to the prospect.


A Financial Times report on Lithuania highlights the Baltic state’s distinct position regarding its strong stances on both China and Russia. Lithuania, a country of fewer than 3 million people, voiced its concern about Russia for years prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine to the dismissal of its European neighbors. It is now standing up to China by becoming the first European country to open a Taiwanese Representative Office boldly using the name of Taiwan. Featuring statements from several Lithuanian government officials, the article focuses on how Lithuania has become a global leader in foreign policy by the lessons Lithuanians learned when they lived under illegal annexation by the former Soviet Union.


Independent Russian outlet The Bell released a two-part investigation that sheds light on Russian military blogger Rybar, an anonymous Telegram channel that has rapidly grown to become a widely followed source for information on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Using past posts from the channel, a related Telegram chat, and anonymous sources, The Bell sketches out Rybar’s past, including an initial focus on the Middle East and previous links to Wagner mercenary company founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, as well as who the channel’s administrators are and how it operates. The Bell notes that while Rybar is a pro-Russian “Z-channel,” the nature of its relationship with the Russian government is more unclear: the channel sometimes criticizes figures like the Russian Minister of Defense and authorities allegedly made an aborted attempt to apply “criminal/administrative measures” against the channel along other military bloggers. Despite these points, The Bell outlines how Rybar has nonetheless worked to further Russian goals in its war in Ukraine. Along with pushing Russian propaganda out to its large audience, the channel has boasted that coordinates it publishes have been used in Russian missile strikes.

The Russian Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner Group has become increasingly involved in Africa as an unofficial arm of the Russian government, with reported presence across the continent, including in Libya, Mali, Mozambique, and Central African Republic. This article explores how Wagner capitalizes on insecurity and instability in these countries for profit, and as a way to gain access to political agreements and natural resources. The United States must not only monitor Wagner’s continued involvement and expansion, but find ways to delegitimize its presence and relationships to different African governments and regimes.


The researchers documented small arms found in 13 locations across Somalia, specifically focusing on Type 56-1 rifles. Based on serial numbers and other corroborating evidence, the authors concluded that most of these rifles came from state-sanctioned arms transfers from Iran to Yemen that were diverted to Somalia, a finding which has significant security implications for Puntland, Somalia, and the broader Horn region.


The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Le Monde obtained leaked documents that provide details on how Russian mercenary company Wagner, controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, aka “Putin’s chef,” is tied to Sudan’s gold sector and Sudan’s military. The report found that Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenary company secured and maintained its position in Sudan’s gold sector through Prigozhin’s M Invest and its Sudanese subsidiary Meroe Gold, while maintaining ties with Sudanese military intelligence. According to documents, Meroe Gold’s parent company M Invest paid millions of dollars to Aswar Multi Activities Co., Ltd, a company reportedly operated by Sudanese military intelligence, in exchange for resident permits and weapons for Russian personnel. Meroe Gold also appears to have received special treatment from the Sudanese presidency, according to the leaked documents.


Independent Ukrainian media outlet Texty published an article analyzing how Russia tried and failed to establish a comprehensive network of propaganda outlets in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine using the social media app Telegram—the most popular source of news in the country. Posing as a local news source in occupied areas of Ukraine, the Telegram channels were controlled by Russian information troops who spread Russian narratives to attempt to increase support for Russian military in Ukraine. The article finds that the spread of the channels’ activity correlates with military efforts: as the Ukrainian military pushed back the Russian occupiers, the network of propaganda channels shrunk in size and channel activities decreased or ceased. The article features numerous examples of common (pro)Russian narratives and eye-catching data visualizations, including maps and timelines that track the Telegram channels.


Save the Children’s research showed that in 2021 Yemen was the worst country in the world to be a child due to conflict. However, with the start of the Russian war on Ukraine in 2022, Save the Children asserts that the children of Yemen and the other top ten worst conflict affected countries for children (Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Syria, Mali, Central African Republic, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Myanmar) have become “forgotten children” in the face of disproportionate global attention on Ukraine. Ukraine has received a far greater share of international media attention and humanitarian assistance compared to the top ten worst conflict affected countries for children. For example, the Yemen conflict received only 2.3% of the global media coverage as compared to Ukraine in January-September 2022. Additionally, this prominent media coverage may have contributed to Ukraine receiving greater humanitarian funding in a shorter amount of time compared to countries in greater need. Somalia’s drought relief humanitarian appeal received 68% of funding in eight months December 2021-July 2022, while Ukraine’s Flash Appeal reached this level in six weeks.