What Our Analysts Are Reading – September, 2023

Nairobi Skyline, October 2023

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.


In September, Libya faced a dire humanitarian crisis as heavy rains triggered the collapse of two dams, leading to catastrophic flooding in northeastern regions. More than 5,000 people are presumed dead, and an additional 10,000 remain missing, with the death toll reported by the eastern government’s interior ministry. The city of Derna bore the brunt of the devastation, witnessing entire neighborhoods washed away, while hospitals became inoperable, and morgues overflowed with bodies. Communication breakdowns and the sheer scale of the disaster hampered rescue efforts. Scientists attributed the intensity of the storm to warmer-than-average Mediterranean waters, a symptom of global warming. Libya’s complex political landscape further complicated response efforts, but several countries and humanitarian organizations offered assistance to help address the “unprecedented humanitarian crisis” exacerbated by climate change and years of conflict and instability in the country.

Furthermore, the UN’s Panel of Experts on Libya released its annual publication outlining conflict dynamics, the implementation of the 2011 arms embargo, unity of state institutions, and other factors concerning UN-imposed sanctions in Libya. Buried in the 289-page report, the Panel highlights several important trends in Libyan politics that are likely to shape the country’s trajectory moving forwards. Perhaps most notably, the report details the process by which the Libyan National Army leader Khalifa Haftar’s family and its inner circle are consolidating power in eastern Libya. This has not only included concentrating military command under the direct control of Haftar insiders and sidelining any potential rivals, but also expanding economic and political influence through developing patronage networks and pursuing various revenue-generating activities including construction, road maintenance, and airline ownership. In all, the name to remember that recurs in the report is Saddam Haftar. The rapid ascendancy of Khalifa’s youngest son as a political and economic force in the east is a key trend to monitor for Libya watchers.


Weeks after the earthquake, Morocco is grappling with the financial consequences of the disaster. Fitch, the rating agency, has warned that the earthquake will lead to increased public spending, wider fiscal deficits, and higher debt in the short term. As the country invests significant resources in rebuilding over 2,930 villages and providing assistance to 2.8 million affected people, international aid and remittances from Moroccans living abroad are seen as potential sources of relief to help ease the fiscal strain. The earthquake prompted the Moroccan government to unveil an ambitious $11.7 billion reconstruction plan, with a substantial portion allocated to immediate relief efforts. The exact share of the financial burden that the government will bear remains uncertain, but citizens, local businesses, and international assistance are contributing to the funding of the plan. The earthquake’s impact is expected to result in larger deficits and increased debt, putting additional pressure on Morocco’s financial stability, which was already challenged by elevated public debt levels and budget deficits.

West Africa

The West and Central African regions have witnessed a wave of coup d’états in recent years, the latest in Gabon in late August, following the July coup in Niger. Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have all also seen successful military takeovers since 2020. While each country faces its own unique political challenges, governance failures and ongoing insecurity are primary contributing factors, with anti-French sentiment a central theme. The juntas have capitalized on long-standing resentments against France, the former colonial power in all of the countries that have experienced these recent democratic takeovers. At the same time, Russia has seized the decline of French power and influence in the region to strengthen its strategic ties on the continent. At the Russia Africa summit in St Petersburg in July 2023, Putin blamed the regional insecurity on the “heavy legacy of the colonial era” and pledged to work with African countries against neo-colonial policies.

In Senegal, a former French colony often touted as a beacon of stability in the region having never experienced a coup since gaining independence in 1960, support for France seems to be waning as well. The German magazine Der Spiegel spoke with young people across the nation’s capital in Dakar, many sharing the same sentiment: “we must free ourselves from France’s stranglehold!” From a movement to use local grains to reduce reliance on Western imports, to the popular anti-imperialist political movement “FRAPP” (Senegal Dégage in France), young people expressed the belief that it is high time for Senegal, and all of Africa, to become truly independent from colonial ties. At the same time, Russia plans to open a new cultural center in Dakar which, in addition to promoting Russian history and culture, will provide grants to Senegalese children to study in Russia, establish a network of local journalists, and support local NGOs. Despite some recent uncertain events, such as the trouble between Russia’s Wagner group and the Kremlin and the death of the group’s former leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, and Russia’s withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal, analysts believe Russia’s influence on the continent is here to stay, if the Russian flags present during the recent Niger coup are any indication.

France’s efforts to resist the Niger Junta’s authority faltered as President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of France’s military presence and the recall of its ambassador in response to the coup that ousted the democratically elected leader. This decision, marking a significant setback for France’s African policy, follows a breakdown in diplomatic relations with Niger, a former French colony, and heightened tensions culminating in the junta closing Niger’s airspace to French planes. The junta’s response to France’s move emphasized its pursuit of sovereignty, while Macron emphasized the gradual withdrawal of troops in coordination with the coup leaders, citing a lack of commitment from Niger’s authorities to combat terrorism. This development reflects a broader shift in France’s role in the region, with potential repercussions for Niger’s fight against extremist groups, given France’s previous significant support in this regard, and similar withdrawals from Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years due to coups and strained relations.

Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

In September 2023, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continued to escalate with significant developments. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed plans to transform Ukraine into an international military hub. Evacuations in the western Ukrainian region of Vinnytsia were ordered in response to Russian attacks, and concerns arose about occupied Ukrainian territories being pulled into Russian conscription. Additionally, a populist leader sympathetic to Putin’s Russia could potentially win an election in a Kyiv-allied country, potentially impacting the EU’s stance on Russia. Robert Fico, having previously held two terms as Slovakia’s prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and 2012 to 2018, stands as a vocal opponent of Ukraine and the EU’s stance against Russia in the ongoing conflict. He has firmly declared his commitment to refraining from supplying weaponry to Ukraine’s eastern region. The victory of this populist leader could further strain the EU’s attempts to present a united front in its dealings with Russia.

Vladimir Putin’s meeting with a former Wagner deputy raised questions about the role of mercenary groups in the conflict. The UK Ministry of Defense suggests that many veterans from the Wagner mercenary force view former commander Andrei Troshev, whom Vladimir Putin met recently, as a “traitor.” The ministry’s intelligence update also indicates that this meeting implies Moscow’s intentions to utilize the mercenary force, potentially in global south regions, with increased Kremlin oversight. Russian authorities released footage of Putin meeting Troshev and assigning him to oversee new “volunteer fighting units.” Troshev had transitioned to a role in Russia’s official security forces around the time of Wagner’s short-lived insurrection in June, possibly encouraging other Wagner members to sign contracts with Russia, contributing to the rebellion. Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, who had been touring African states, was also part of this meeting. The endorsement of Troshev and Yevkurov indicates Russia’s ongoing use of volunteer units and private military companies, with plans for the future of Wagner that may involve loyal veterans with increased Kremlin supervision.


In September 2023, Yemen’s peace talks witnessed significant developments. While there is hope for peace, skepticism arises due to mixed signals from the Houthi rebels and their adversaries. President Rashad Al-Alimi emphasized the importance of three key references for sustainable peace in Yemen during his UNGA78 speech, hailing Saudi Arabia and Oman’s peace efforts with the Houthi but also stating that further concessions could not be made. Additionally, Aidros Alzubidi, member of the Presidential Leadership Council who also represents the Southern Transitional Council calling for an independent South Arabia, expressed frustration with the Saudi-Houthi talks, citing a sense of being sidelined. Symbolism was evident in the Houthi military parade, with a missile bearing the date of a significant strike in Marib, Yemen. Despite these tensions, President Mahdi Almashat, backed by the Houthi, delivered a positive speech, expressing optimism regarding recent talks in Riyadh with Saudi Arabia, describing them as encouraging. These developments raise questions about Yemen’s path to lasting peace.