Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yemen Struggles for Stability after Transition

            Protests spread to Yemen in 2011 in opposition to the regime of long time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.  The protests were met with repression, and in a context of escalating violence and external pressure, Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to leave power in a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2011.  This agreement arguably averted civil war, and the Obama administration has held it to be a model for resolving Syria's civil war.  However, progress in Yemen under the new government has been painfully slow and the country remains deeply divided.

Yahya Arhab/European Pressphoto Agency

            The new president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi was the Vice President under Saleh.  He was elected in part because he lacked an independent support base.  This allowed him to be an acceptable compromise between the old guard of Saleh's regime and the powerful tribal leaders.  As a whole, he has proven not to be a strong and decisive leader and it is rumored he fears for his life.  He has successfully removed Saleh loyalists from key positions in the military and government, but much of Saleh's old patronage network and tribal influence remains.  His lack of resolve is understandable given his limited popularity and desire to avoid a full blown civil war, but has serious consequences for the country as a whole.
             While the struggle for power continues in the capital Sana, long standing problems remain unaddressed in the rest of the country.  The Huthis, an armed group belonging to the Shiite Zaydi sect in the northwest, continue to be a problem.  A recent raid on a smuggling boat seized advanced weapons, leading to speculations that Iran is supporting them militarily.  They have had repeated clashes with Islah, Yemen's main Sunni Islamist party, which receives support from Saudi Arabia.  Some worry that Yemen could devolve into a proxy battleground between Iranian backed Shiites and Saudi backed Sunnis.

            The scenario in southern Yemen is even grimmer.  The south was rejoined with the north in the 1990s, only to be neglected by Saleh's government.  An independence movement is gaining momentum, which Hadi has struggled to placate effectively.  The Yemeni franchise of Al Qaeda has a widespread presence and considerable influence in the south, even controlling entire towns for long periods.  They have obtained support by providing services that the government has long failed to.  They continue a bloody campaign of assassinations against government figures.
            Altogether, the mediated transition in Yemen has not resulted in an improvement in its prospects.  Yemen remains painfully poor and uneducated, with a high birth rate.  The economy is in ruins and the government continues to run a deficit.  The state's capacity is severely limited by a lack of resources and internal divisions.  The transition agreement calls for a council of national dialogue in order to achieve reconciliation between all the major actors.  While this could potentially bring the disenfranchised into politics, key groups, such as the independence movement, are refusing to participate.  How this tense situation will unfold remains to be seen.

Works Cited
Kasinof, Laura. "For Yemen's New President, a Battle for Control and a Tug of War With the Past." The New York Times. The New York Times, 14 June 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
Washington., C. J. Chivers And Robert F. Worth; C. J. Chivers Reported From The United States And Robert F. Worth From. "Seizure of Antiaircraft Missiles in Yemen Raises Fears That Iran Is Arming Rebels There." The New York Times. The New York Times, 09 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
Worth, Robert F. "Yemen, Hailed as Model, Struggles for Stability." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.
"Yemen Overview." New York Times. N.p., 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

1 comment:

  1. In terms of Yemen's future, the domestic issues seem to be highly pressing and needing of attention by the new regime. I'm interested to see how the Yemen state will battle against dwindling oil reserves and issues such as with their lack of water access as it also works to combat the demands of the people. If the state can manage to successfully maintain power during the continued protests and attacks by militarized rebel movements, the seriousness of economic decline and infrastructure disasters will continue place stress on an already struggling state.