Members of the Yemeni Youth Movement formed the Arab Spring Party this month in order to gain access to the political process and lobby for reform. This is a positive development for the movement and a wise decision as the transition process has now shifted entirely to the elite political level. While their collective voice was formidable, with Saleh out of power, they will need to organize politically in order to afford themselves an opportunity to realize their proposed reforms. Though how much access they will have depends on the true will of the ruling elites to reform the political system in the Post-Saleh era.
AQAP’s (also referred to as Ansar al-Shariah) operations and territorial gains in the Abyan and Lahij Governorates are disconcerting, particularly as they enable the group to augment their current influence in the Shabwah, Mar’ib and Al Jawf Governorates, ultimately providing a line of communication and smuggling route from the Gulf of Aden to Saudi Arabia. In addition, their gains in the southern Governorates potentially facilitate an offensive against Aden, the historically significant port city that has acted as the capital of southern Yemen. Though these are interesting developments for Yemen, in the larger picture, the force strength of AQAP in Yemen are in large part more loosely affiliated with the aim of ousting Saleh and as US Counter-terrorism Advisor John Brennan puts it, “only a couple dozen” individuals are actively plotting against external targets. In my view, AQAP’s presence has, though counter-intuitively, diminished the response of the international community to the uprisings. US counter-terrorism operations, which Saleh has consistently supported, seemingly take precedent over all other considerations.Though the US and international community have supported the Gulf Cooperation Council’s attempts at brokering a transition deal, their response has been insufficient.
For a quick chronology of events pertaining to the Southern Question click here
Yemen’s north-south division continues to pose a significant threat to the stability and social and political cohesion of the ailing country. Ever since the 1994 civil war, which saw the security forces of the former PDRY lose a quick and decisive war against Saleh and the security forces established under the YAR, southern secessionist sentiment has maintained relevance and seen an upsurge in support over the past 5 years. The North-South division originated in 1904 after a treaty between the Ottomans and the British designated areas of control for the two, with the Ottomans in the northwest and the British in the south in order to control the strategic seaport of Aden.
This past Wednesday, November 23rd, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh finally signed the Gulf Arab Proposal that in one form or another has been on the table for 7 months now. The signing by President Saleh comes on the heels of increased international pressure, with the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2014 mandating an official report by the UN envoy Jamal Bin Omar, within 30 days regarding the implementation of the resolution. Ultimately, if Saleh continued to refuse signature, calls for his assets to be frozen would have been heeded. Instead, Saleh signs and receives immunity along with a number of other key figures within the GPC including Saleh’s family members. His family members retain their posts within the security apparatus and Saleh is neither exiled from the country nor explicitly banned from future political participation. Saleh has transferred power but the political institutions that the former President built, remain intact, creating a window for regime survival. Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi assumed power and named Mohammed Basindwa as Prime Minister tasked with forming a unity government until elections are held on February 21, 2012. He is a member of the GPC party and held cabinet posts within Saleh’s government. Continue reading
The opposition movement that emerged in Yemen, motivated by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, is a complex amalgamation of various civil society groups and elites from the tribal, political and military communities. While the uprising began as a peaceful movement led by civil society entities pursuing political reform, the current situation has been co-opted by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), a collection of opposition parties that formed in 2002 to challenge Saleh’s General Peoples Congress (GPC); powerful elites including Sheikh Hashid Al-Ahmar, an al-Islah member and brother of Sheikh Sadeq Al- Ahmar, current leader of the Hashid Tribal Confederation, the most powerful tribal unit in Yemen; military defectors such as First Armored Division Army Commander Ali Mohsen al- Ahmar as well as the Islamist figure Abdul Majid al -Zindani. The myriad interests and groups involved has amplified that lack of cohesion amongst the opposition. Thus far the underlying goal that unites the opposition is the ouster of President Saleh and his kin from power.
Click here for Al-Jazeera English live blog providing regular updates on the situation as it unfolds in Yemen.
Click here for International Crisis Group’s monthly Crisis Watch updates on Yemen.
Click here for blog posts from Gregory Johnsen, an expert on Yemen, offering continuous analysis on Yemeni Affairs.
Current Affairs Updates
December 4, 2011– Clashes between loyalist and opposition forces have continued over the past weeks in both Sanaa and Taiz despite the signing of the GCC power transfer deal. Taiz has seen extensive violence over the past week, which threatened to dissolve the power transfer deal over questions as to Saleh’s commitment to the framework. Prime Minister Basindwa is expected to announce the members of the transitional unity cabinet within the next couple of days, which will hopefully create some positive momentum for the transition process and not be another point of contention that could fuel further conflict.
UNDP Human Development Index 2010
Yemen is lagging significantly in their Human Development Index value assessment. Their 2010 ranking of 133rd out of 169, places them in the Low Human Development category.
Yemen HDI Value: 0.439 (2010)
Arab World HDI Value: 0.590 (2010)
World HDI Value: 0.624
World Bank Statistics– Yemen GDP per capita (current US$) in comparison to MENA Region, Saudi Arabia & Oman