News / Middle East

Political Stalemate Threatens Civil War for Yemen

Yemeni protesters, their faces colored with their national flag and Arabic writing that reads "stop killing the innocent", chant anti-government slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana'a, October 11
Yemeni protesters, their faces colored with their national flag and Arabic writing that reads "stop killing the innocent", chant anti-government slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana'a, October 11

Yemen’s popular uprising is now eight months old and has begun to look more like a power struggle among elites and a clash that could turn into civil war.

Once again, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has reneged on a promise to step down because he does not want his political opponents to run for election. Back in Sana’a after a three-month absence for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia for injuries he received in a bomb blast, the president is unbowed by months of protests demanding he step down.

Protesters are frustrated because the president repeatedly called for elections and a peaceful exchange of power but failed to promise to step down.  With such uncertainty and fighting between heavily armed loyalists and foes of President Saleh, the prospects of a democracy are growing slim.

U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein, who has served as U.S. ambassador to Yemen for a year and started his Foreign Service office in the Middle East in 1975, warns that the domestic conflict could deteriorate rapidly if there is no progress on the political front.

Most experts agree that the only practical road map for a political solution to the instability and conflict is a proposal made by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The plan calls on President Saleh to transfer power to his vice president for a two-month transition that would end with new presidential elections. The plan also calls for an end to the protests, the formation of a national unity government led by a member of the opposition, and amnesty for President Saleh, his family and his aides.

Although he has several times promised to resign, he has changed his mind each time, leading to more anger on the streets, where protests have escalated since January.

Gloomy factors on the ground

“You cannot have a transition to democracy in the midst of a civil war and this is what the situation in Yemen is looking like more and more,” said Marina Ottaway, a democracy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ottaway detected some gloomy factors on the ground in Yemen.

First, there is a divided army with troops who are faithful to President Saleh and those with Major General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, who severed ties with the president in March.

Second, there’s also a continued insurgency, including a secessionist movement in the South, the Shi'ite Houthi rebels in the North, and the Yemeni wing of Al-Qaida.

Third, protesters continue to flood the streets who are relentlessly demanding democracy but have no power when confronted with violence and force.

Fourth, structural economic problems, the country running out of oil and water, and weak institutions will all contribute to more instability.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen David Newton agrees. “The situation in Yemen is messy, violent, and there is a great danger of collapse in Yemen; they really do need a negotiated solution, not a civil war,” he said.

“I think they are sliding back, at least to more violence because, while the president may not want to hang onto power himself, he is trying to ensure that his family will largely remain in power.”

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers his speech on state television in this still image taken from video, October 8, 2011.
Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh delivers his speech on state television in this still image taken from video, October 8, 2011.

The Saleh regime is noted for nepotism: Saleh’s son is commander of the Republican Guard, his nephew commands the Special Guards, and other nephews command the National Security Agency and the national tobacco company. In-laws, cousins, brothers and step-brothers direct the Yemeni Oil Company, Yemeni Airways and serve in many cabinet positions.

Ambassador Newton noticed that the opposition is focused on one major issue: to change the regime. However, he pointed to several other problems including tribalism, lack of unity among opposition elements, structural problems when it comes to the economy, resources, state institutions and huge social problems related to increased levels of poverty.

Bleak future on the horizon

“Those are certainly the problems that are not going to disappear. They plagued Yemen under Saleh and they are not going away automatically even if there should be a political agreement,” said Ottaway. “The economy is in shambles and that is not a temporary crisis. But there is something fundamentally wrong with the economy, especially when Yemen is running out of oil and water.”

The head of the powerful Hashid tribe, Sheikh Sadique al-Ahmar, center, surrounded by guards, attends the funerals of tribesmen, who were killed in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in Sana'a, May 27, 2011.
The head of the powerful Hashid tribe, Sheikh Sadique al-Ahmar, center, surrounded by guards, attends the funerals of tribesmen, who were killed in clashes with Yemeni security forces, in Sana'a, May 27, 2011.

Experts, such as Ottaway and Newton, believe that Saudi Arabia has to use its great influence in Yemen, including with the Al Ahmar tribe, other tribal leaders, and with President Saleh and his military leaders to expedite a political solution to avoid a full-scale civil war.

Other experts argue that the United States and Saudi Arabia should cooperate to avoid a power vacuum that could endanger their interests in Yemen. Their chief concerns are keeping al-Qaida at bay and supporting a post-Saleh government to start solving its economic problems.

Ambassador Feierstein argues that with food and fuel prices rising globally, and the economic impact of the current prolonged political uncertainty, Yemenis will encounter tough challenges. ”The government, the private sector, and the friends of Yemen should all pay attention to the urgency of addressing these critical economic challenges,” he said.

Experts agree that securing a political solution in Yemen could encourage international donors to commit funds to develop the country and lend a hand to reduce Yemen’s endemic poverty.

 

الجمود السياسي يهدد باندلاع حرب اهلية في اليمن مع التاريخ من الرئيس علي عبدالله صالح وتكتيكاته المماطلة وكسر الوعود ، ومستقبل اليمن تبدو قاتمة.
Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid