30/09/2011

Yemen on the road to chaos

More than 1,500 people have died since the beginning of popular protests in January in Yemen, a country where power has faced  for many years military rebellions. It seems important to come back on the last events in order to understand the current situation and the dangers facing the country.

As a reminder, since the early 2000s, the Yemeni government is facing Islamist rebel movements, and since 2004, Yemen also faces an armed rebellion from the Zaidi minority in the  province of Sa’dah (north West), which does not recognize the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, in power since the reunification in 1990. In 2009, the civil war and Saudi Arabia intervened militarily against the rebels.

Drawing on other Arab examples, demonstrations, mostly young people, broke in early 2011, demanding democracy, an end to corruption and the stranglehold of the General People’s Congress (GPC, in power), better conditions of life and the departure of President. The government’s response was initially a very harsh repression of protests, sometimes making many deaths, especially after the demonstration on March 18 (52 dead). After this event, the state of emergency was declared and important supporters of the regime switch to the opposition: the parliamentary opposition, major tribes and army generals. Sheikh Sadek al-Ahmar, head of the tribe Hached, the tribe of the President Saleh, also announced its support for the protesters, followed by many members of this tribe and the other large tribe of Yemen, the Bakili.

To overcome the crisis and begin a transition process, the 30/60 plan, developed by the European Union and the United States and presented by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is accepted by the PMC and signed on 21 May by the PMC and the opposition. President Saleh procrastinates in order to save time and eventually suffered a bomb attack that moved him away for three months.

On September 23, President Saleh returned home and appears at present not prepared to relinquish his post. On the other hand, Sadek al-Ahmar, which now controls many military units, seems to do battle by force, while other tribal or religious factions are on the lookout. Chaos and civil war seem to move, to the chagrin of the GCC, Europeans and Americans who fear that the country falls ultimately under the control of radical Islamists or becomes a kind of Somalia bis, threatening the routes to the Gulf oil through the Strait of Bab al Mandab.

Although the 30/60 plan will not serve only the interests of the Yemeni population, it seems at present the only chance to end the crisis. The risk now is that the country mired in civil war in which no part in the presence only emerge without provoking a bloodbath and the consolidation of radical Islamist movements. Unfortunately, it seems that the red line has been crossed, that the plan will become a dead letter and announced the death today of Anwar Al-Aulaqi, a senior al-Qaeda in Yemen is unlikely certainly not change the prospect. Yemeni youth, who demanded changes, will have to be patient in order to avoid sinking itself in radicalism.

Geoffroy d’Aspremont