YEMEN

Conventional Name: Republic of Yemen / Al Jumhuriyah al Yamaniyah.

Etymology: from the Arabic al-Yaman, designs « delighted Arabia » (Arabica Felix), which is at the « right side » for those arriving from the Mediterranean. In Arabic, yaman, « at the right » means also « delighted, happy, of good omen » (what comes from the rights is of good omen)

Capital: Sanaa

Surface area : 454.000 km²

Comparison with a European country: about the size of Ireland

Administrative Divisions: 17 governorates (muhafazah/ muhazafat)

Population (2012): 24’771’809

Population density (2007): 36,9 inhabitants/km²

Young people under 15 Years Old (2011): 43%

Population growth (2011): 2,643

Fecundity rate (2008): 6,40

Life expectancy (2011): 63,74

Infant mortality (2000-2005):  55,11‰

Urban population (2010): 32 %

Illiteracy rate (2007): men 30,5%; women 71,5%

Language: Arabic

Ethnic background: Arabs 97%, Afro-Arab, South Asians and Europeans 3%.

Religions: Sunni Muslims 55%, Shiite (Zayidite) Muslims 44%, < 1% Christians.

HDI (Human Development Indicator, UNDP figures 2008): within the 177 countries selected in the Report Yemen is ranked 153, (rate 0.508, low human development)

Currency: Yemeni rial (YER) (100 rial = 0.62 €uros, 30.04.02)

Nominal Gross Domestic Product (2011): 33’680’000’000 US $

G.D.P. per capita (2011) : 2’300 $

Unemployment rate (2011): 0,4%

Exports (2011): 7’535 billion US $

Imports (2011): 835 billion US $

Major Trading Partners: Imports: Saudi Arabia, UAE, US, France, Italy; Exports: Thailand, China, South Korea, Japan

Labour Force by Economic Sector of Activity: Agriculture 85%, Industry and Services 15% .

Industries: Crude oil production and petroleum refining, small-scale production of cotton textiles and leather goods, food processing, handicrafts, small aluminum products factory, cement.

Major Export Products : Crude oil, cotton, coffee, dried and salted fish.

Major Import Products: Food and live animals, machinery and equipment, manufactured goods.

Oil production : 0,38 million barrels/day.

Oil reserves : 4,000 million barrels.

Total External Debt (2010): 6’477 billion US $

Member i.a. of : League of Arab States, Organisation of Islamic Conference, G-77.

Party to i.a. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel mines. Admitted into the UN: North Yemen was admitted on the 30th August 1947 and South Yemen on the 14th December 1967. On the 22nd of May 1990, both States unified and are thereafter represented as a single state into the UN.

State nature: Republic

Regime nature: presidential

Chief of State: Marshal Ali Abdallah Saleh, President of the Republic (since 22.05.90)

Vice President: general Abderabu Mansur al-Hadi (since October 1994)

President of the Council: Abdulqader Bajammal (since 04.05.2001)

Vice President of the Council and Minister of Finances: Alawi al-Salami (since 04.05.2001)

Important features

During the nineteenth and the major part of the twentieth century the borders of both Yemens were fixed by the Ottoman occupation of the North (1870-1918) and the British colonisation of the South (1839-1967). This division gave birth to the Arab Republic of Yemen in 1962 and the Democratic and Popular Republic of Yemen in 1967. From independence, the political orientations of both countries were fundamentally different. The history of the Northern republic, supported by Saudi Arabia and the US, was marked by a long succession of coups. The South had a communist regime allied with the Soviet Union. After diverse unification attempts (1972 and 1979), North and South Yemen merged into a single sovereign state, the Yemen Republic, on the 22nd of May 1990.

The population of Yemen is almost exclusively Muslim (99%) . The Jewish community has some hundreds of members living in the North. The main religious cleavage within Islam is the one opposing the North, with its strong community of zaydite Shiites (55%), to the South which is mostly Sunni from the chafi school (90%). Zaydism arose in Iraq in the IXth Century as a branch of Shiism. Like all Shiites, the Zaydites think that the dignity of Imam must be restricted to a descendant of Ali, brother in law and cousin of the Prophet. But, contrary to other Shiites, they do not recognise a superhuman condition to the Imam. They stress the individual qualities and the fundamental equality of all Muslims. The Chafiism is one of the four juridical schools of Sunni Islam. It rejects personal opinion and favours consensus among the doctors of the Law.

Yemen is the country of the Arabic Peninsula with the largest population. It is the only Republic and it broadly differs from the other states of the region. Yemen is also the only Arab country to be among the Least Developed Countries.

Following guidelines of the IMF and the World Bank, Yemen has put in place a package of economical and financial reforms (privatisations, management of inflation) and administrative measures (moderate decentralisation, redefinition of territorial divisions, reduction of public function) since March 1995. Sustained efforts in budgetary rehabilitation have partially eliminated public debt and boosted foreign investment. Meanwhile, crucial social problems such as education, health care, and drinking water are still neglected and Yemen is largely dependent on multilateral financial aid granted by international institutions.

The country is highly dependent on the oil price, since oil provides 40% of the state revenues. The country’s production is however much lower than that of the neighbouring oil monarchies (in 1999, production was 400.000 barrels per day).

Despite several years of birth control, Yemen’s population keeps on growing at a staggering rate of 4.2%. Women have an average of 7,6 children. Child mortality however is also quite high (73,8/1000). This demographic growth, together with a fragile agriculture sector and a weak industrialisation hinder the country’s economic development.

The agricultural sector is dominated by qat. Qat is a shrub the leaves of which are mildly narcotic and are therefore chewed daily by most Yemenites. Its cultivation is more profitable than that of food products like coffee, millet, sorghum and maize. Consequently, the production of these basic products has dropped dramatically and has obliged the government to import. The qat has also harmful effects on health and on family’ economies (it can represent 30-40% of the revenues of certain families). Measures to limit its effect have failed until now because they did not take into consideration the role of qat in the economy, social and cultural sphere.

External Affairs

Yemen has improved its relations with its neighbours, since its reunification and particularly since the Second Gulf War. In 1992 Yemen and Oman concluded an agreement on the determination of their borders. This has opened the way to extensive flows of trade between both countries. The Hanish archipelago, a sandy and uninhabited region with a very strategic position in the Red Sea, provoked a revival of the tension between Eritrea and Yemen in 1995-1996. After a mediation of France both countries agreed to put the question before an International Arbitrage Commission, who in 1998 gave its sovereignty to Yemen.

The stabilisation of relations with Saudi Arabia was much more problematic. Tense relations between both countries (Yemen accused Saudi Arabia of using infighting among tribes to prevent reunification) strongly deteriorated during the second Gulf War. As a reaction against Yemen’s “benevolent neutrality” vis-à-vis Iraq, Saudi Arabia sent away between 800.000 and one million Yemeni workers. The return of these expatriates deprived Yemen from important financial transfers and gave rise to serious problems of social and professional re-integration. Both countries fixed their common borders by the Djedda Agreement, signed on the 13th of June 2000. With the normalisation of relations with its direct neighbours Yemen finally broke its diplomatic and economic isolation since the Gulf Crisis.

North Yemen was admitted in the United Nations on the 30th of September of 1947 and South Yemen on the 14th December of 1967. After its reunification, on the 22nd of May of 1990 both countries were represented as one, under the denomination of “Yemen”. Yemen is also member of the Arab League (North Yemen in 1945) and the Islamic Conference (1972).

Yemen is not yet member of any regional economic cooperation body. It is officially candidate for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) since December 1999, but while Oman and Qatar supported its application, Saudi Arabia has put its veto. The main obstacle to its membership is still the difference between Yemen and the GCC members’ political and economical systems.

In 1997, the European Union and Yemen signed an agreement concerning the administrative and structural reform of the State. Yemen is not part of the ACP countries group (Africa-Caribbean-Pacific countries), nor part of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. As far as development projects are concerned EU aid is focused on the fight against poverty, rural and agricultural development and food safety. Since 1978, European aid has accounted for more than 180 million €, distributed over 59 projects. Germany and the Netherlands are the main European donors.
The European Union gave material and logistic support to the legislative elections of 1993 and 1997. In 1998, European exports to Yemen were six times higher than its imports.15% of Yemen’s trade is directed to the EU.

At the beginning of the year 2000 Yemen asked for membership to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It currently has observer status.
The attack against the US destroyer USS Cole in Aden harbour, on 12 October 2000, killed 17 American marines. The Aden-Abyane Islamic Army, (in the list of terrorist organisations published by the USA after the 11th of September), claimed responsibility for the attack against the French tanker Limburg, along the Yemen coastline, on 6 October 2002. Under US pressure, the Yemeni authorities have stepped up their actions against militants or presumed members of Al-Qaida (see Ossama bin Laden). American intelligence services suspect that Yemen hosts training camps for Islamist militants. Yemen also supplied a large number of Islamic radicals who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 (see Afghans).

On the 3rd of November 2002, six people, allegedly members of Al-Qaida, were killed by a missile which hit their cart, 200 km from Sanaa. US sources indirectly confirmed this operation, qualified as “targeted assassination”. It was probably carried out by the CIA with the support of the Yemeni army. One of the victims is a former bodyguard of Ossama bin Laden and main suspect of the attack against the USS Cole. The fear of reprisals lead the US State Department to close the American Embassy in Yemen for an undefined period.

Situation since 2011:

Inspired by similar demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, public gatherings took place in Sanaa against the Yemenite President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, of the end of January, 2011, be especially fed for the economic bad conditions and the general corruption. From the next month, some protests became violent and demonstrations had propagated in the other big cities of the Country. In March, the opposition had fixed its requirements, by demanding the immediate eviction of Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Council of Cooperation of the Golf, at the end of April, 2011, in an attempt of mediation of the crisis in the Yemen, proposed an agreement in which the Yemenite President would withdraw in exchange for an immunity of pursuits. Ali Abdullah Saleh has refusal to sign an agreement
which led to fights against the revolts and he was hurt following an explosion in June, 2011. The UN Security Council adopted the resolution 2014 in October, 2011 calling both parts to end the violence and to complete an operation of transfer of the powers. At the end of November, 2011, the Yemenite President signed the agreement negotiated by Council of Cooperation of the Golf to withdraw and to transfer some of his powers to Vice-president Abd Rabuh Mansur Hadi. After the elections of February, 2012, taken away by Hadi, Ali Abdullah Saleh officially transferred his powers.

Sources (figures): L’Etat du Monde 2003 (La Découverte), CIA World Factbook 2002, Arab Human Development Report 2002 (PNUD), l’Etat du Monde 2012(La Découverte)