Yemen in disarray five years after uprising

The people’s demand for regime change was met, but the country has since been torn apart by war with thousands killed.

It has been five years since protesters took to the streets of Yemen’s capital Sanaa to demand regime change.

The uprising succeeded, but the events that followed have resulted in an even more fractured country torn by war. 

The United Nations estimates that 80 percent of Yemen’s population requires humanitarian assistance – that is more than 21 million people.

Five years ago on Wednesday, Sanaa echoed with thousands of people calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Inspired by the Arab Spring revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, protests continued for months.

Saleh had ruled Yemen for more than 32 years, and during that time few people shared the country’s modest oil wealth.

‘We once stood together, different people with one cause, armed with nothing but our sheer numbers’ [EPA/YAHYA ARHAB/EPA]

Daniel Martin Varisco, president of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, said Yemenis from different parts of society united against Saleh, citing “rampant corruption” in his administration.  

“The time was ripe. Something had to change. There was an interest in change,” Varisco told Al Jazeera.   

It took more than a year, but Saleh finally stepped down on February 2012 and fled to Saudi Arabia, a longtime ally, to plot his eventual return. 

Saleh’s powerful family members retained many key positions in government as well as in the armed forces.

The new President, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, a former deputy of Saleh, faced bitter political divisions, and his government struggled to bring security and address sectarian tensions.

In addition to al-Qaeda’s threat in the southeast of the country, Hadi’s government also had to contend with Houthi rebels in the north.

Emboldened by the political infighting, the Houthis took control of the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014.

Houthi fighters have taken over Sanaa and large parts of Yemen [EPA]

Initially the rebels demanded an end to corruption and inflation but eventually they forced out the elected government.

In the meantime, Saleh returned to Yemen and formed an alliance with the Houthis.

1.8 million children in Yemen out of school due to ongoing conflict

The Houthis arrested and later released Hadi and his government members, and Hadi was forced in 2015 to reconvene his government in Saudi Arabia. 

That is where an international coalition was formed to counter the Houthis and, as Saudi Arabia put it, – to counter the Iran-backed Shia fighters in Yemen.

That was ten months ago, and now nearly 6,000 people have been killed.

Much of the infrastructure including the international airport in the capital has been reduced to rubble.

A blockade to cut Houthis’ weapon supplies has also caused an acute shortage of fuel and medicine.

As the country enters the sixth year since its citizens began to demand their rights, it has now come down to a battle for survival.

So far diplomatic efforts to end the conflict have been unsuccessful.

Varisco, however, said that Yemenis are still “hopeful” of a peaceful resolution to the war.

“Most of the people want an end to this catastrophic conflict. I think if the Yemenis are allowed to sort it out for themselves, they stand a better chance.”

UN-brokered peace talks were scheduled to be held earlier in January but they are yet to take place [Reuters]
Source : Al Jazeera


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