Deeper chaos ahead for Yemen

Protesters wanted a Yemen without warring factions, poverty and corruption. Now this seems like a distant dream.

    Deeper chaos ahead for Yemen
    Yemen has been beset by political instability since the revolution in 2011 [AP]

    Sanaa - Deeply engrossed in a game of table football in the heart of Sanaa's Old City, is a group of young men in their 20s. Amid the tranquillity of the sunset are the cackles and shouts of victory when either side wins. When the conversation drifts to events in the country, the enthusiasm fades.

    "I'm tired of political games. I want a job and some money," said a 23-year-old unemployed graduate in commerce from Sanaa University.

    Yemen has been beset by political instability since the popular uprising in 2011. Unemployment surged to 54 percent, 10 million are without food, and experts warn the country is teetering on the brink of collapse. 

    When protesters took to the streets four years ago, they wanted a Yemen without warring factions, poverty and corruption. Now this seems like a distant dream.

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    Last week, the prime minister and the president resigned, throwing the country into deeper chaos. In his resignation letter, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said he had reached a "political deadlock".

    In light of Yemen's predicament over the current regime, analysts maintain Houthi fighters will not relinquish control easily. "With the Houthis being the last power player, regardless of any political sharing or partnership scheme, they will heavily influence, if not guide the direction," Sanaa-based political analyst Hisham al-Omeisy told Al Jazeera.

    The Houthi slogan, 'Death to America' does little to assure the US and the West that they are keen to cooperate.

    For a start, analysts say, the Houthi slogan, "Death to America" does little to assure the US and the West that they are keen to cooperate.

    Omeisy said there will be a shying away from the West, and a dependence on the East for foreign relations and a push for greater hegemony.

    Since September 21, 2014, Houthi rebels usurped many state institutions in the capital, and established control over other parts of the country. 

    Looking at the last five months, Yemeni journalist and political commentator Abubakr al-Shamahi said the instability is likely to increase.

    Several analysts believe the recent governmental upheaval will put the ragtag militiamen in the spotlight. "Hadi's resignation, along with the government, is problematic for the Houthis. They now have no one else to take the blame," Shamahi said.

    Under Article 115, Yemen's constitution states that powers should be transferred to the parliament speaker, Yahya al-Rai'i. But several analysts claim the position of the speaker of parliament is tenuous since his parliament term expired, and was extended through the transitional period under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative.

    Now that the president and the government have resigned, this has effectively rendered the GCC agreement null. "An argument has been presented that since the president, who took office under the GCC initiative, has resigned, the initiative is invalidated, and so the speaker doesn't have a right to take office," said Shamahi.

    RELATED: Profile: Ali Abdullah Saleh

    Meanwhile, the Houthis have announced that measures are in place to ensure a smooth transfer of power, "which means that they've not only welcomed the resignation of government, but also set foot in its place", Omeisy added.

    "A presidential council or a consensus leader is likely to be appointed for a short term to cross the threshold of a transition period to a formal cabinet."

    Yemen president quits amid worsening crisis

    For Fernando Carvajal, a US-based Yemen analyst, the Houthis are in no hurry, but former President Ali Abdullah Saleh is adamant that parliament must call for open presidential elections. "So now it depends on the negotiations between Houthis and Saleh to agree on a new transition president that allows them to avoid any elections for the time being."

    In the south, Shamahi said the question is: Can the southern leaders unite, and convince regional powers to back them with military power to secede? This well might be their opportunity.

    The power vacuum has raised security concerns for both local and foreign powers in the wake of recent attacks on the Charlie Hebdo newspapers in Paris, for which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has claimed responsibility.

    "There's a security vacuum in a large chunk of Yemen's territories. Yet, here are two pressing security issues: the eastern province of oil-rich Marib and the rising separation sentiment in the south - recipes for the bloodiest local conflict," said Shuaib al-Mosawa, a media commentator and former editor of the Yemen Observer.

    Both Mosawa and Shamahi agree these threats have been diminished by large Houthi offensives coupled with the controversial US drone campaign, causing 541 civilian deaths from 2002 to 2015.

    In the absence of a state, the US has lost its key ally, Hadi, who approved the drone operations. This has raised questions on whether the US will continue to attack without government approval.

    But Mosawa said the AQAP threat will remain internally, unless the group somehow manages to get logistics support. Yemeni activist Abdo Elfgeeh, who has been involved with the revolution since 2011, feels not all has been lost.

    "It's only a matter of time before the changes will be tangible to the people and society."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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