Yemeni people require assistance
Further escalation could lead to civil war
Manan M. Desai
The beginnings of 2011 have been anything but happy for the people of the world. First, the Northern African and Middle Eastern anti-government protests, which are still continuing, and now the heartache from loss of lives in Japan.
Yemeni citizens have been one of the late entrants in the race to change their government. After 50 people were shot at an anti-administration protest, the level of anger is likely going to boil over and turn more violent, a typically volatile situation and one which should be avoided at all costs to stop further loss of human life.
Yemen is one of the smallest and poorest Middle Eastern nations. BBC pegs the total population at 24.3 million. Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, like many of his regional counterparts, has been in control for a long time, since 1978 to be precise. This should give us an indication of the kind of absolute power he has had throughout the decades.
After six weeks of protests, Saleh has offered to resign from his presidency, given that the power is handed over to an appropriate and responsible party. This announcement, of course, came too late for 50 people who met their demise by snipers. Also, a day later there were rival protests by thousands of people in support of Saleh. BBC reported these pro-government protesters were paid to march in support, which is not surprising considering the gross national income per head in Yemen hovers around $1,060.
There are obstacles galore for the Yemeni people. General People's Congress, Saleh's ruling party, includes a couple of his close relatives who hold powerful and influential offices and are generally disliked by the protesters. One is the President's son, Ahmed, in charge of the republican guard, and the other is Saleh's nephew, the head of the security forces, both rather important security positions within an administration. Also, while there have been fractures in loyalties of military leaders, especially after the recent genocide of 50 people resulted in some of them jumping ship, the elite U.S. and British trained army is still loyal to Saleh.
To further complicate things, Yemen has been a key U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaeda. Due to this distinction, the U.S. has a strong presence there. The U.S. has also given millions to Saleh in hopes of retaining him as an ally to counter terrorism. They have also helped to train the Yemeni army. Saleh warned against chances of further instability, which could unfurl in the form of a civil war and potentially throw Yemen into the hands of al-Qaeda. The absolute last thing the U.S. and its allies would want is another poor Middle Eastern nation, with a median age of 17.9 and 61 percent literacy, falling prey to terrorism.
There is an urgent need for the people and government of Yemen to come to an amiable and permanent solution. There is a case to be made for stopping any further loss of life in Yemen, and all of the Middle East for that matter. Of course, given all the obstacles and pressures from Western powers, it is going to be a daunting task ahead for Yemeni citizens and administration to balance their acts and find a solution. But here is to hoping there will be no further escalation in violence or loss of life, and that the West will show its compassion in form of humanitarian assistance and any help Yemeni people will require.
Source: The Daily Evergreen