Thursday, March 10, 2011

Health Minister Denounces Using Forbidden Tear Gas on Protesters

By Fatik Al-Rodaini

Sana'a- Mar 10, 2011- Abdul Kareem Rasea, Yemen's Health Minister denounced allegation of using forbidden tear gas against protesters at Sana'a University campus lately.

Rasea said in a press conference on Thursday that Yemen's security forces used the same tear gas in which anti-riot units used all over the world.

Two days ago doctors from the scene of violent anti-government protests in Yemen’s capital said that what was originally thought to be tear gas fired by government forces on demonstrators might instead have been a form of nerve gas, which is forbidden under international law.

Source: Yemen 24 News

Andrew's trip to Yemen was followed by arms deal

By Andy McSmith

London- Mar 10, 2011- The Government licensed the sale of £160,000 worth of bullets and body armour to the Yemeni government after Prince Andrew met the country's Prime Minister for trade talks.

It was the Duke of York's third meeting in quick succession with leaders of the small Arab republic, which has been ruled with an iron hand for more than 20 years by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but is now experiencing the wave of popular protest sweeping the Middle East.

Though less well-publicised than the more violent events in Libya, the Yemeni protests have persisted for weeks.

Yesterday, a man died from gunshot wounds after troops fired on hundreds of protesters who had gathered in the university campus in the capital, Sana'a. Five others were seriously injured and about 90 more received minor injuries after troops used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

Prince Andrew held three meetings with Yemeni leaders between September 2009 and January 2010, all on the pretext of boosting British exports. The records of the Export Control Organization, the body which regulates arms sales overseas, show that during the first quarter of 2010 – just after the prince's third meeting – licences were granted for the sale of £160,245 worth of bullets and body armour to the Yemenis.

Prince Andrew's role as UK trade envoy has been called into question because of his friendship with the American hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein, after the billionaire convicted paedophile had been released from prison and placed on the US sex offenders' register.

The prince, who has admitted that this friendship was "unwise", was reported yesterday to have received "100 per cent" backing from the Queen. He has also, in public at least, been given the backing of Downing Street, despite private hints from senior figures that it would cause no distress in Westminster if he were to resign.

Further criticism is likely after it emerged that, as recently as Monday this week, he has been lobbying an MP to help boost trade with Azerbaijan, a nation accused of torturing protestors.

His dealings with Yemen's leaders have all been in his capacity as UK Trade Representative and carried the blessing of the UK and US governments, which see President Saleh as an ally in the war against al-Qa'ida.

President Saleh has ruled Yemen since the two halves of the country merged in 1990. Yemen ranks 146th out of 178 in the "corruption index" issued by the pressure group Transparency International.

Prince Andrew met President Saleh in September 2009, when both were visiting Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, where he told the President that the UK wanted to get more involved in Yemen and that it wanted to increase investment in the country.

Two months later, the prince was a guest at the presidential palace in Sana'a, where he met President Saleh and other leaders, including the Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar and was guest of honour at a lunch hosted by the President. According to the Yemeni account of the visit, the prince praised the country's "unity, stability and development" and urged them to open up to more British investment.

Yemeni sources say Prince Andrew met Ali Mujawar in London in January on the fringe of a conference hosted by David Miliband to discuss the terrorist threat in Yemen, though it was not on the official list of the prince's engagements. Despite the growing evidence of instability, the prince again stressed "the British willingness to advance its cooperation with Yemen, particularly in commercial and investment areas."

Source: The Independent

YEMEN: Economic Roots of Social Unrest in Yemen

Sana'a- Mar 10, 2011- Social unrest is growing in Yemen as prominent tribal leaders and members of parliament join protesters in urging President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave office. In response, Saleh — who has held office for 33 years — promised not to seek reelection in 2013 or hand over power to his son.

The government also passed a series of economic measures to improve Yemenis’ livelihood. The package — expected to raise the 2011 budget deficit to $3.75 billion — includes a 25% increase in civil and military servants’ wages, a 50% cut in the national income tax and additional food subsidies. However, these measures fall short of expectations and fail to address the key structural issues behind the turmoil.

Yemen remains the poorest country in the Arab world, with a per-capita income of $1,300; almost half of the population lives on less than $2 a day. The country also holds the region’s worst human development records: a 54% literacy rate, a 62-year life expectancy, and high levels of maternal mortality and child malnutrition.

In addition, only four in 10 people have access to electricity and one in four people have clean drinking water. The situation may grow worse as Yemen’s population is expected to double to 40 million people by 2030.

A weak and oil-dependent economy aggravates the country’s poverty and demographic challenges. Petroleum accounts for roughly 25% of GDP, 70% of government revenue, and more than 90% of Yemen’s exports. While the government has implemented reforms recently to improve the investment climate — especially in the non-oil sector — Yemen represents a risky business environment given its political instability, weak rule of law, ineffective government and widespread corruption. The country ranked 146 of 178 on Transparency International’s 2010 corruption index.

Yemen’s high unemployment rate, which stands officially at 16.5% but is estimated to be much higher, is another challenge; almost half of youth are unemployed. Even those few people with university degrees lack the right skills to meet market demand. And leading job sectors — such as agriculture, the public sector and tourism — suffer from factors such as scarce water resources and political turmoil.

As a result, it’s not surprising that Yemen has failed to achieve political legitimacy and establish a productive economy. That’s why Yemen must begin developing a roadmap for the future now.

First, Yemenis must ensure a smooth political transition when Saleh leaves office and build strong institutions to enforce the law and fight corruption. Second, they must create sound economic policies to address poverty, unemployment, and mismanagement of public resources that are backed by institutions accountable to Yemenis. Otherwise, Yemen’s future may be severely constrained by reduced government revenue, weak state capacity and internal conflicts.

Finally, the regional Gulf Cooperation Council must identify ways to improve economic and employment prospects for Yemenis, including opening labor market access to job seekers and investing in Yemen. Each of these steps will help resolve the issues feeding Yemen’s unrest and ensure the country is more secure in the future.

Source: Carnegie Middle East Center

OFWs told to leave Yemen

By Cristina Lee-Pisco

Manila- Mar 10, 2011- The Department of Foreign Affairs advised overseas Filipino workers based in Yemen to stay alert, limit their movements and to voluntarily depart due to escalating tensions there.

DFA Undersecretary for Administration Rafael E. Seguis said they raised the alert level from 1 (heightened alertness) to 2 (restriction of movements) following the recommendation of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

“We are hopeful that the political situation will stabilize. Nonetheless, precautionary measures necessary to assure the safety of our Filipinos in Yemen are set,” Seguis said.

The situation also led other countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Indonesia to adopt travel advisories against Yemen,.

“We ask them (OFWs) to actively monitor ongoing developments, keep communications lines open with the Embassy in Riyadh and inform Filipino community coordinators assigned in their area of their whereabouts,” Seguis said.

The OFWs were advised to keep an emergency bag and their documents and money ready. The bag should contain clothing, water, canned goods and medicines good for two weeks consumption for themselves and their family.

There are around 2,000 Filipinos in Yemen.

Source: OFW

As New Presidential Initiative Announced, Opposition Says Saleh Offers Can’t Address Situation

Sana'a- Mar 10, 2011- The Joint Meeting Parties JMP rejected on Thursday a new initiative by President Saleh to transfer some executive powers to a new Parliament by the end of this year, with Secretary General of the Yemeni Socialist Party, Yasin Saeed Noman, saying that all Saleh’s concessions and initiatives can’t address Yemen’s problems.

President Saleh announced his new initiative for power transition within a year telling thousands of people, who flooded into the capital Sana’a from various governorates to show support to him, the plan aimed to lift the country out of the current crisis.

Its terms included forming a committee from the House of Representatives, Shura, political, social and youth organizations and civil society to prepare a new constitution that should ensure the separation of powers and to hold a vote on it by the end of 2011.

Saleh, who has been making unwelcome concessions and initiatives as the anti-regime protests escalate across the republic, also said his initiative called for improved local governance with wide power, establishing a federal system for Yemeni regions on geographic and economic bases, forming a national unity government and preparing a new election law ensuring the quota system.

Noman said the new Saleh initiative was not suitable for addressing what Yemen is passing through at this moment, adding that it should have been announced six months ago.

After the anti-regime protests started to grow last month following the resignation of Egyptian President Mubarak, Saleh called for a Parliament – Shura meeting when he announced an initiative including concessions and a call for resuming dialogue between the political parties.

Among the concessions were that Saleh will not run for president again and will not bring his son to power when his term expires in 2013.

In response, the opposition coalition JMP held a news conference welcoming the dialogue call.

But later the two sides traded accusations over unserious attitudes to come back to the dialogue table and work together to tackle the political stalemate, with the opposition then officially rejecting the initiative and joining the revolt demanding the departure of Saleh and his corrupt government.

Today’s initiative also came days after the JMP vowed to intensify its anti-Saleh rule protest, urging the regime should be held responsible for the deteriorating situation in the republic.

In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Yemeni people have been conducting sit-ins in Taiz and Sana’a and tens of thousands take to the streets in other cities, mostly in the south, demanding the ouster of the regime.

Source: Yemen Post

YEMEN: Timeline of 2011 protests

SANAA, 10 March 2011 (IRIN) - Nationwide protests demanding an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh have entered their sixth week, but the Yemeni leader is refusing to step down until 2013. About 30 protesters have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes with government troops or Saleh supporters. Below is a timeline highlighting key events since the protests began:

2 February 2011: Thousands of Yemeni opposition supporters take to the streets of Sana’a, Aden and Taiz on the “First Day of Rage”, protesting against the government’s constitutional amendment allowing Saleh to run for another term. In a speech, Saleh promises not to run for president again or hand power to his son Ahmad, the Republican Guards’ commander. Saleh urges dialogue and engagement in “a national unity government”.

3 February: Tens of thousands of protesters in Sana’a on “Second Day of Rage” decry government corruption, and Saleh’s control of power and resources. Saleh again calls for dialogue with the opposition.

10 February: Thousands of Southern Movement (SM) supporters march in several parts of the south in protest at a military siege imposed by the government. They demand the release of all political prisoners detained for their involvement in SM, which is accused by the government of promoting secession.

11 February: Thousands of SM supporters staged protests in the southern cities of Aden, Abyan, Dhalea and Shabwa demanding Saleh leave power. Local NGO Yemen Human Rights Observatory (YHRO) says the government arrested at least 10 protesters. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns.

12 February: Thousands in Sana’a celebrate Mubarak’s downfall, call for Saleh’s ouster, but are confronted by pro-Saleh demonstrators in al-Tahrir Square. Thousands of university students head towards Egyptian embassy calling for an end to Saleh’s rule; two are injured after being attacked by Saleh supporters with daggers and sticks.

13 February: Tens of thousands rally in front of Sana’a University as well as in Liberty Square in Taiz. They are confronted by pro-government demonstrators in both cities. Government security forces arrest 120 protesters in Taiz, according to Yasser al-Maqtari, a human rights activist from Taiz.

15 February: Around 2,000 Saleh supporters, backed by undercover police, attack over 3,000 student protesters in front of Sana’a University, using sticks and electric batons, Khalid al-Ansi, executive director of the National Organization for Defending Human Rights and Freedoms (a local NGO know as HOOD), tells IRIN.

16 February: Around 500 protesters in Aden demand Saleh’s ouster. Two protesters killed in Sana’a.

17 February: At least 25 injured in clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters in front of Sana’a University.

18 February: Four killed, 11 injured when the authorities attempt to disperse thousands of protesters in Aden in a demonstration called “Friday of Start”. A local council building, police station and several police vehicles are set ablaze, Mohammed Salim, a riot police officer, tells IRIN from Aden. At least three killed and another 87 injured when a grenade is thrown at tens of thousands of protesters in Taiz’s Liberty Square. Ten injured in another protest staged in the southern city of Mukalla.

19 February: One protester killed and another 15 injured in clashes between police and anti-government demonstrators in front of Sana’a University. Another protester killed in Aden.

21 February: The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), an opposition coalition, and Houthi followers in the north declare their support for the young protesters demanding Saleh’s ouster. Tens of thousands take to streets of Sa’dah, demanding same.

22 February: At least five students injured in clashes with Saleh supporters in front of Sana’a University.

23 February: Ten MPs resign from ruling General People’s Congress in protest at the government’s crackdown on protesters. Two protesters killed and 23 injured in Sana’a.

25 February: Hundreds of thousands of protesters stream onto the streets of Sana’a, Taiz, Ibb, Amran, Sa’dah, Aden, Dhalea, Mukalla, Lahj, Shabwa, Abyan, Dhamar, Marib, al-Jauf and Hodeida on the “Friday of Immovability”. At least 7 killed and dozens of others injured in Aden, according to HOOD.

26 February: Senior sheikhs from Yemen’s main tribes (Hashid and Bakil) declare their support for the protesters. "Saleh and his regime must leave now," said Sheikh Fasail al-Dheli from the Hashid tribe. "How is it possible for a regime to reform things in two years after it failed to do so in more than three decades?" he asked.

27 February: Eight killed, 36 injured in Aden protests, raising death toll since 2 February to 26, according to YHRO.

1 March: Hundreds of thousands rally in most main cities to express solidarity with the families of protesters killed in Aden in a day named “Tuesday of Rage”. “Ending Saleh's rule is the only option for us. We will not leave this place until Saleh steps down," former MP Fuad Dihaba tells IRIN.

4 March: Two killed, six injured when army attacks anti-government protest in war-torn Harf Sufyan District, Amran Governorate.

6 March: Some 25 protesters injured in Ibb after being attacked by ruling party supporters.

8 March: Some 70-80 students injured and one killed after government troops fire at protesters in front of Sana’a University. “The troops used a toxic gas against the protesters,” said Hussein al-Shawjali, a volunteer neurologist at a mobile clinic providing medical services to protesters at the university. “Dozens are comatose or suffering spasms… Their lives are at high risk as we don't have information about this toxic gas to prescribe the right serum for the victims," al-Shawjali tells IRIN the following day. Sixty injured (20 of them police) in clashes between prison inmates and police in Sana’a central prison.

10 March: Saleh goes on TV to announce plans to change the constitution to move to a parliamentary system.