Stability born of compromise in Yemen

04 July 2011

Impasse between government and protesters reaches its sixth month. Both sides will inevitably need to embrace a political solution, or Yemen will suffer in the long term

Life is never easy in Yemen. Even before protests began this year, its prospects were bleak. The country was one of the world’s poorest, and while ambitious projects were planned to kick-start the economy, there were few signs its people were actually moving towards prosperity.

In 2011, Yemen plunged into chaos. When the protests began in January, Yemenis were seeking reform. As protests turned violent, this stance quickly changed to demands for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to stand down and, soon after, the removal of him and his entire regime.

The importance of the regime has been clearly demonstrated since the rocket attack on the presidential compound in early June that forced Saleh to flee to neighbouring Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. In the month following his departure, the regime has held firm, refusing to concede to the protesters’ demands – even as its control over the country wanes.

As the upheaval enters its sixth month, it now seems unlikely that all the protesters’ demands will ever be met. The most possible scenarios for what happens next are civil war, a protracted deadlock between the state and the protesters, or a compromised political solution. None of these outcomes will satisfy the protesters’ calls for meaningful political change and a brighter, more prosperous future.

Perhaps more worrying is the impact on the economy – something that will affect all Yemenis. Oil exports have stalled, tourism has faltered, inflation and food prices have spiked, and there are reports from rural areas of a developing humanitarian crisis, as blocked roads prevent deliveries of food and medical supplies.

Stability must return to Yemen before the economic situation can improve – this will inevitably require compromise. But it appears both sides are determined to hold firm, in the hope that either the regime is deposed, or the people’s hunger for change subsides.

The longer the deadlock and economic crisis goes on, the more some form of compromise must be considered to save the country’s future.

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