Yemen political risk assessment

23 February 2011

Saleh promises to resign soon to end violence

18 October 2011

At least seven people were reported to have been killed in Sanaa when government forces opened fire on protesters on 18 October. Demonstrators came under fire from gunmen and police as tens of thousands marched from Change Square to the loyalist-held Al-Qaa neighbourhood.

They are continuing to protest against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Last week, Saleh had promised to resign soon to stop the violence.

In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, Yemen’s new Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman called on the organisation to take “immediate and decisive action to stop the massacres and hold the perpetrators accountable”.

The UN Security Council is expected to consider a resolution later this week to “strongly condemn” the Yemeni government’s human rights violations.

1 September 2011

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh now plans to return to Yemen following the investigation into his attempted assassination in June.

Saleh had previously said he was planning to return to Yemen very soon. On 28 August, the Yemeni government said the investigation was nearly complete although it is not clear when it would be finished or if those previously accused were still suspects in the attack.

“I cannot give you a specific time of when President Saleh will arrive. But I can assure you that after the palace bombing investigation is over, the president will be back,” said government spokesman, Abdu Ganadi.

5 May 2011

The GCC secretary general Abdul-Latif al-Zayyani was due to arrive in Yemen on 2 May to try for a second time to convince the country’s president to step down. However, the plan was dropped.

Political unrest in Yemen has so far claimed the lives of 150 people in the past three months. Al-Zayyani met with foreign ministers from the GCC on 1 May after President Ali Abdullah Saleh refused to sign their agreement to end the unrest.

The GCC plan proposes the formation of a national unity government in Sanaa, with Saleh transferring power to his vice-president. Saleh would then submit his resignation to parliament within 30 days. Elections would then follow.

Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, is defiant and has said he would only sign the agreement in his capacity as head of the ruling General People’s Congress, not as president.

27 April 2011

On 24 April, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down from his position within 30 days in return for immunity from prosecution. Following talks with GCC mediators, Saleh agreed to hand over power to vice-president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who will then call for new presidential elections. Opposition parties say they accept the deal, although they reject proposals for the formation of a national unity government within seven days of the signing, demanding that Saleh step down first.

The opposition is against giving Yemen’s parliament, which is dominated by Saleh’s party, the power to approve or reject his resignation.

14 April 2011

On 9 April, scores of anti-government protesters in the capital Sanaa were hurt after being shot at during a demonstration. The injuries are reported to have been inflicted from snipers firing from rooftops.

Violence continued in Sanaa on 13 April which resulted in at least seven people being killed, including four policemen, as police clashed with a dissident army unit. During the unrest, police attacked an army checkpoint in Jawlat Amran in northern Sanaa with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The army unit had sided with protesters.

On 7 April, President Ali Abdullah Saleh rejected a proposal by GCC states to step down with immunity from prosecution.

7 April 2011

Talks have started between the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the GCC in an effort to avoid a further escalation of the tension between the president’s supporters and anti-government groups.

Mediation will start in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa and ambassadors from GCC countries will meet with Yemenis to try and broker a non-violent transition of power.

Officials from opposition parties issued thanks to the GCC for becoming involved with the talks, but insisted that they would only entertain discussions that involved an immediate transfer of power.

Saleh is still clinging to power in Yemen, despite calls from both the US and the EU for a power transfer to begin as quickly as possible.

Clashes have occurred in various cities in Yemen over the past week, with three people reported killed in Sanaa after army units aligned to a military commander, who has defected, clashed with pro-government supporters.

31 March 2011

On 30 March, Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula published an article saying the Arab protests were helping its cause by removing repressive anti-Islamist rulers.

Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, is in talks regarding his departure from government after continued protests and a wave of defections has made his position increasingly vulnerable. He has failed to outline a timetable for leaving office, however. Many government and military officials, as well as tribal leaders, have allied themselves to the opposition and Saleh is now in discussions over a transition of power.

In the southern city of Jaar, a series of explosions at an ammunitions factory on 28 March reportedly killed at least 150 people, with many more injured. The factory makes Kalashnikov rifles and munitions and the explosions came after it was taken over by militants operating in the region.

24 March 2011

On 20 March, at least 45 protesters were shot dead in Yemen’s capital Sanaa as gunmen opened fire from rooftops. The incident also left 270 injured and was described as the opposition as a massacre.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh denied the police were behind the attack and announced a state of emergency.

On 21 March, he fired the government of Prime Minister Ali Mujawar. Following the shootings, several high-ranking Yemeni officials resigned. These include Yemen’s ambassador to the UN, the ministers for human rights and tourism, the head of the state news agency and the Yemeni ambassador to Lebanon.

On 22 March, Brigadier General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar defected to the opposition. On 24 March, presidential guards loyal to Saleh clashed in the town of Mukalla with army units backing opposition groups.

18 March 2011

Yemeni security forces opened live fire on protesters on 17 March, wounding at least 14.

The clashes took place in the capital Sanaa and the city of Taiz in the south as protesters demanded an end to the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

About 150 protesters were injured on 16 March when security forces tried to break up a rally in Hudaida on the Red Sea coast.

Earlier in the week, on 13 March, police in Sanaa attacked a protest camp in Tahrir Square with tear gas, water cannons and live bullets.

Six people were reported to have been killed in the attack with a further 1,250 injured.

Foreign governments are urging the opposition to engage in talks with Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh. However, the opposition has rejected Salah’s request for talks.

10 March 2011

Protests started in mid-January in the capital Sanaa demanding a change of government. They have since grown in both size and frequency.

Government actions:

  • The salaries of military personnel were increased at a cost of $3.4m
  • President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced on 2 February that he would not run for reelection in 2013

Political Risk assessment

Protests are likely to continue while a group of opposition parties, tribal sheikhs and scholars negotiate with President Saleh for him to transfer power to government institutions.

23 February 2011

By promising to quit at the end of his current term and not to attempt to install his son as his successor, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has recognised the reality of the changing mood in the Middle East. That means he will be president until 2013 – or at least that is the plan, if he can ride out the present wave of protests.

Saleh has been an adept juggler of tribal factions and has somehow contrived to remain the fulcrum of the Yemeni political system, despite a bloody civil war with Houthi rebels in the northwest and a persistent, if mostly peaceful, separatist campaign in the south. He has also managed to at least partially contain the activities of Al-Qaeda’s local offshoot. But faced with peaceful urban protest in the heart of Sanaa itself, he seems more at risk. Unlike richer neighbours, Saleh is not in a position to pour money over the problem. And as a self-proclaimed democratic state, Yemen has so far held back from trying to deal with dissent through ruthless suppression.

Thanks to the parliamentary system, the country does have functioning opposition parties and can negotiate some sort of path forward. Indeed, a negotiated compromise may also be a precondition for any effective attempt to broker political solutions to the regional tensions, particularly in the south.

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