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Latest in Yemen!

Interesting Article: "Yemeni Militants Demand 1.2 mln USD to Free Hostage" by Xinhua / Yemen published Monday, March 19th, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that Suspected al-Qaida gunmen, who abducted a Swiss woman in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida and moved her to Yemen's restive Shabwa province earlier this week, demanded a ransom of 250 million Yemeni rials (about 1.2 million U. S. dollars) for the release of the kidnapped language teacher, a tribal chief told Xinhua on Monday. A tribal committee which was brokering negotiations between government authorities and the al-Qaida group received a ransom call on Monday from the kidnappers, the local tribal chief who was involved in the negotiation said on condition of anonymity. So what’s going on in Yemen?

In February, Yemenis went to the polls to vote for their new transitional president. This election, however, was different. There was only one candidate, former Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Hirak in the south – a large-scale movement that includes separatist groups – and Houthi rebels in the north boycotted the vote, showing that many Yemenis remain unconvinced that the election marks the start of a democratic transition. Despite the boycott the turnout was impressive – with over 6 million out of over 10 million registered voters participating. The grievances of groups such as the Houthis and the Hirak are essentially economic. The north and south have had a complex relationship. Southern Yemen was once a separate country that united with the north in 1990, then split again in a brief civil war.

Today, the north and south form one country. However, southerners complain that their region has been neglected by the central, northern-dominated government in Sanaa, and that northern tribal sheikhs have deprived the south of the wealth it could receive from its resources, including oil. Hirak separatist groups have called for the territory that encompasses the former South Yemen to secede from the current Republic of Yemen.

As a whole, Yemen currently faces mass unemployment, a budget deficit of $3.75 billion and an economy that shrank 5 percent in 2011. Hadi’s first step should, therefore, be to bring Yemen out of the dire economic straits in which the country finds itself. The private sector has struggled under the weight of corruption. The new government needs to convince Yemeni businessmen to invest in their country and create more opportunities for Yemenis by addressing the problem of corruption. It is vital that these opportunities be provided throughout Yemen, and not just in Sanaa and the region around it. Such opportunities would alleviate unemployment in the north and south, a doubly worthwhile accomplishment when we consider that armed groups typically succeed in recruiting from among the unemployed.

But improving Yemen’s economy is closely linked to establishing a national dialogue. Political dialogue is the way to solve the Houthis’ grievances, and may be the only way to persuade the Houthis to put down their arms and re-join the political process. As for the Hirak, they must be shown that a united Yemen is based on cooperation, not occupation; and they must be persuaded not to move from being a protest movement to becoming an armed rebellion. Hadi must work quickly to assure the south that its future lies within a united Yemen. The rule of law needs to be re-established in the south so that the state is perceived as fair and impartial – not simply an extension of arbitrary northern tribal power.

Yemen government officials confirmed on Sunday that over 2,000 people were killed in the nation’s year-long political uprising which led to the ousting of embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
It also confirmed that some 22,000 individuals were injured in the fighting. The numbers that were revealed as crowds of protesters marked one year since the start of the battle to dethrone long-term leader Saleh.

Violence still roams the streets of Yemen, despite the end of the infighting. Two gunmen on motorcycle shot and killed an American teacher working at the language institute in Taiz city, a government official confirmed.

Tribesmen deny having a hand in her kidnapping, blaming militants instead. Kidnappings had been common in Yemen even before the conflict, but the year-long war has taken an added toll on the nation’s tenuous security, making matters even worse.

Whether or not they achieve it will ultimately depend on their ability to breathe new life into their economy.



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