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December 7, 2017

Chaos in Yemen


December 7, 2017

The reality of the brutal civil war in Yemen is grim. The country has seen chaotic alliances between groups, alliances that have turned into deadly splits. The larger story is goes like this: in 2014, Houthi-led militia dethroned then then Yemeni president Hadi. What is not that well known is that the Houthi rebels did this with the support of the recently deceased Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh had led Yemen since the 1970s and the reunification between the north and the south. While he was able to hold the country together through multiple tribal fights and insurrections, his regime was increasingly seen as authoritarian and corrupt before he was removed from power through street protests. After abdicating power to Hadi, Saleh decided to ally with the Houthi rebellion. However, on December 2 this year, Saleh announced that he could “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition if it ended the blockade and stopped attacking Yemen. It seemed Saleh felt that he could use the opportunistic moment to return to power – or at least steer the country into a less volatile situation. However, the Houthis accused him of attempting to stage a coup as fighting started between Saleh’s supporters and the Houthis in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa. This resulted in the sudden – and violent – death of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The video of Saleh’s body being paraded around reminds one of the video of Libyan president Gaddafi’s death, but that’s where the similarity ends. Saleh had already abdicated power and the current civil war was not about removing him from power. His death is a product of in-fighting between rebel groups in a context where Saudi Arabia is making a serious intervention within Yemen to steer some kind of pro-Hadi outcome. What the Houthi leadership has called the foiling of a Saudi ‘conspiracy’ is only likely to lead to years more of war. There is now a deep fissure within the rebel groups themselves. Almost 125 people have been

killed since clashes broke out on Friday. Saleh’s party has now called for a rebellion against the Houthi militia. In all this, the humanitarian disaster in Yemen will only continue to get worse as the split with threaten the stability of the Houthi control over Sanaa, which had been possible with Saleh’s alliance. The situation in Yemen is devastating. Almost 20 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. There has been a cholera outbreak since April. But there is no end in sight to the fighting and no clear path to peace. Saleh’s death on the battlefield is another tragic chapter in a country that has been left without hope.

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