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Cartoon of the Day: Fear in Yemen

Clearly, I’m not in Yemen, but I’ve written about the fractious nation steamrolling toward violence and a significant power vacuum that will only lead to more abuse. Sure, there’s a shadow government in the works, but one that will exert little force or control over Yemen’s tribal militants. Really, Yemen’s society is beginning to sound a lot like Afghanistan, with an important al Qaeda faction to boot.

Dozens were killed today at a Yemeni army base. A brief cease fire at the normally peaceful, intellectual haven of Taiz ended today as clashes resumed. And now, militant groups seeking to exert power and influence have begun kidnapping aid workers for ransom. (For the record, al Qaeda is employing a similar “fundraising” tactic.)

This cartoon from the Yemen Times sums up the feelings of already one of the bleakest nations in the world even before the six-month uprising that have crippled the (already faltering) economy — people have simply stopped paying back loans because they need money, which has crippled banking institutions and hurt any future prospects of economic development — and (never respected) fragile rule of law:

Yemen gov’t manipulating economy for political gain?

June 28, 2011 1 comment

Reports out of Yemen point to an impending humanitarian crisis that could turn the tide of revolution in the current regime’s favor.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s former tribal allies have turned against him. But he still has military control. Additionally, he has been a willing partner to the U.S. in the fight against a significant al Qaeda terrorist cell in Yemen, meaning there is only passive pressure on the leader from the U.S.

Saleh and his government have virtual power of the purse in Yemen by instigating violence, which many Yemenis believe he is doing to manipulate the political atmosphere. It’s very probable that he is doing just that, causing the economy to sputter recent weeks to legitimate his rule. It’s a way to force acquiescence from the general population, as Saleh is demonstrating that only he can provide well-being and that protesters stand in the way of basic sustenance.

It’s more than just a theory, in my opinion. Saleh will speak to the media “after Thursday” about the nation’s political future, which is sure to include something along the lines of him staying in power indefinitely to restore stability.  Given the wide range of tribal opposition to Saleh’s rule and the ever-present terrorist network in Yemen, there are very few people in the dictator’s camp. Sabotaging the economy may be a last-ditch effort to turn sentiment against the revolution.

From the Yemen Times:

An economic crisis has been gripping Yemen for more than a month now. Shortages of fuel, cooking gas and hour-long blackouts have convinced some Yemenis that that revolutionary youth and the anti-government uprising are to blame.

Moreover, international NGOs and youth groups are trying to mobilize people to improve the situation. The emergency “Food Assistance to Conflict-Affected Persons in Northern Yemen” operation is experiencing a total 2011 financial shortfall of US $27.1 million. The “Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Support to Vulnerable Populations in Yemen” operation is experiencing a total 2011 financial shortfall of US $26.5 million. The “Food Assistance for Somali Refugees” operation is experiencing a total 2011 financial shortfall of US $1.2 million. The Yemen country program, “Food for Girls’ Education”, is experiencing a total 2011 financial shortfall of US $10.8 million.

The story says that people believed the economy was “stable” before the revolutions, but when your country is fighting for water I have serious doubts that the economy pre-revolution was much better. According to The New York Times, nearly half of the nation’s 23 million people live in poverty and 7 million cannot afford three daily meals.

The protest movement has failed to move forward and President Saleh has taken refuge in Saudi Arabia. No doubt Yemenis are wondering aloud where this revolution is headed. If it seems stuck, then Yemenis will drop from the movement. It has reached contagion stage, but in a state with little regard for human rights and a 30-year legacy leadership, contagion can only do so much. This is not like the American Civil Rights movement, where there was some semblance of respect for law and a system of checks and balances, such as elected political representatives and a transparent (if often misguided before then) court system. This is Yemen, where force has proven to be the greatest arbiter.

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