Countryaah official site, peaceful demonstrations, civil war and militia
attacks shook Yemen this year to a point when much of the
country was no longer under the control of President Ali
Abdullah Saleh. Only then, on November 22, did he give up
and sign an agreement to resign.
In January, young Yemenis, inspired by the riots in
Tunisia and Egypt, walked the streets, especially the
capital Sana, demanding Saleh's departure. A loosely
cohesive coalition of opposition groups (JMP, United Party
meeting) camped in a square they called the Change Square.
The regime responded with violence and state of emergency.
On March 18, snipers fired straight into a demonstration,
killing 52 people.
Several high-ranking military members joined the
opposition, the demonstrations escalated and the Change
Square was moved to the University of Sana, where large
crowds gathered every Friday after the prayer. Among the
inmates were Tawakkul Karman, who in October became one of
three women (the other from Liberia) who was awarded the
Nobel Peace Prize. Protesters also gathered in the country's
second largest city, Taizz. On April 30, bulldozers leveled
the opposition camp there with the ground and some 50
protesters were reported to have been killed.
At the same time, a power struggle escalated between
Saleh and two rival camps. One was General Ali Mohsin who
resigned from the government army in March. The other was
the powerful al-Ahmar family, whose supporters in the
al-Hasaba province took up arms against the government
forces in May.
Saleh was seriously injured in a grenade attack on the
presidential palace in Sana on June 3. He was taken to Saudi
Arabia for care and Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi
took power. Many opposers hoped Saleh could be counted off,
but his sons remained in the security apparatus. On
September 18, protesters went outside the barricades around
the Change Square. Saleh's forces opened fire, Mohinn's
forces reached out to the protesters' defense and the
following days fierce fighting in Sana raged. At least 80
people were killed.
Saleh returned unexpectedly on September 23 and wound
himself like a worm on the hook. Already in April he had
promised the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to relinquish
power. But he refused to sign the agreement. In October, the
UN Security Council in Resolution 2014 demanded that he sign
on, and at the same time, Jamal Benomar, adviser to the UN
Secretary-General on the matter, put additional pressure on
him. On November 22, Saleh finally signed the agreement. His
powers of power were transferred to Hadi, but formally he
had to retain the presidential title until February 2012,
when Hadi would also take over it.
Hadi appointed independent opposition leader Mohammed
Basindwa as acting prime minister. The first task of the new
leadership was to lead a Security Council that would
demilitarize Sana and a national dialogue that would propose
constitutional changes. There were many problems. It was
unclear whether Mohsin, the al-Ahmar family and Saleh's sons
would be allowed to be controlled. What would be required to
get the rebel groups in the north and south on the train
also remained to be seen. In addition, the protesters at the
Change Square remained, now in protest that the agreement
meant impunity for Saleh and his family.
Another unresolved problem was the militant Islamist
group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which
exploited the power vacuum during the unrest to advance
south. The government's fighter aircraft and driverless US
attack aircraft conducted a number of attacks against
targets during the year that were said to belong to AQAP.
US-born Yemeni AQAP leader Anwar al-Awlaki, long hunted by
the United States, was shot dead in September in a US air
strike in the central part of the country.
About a third of the country's residents were estimated
to be hungry and the lack of water was great. The residents
of the south were particularly hard hit.