The wave of popular protests that has already toppled regimes in Egypt and Tunisia has also rocked Yemen, where large street demonstrations threaten the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Peaceful at first, Yemen's protests have recently grown more violent. Protesters have clashed with the army and plainclothes supporters of the regime wielding sticks, clubs, knives, and guns. On Wednesday, the BBC reported that at least 30 have died since the protests began. Hundreds have been injured. Still, it is unclear whether Saleh will go the way of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt.
Yemenis suffer from corruption and poverty even more extreme than that of their counterparts in North Africa. If popular discontent alone determined the course of a revolt, then Yemen's ruling party has reason to worry. Yet Yemen's protests have taken place in a unique political context. The country is fractured, with an insurgency in the north and a separatist movement in the south. Even Yemen's established opposition parties, which were late to join the protest movement in calling for Saleh's ouster, are split and unlikely to cooperate in a post-Saleh future.
In a recent report, Yemen between Reform and Revolution, the International Crisis Group calls on all parties to refrain from violence and to enter negotiations on the peaceful transfer of power. Crisis Group also emphasizes the importance of meaningful reforms, and says it is critical that President Saleh follow through on the promises of reform he has already made. The international community has a role to play in observing negotiations among vying political forces, which may help to ensure compliance.
I spoke with April Longley Alley, Crisis Group Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula, about Yemen's political scene and what comes next for the country, with or without Saleh. Listen to our conversation below.
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