War in Yemen


There is a group of elites in Yemen that has been in control of wealth and power. It’s made of military generals, tribal leaders, and well-connected families: Ali Abdullah Saleh, Al-Ahmar Family and Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar. To the North-West of Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmarhas placed his men to run the streets. The South of the capital continues to be manned by Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The middle part of the town is controlled by a powerful tribal family, that of Al-Ahmar. These states of affairs can be attributed to the political transition in the country not taking full swing. Unlike other Arab countries, upon the change of power in 2012, leaders from the previous regime were not jailed or exiled. They were allowed to continue operating as they wished. Therefore, the influence of the three most powerful families from back then did not dwindle. It instead grew in leaps since they were not under any political pressure.

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As much as the continuity of their influence has helped avert the crisis like the ones witnessed in Syria, Egypt and Tunisia, it has held back Yemen from progressing as a nation. Each of these families has units loyal to them, the men that aid them run the part of the city belonging to them. Fights have often erupted between these rival groups, especially the one belonging to Mr. Saleh and Al-Ahmar. It has descended into a power struggle as each bids to be more influential than the other. The rivalry between Mohsen and Saleh intensified when the latter tried to betray the former. Due to the dynasty they formed together, it had been expected that Saleh was to appoint Mohsen as his successor, only to unsuccessfully try passing over power to his son. Al-Ahmar’s family headed the tribe that Saleh’s family belonged to, and they helped Saleh maintain power. In return for their loyalty and support, Saleh allowed them to run informal, government-funded armies, courts and economic empires. However, following the shootings of protesters in 2011, Mohsen and majority of the Ahmar’s joined the revolution. Since then, it has been a case of pointing fingers between the three families regarding who is to blame for the instability in Yemen. Despite there being a president, he does not seem to be the commander of the security forces. Saleh’s son Ahmed Ali leads the Republican Guards, Ali Mohsen the 1st Armored Division.

In order to be counted as a democracy Yemen after unification created shallow political parties such as the Islah Party. The Islah party is the most powerful Islamist party in the country, and is part of the coalition government. They are seen as allies to the Mohsens and the Ahmars, and rivals to the Salehs. Infact, Saleh’s defendants and loyalists have accused Islah of being used by the other two families, in that majority of the Islah appointed governors are as a result of behind the scene activities by Mohsen and Ahmar units. They term it as a strategy by these two families to gain power illegally. Despite concerted efforts by the ruling regime to remove Saleh’s relatives from key positions, the majority of the security forces remain loyal to him. It has therefore become a daunting task to subdue his influence, as well as that of his party, the General People’s congress.

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Islah party is the leading opposition party to the ruling General People’s Congress, formed in 1994. However, other political parties were formed, following the unification of North and South Yemen in 1990, and the consequent legalization of a multi-party state system. Other parties included the Yemeni Socialist Party, the Unionist Party, Al-haq and the Popular Forces Union Party. Together, these opposition parties formed an alliance known as the Joint Meeting Parties, in the year 2002. Despite the constituting parties having differing ideologies, the alliance has a common agenda of ensuring less corruption and a democratic government.

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