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Tumultuous year whose echoes will be heard for long

Several issues remain unresolved even after Saleh stepping down

Image Credit: AFP
A Yemeni anti-government protester holds an effigy of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh with a slogan that read in Arabic "Execution" during a demonstration after the weekly Friday prayers in Sanaa on December 16, 2011.
Gulf News

Sana'a: The year 2012 will see the demise of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime, according to analysts.

"It will be an incredibly challenging year. The new government will confront serious challenges as the state tries to reassert its authority in Yemen's four provinces," Fatehi Bin Lazrag, an Aden-based journalist, told Gulf News. The declining value of the Yemeni currency, the Yemeni riyal, will also be a concern for the new government.

The new government will also have to figure out what it will do with the 50,000 government employees of the former regime, Bin Lazrag said. Looking back at 2011, Bin Lazrag said there were two main events that shaped Yemen's political landscape.

"The first was the nationwide protests against the rule of Saleh. The second is the fall of the southern city of Zinjibar and surrounding cities to Al Qaida militants," he said. The militants, according to Bin Lazrag, now have a solid foothold in the country.

The province of Abyan is practically a state within a state now, he said. The beginning of 2011 was a particularly troubling start for the Saleh regime. The ruling party and the opposition wrangled over a controversial constitutional amendment in the parliament that would allow Saleh to continuously run for president.

Rejecting the law

Opposition MPs boycotted parliament and threatened protests rejecting the law. In January also an acute fuel shortage paralysed businesses.

Long queues were seen at petrol stations. Inspired by two successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Yemeni youth gathered in the streets of the country's main cities demanding the departure of Saleh. By the end of January, the mass rallies turned into an uprising and gained steam.

While his forces were carrying out a lethal crackdown on his opponents, Saleh began making concessions in an attempt to appease the opponents. He gave employment to thousands of university graduates and promised to generously support young men to get affordable education.

Sniper attacks

Politically, he said he would neither seek another term in office in the 2013 elections nor hand over power to his son. On March 18. the regime's snipers killed about 50 protesters who were protesting near Sana'a university.

Saleh declared a state of emergency. Following the massacre, several senior government officials, diplomats, military generals and influential tribesmen deserted the beleaguered leader.

Also in March, a series of blasts at a bullet factory in south Yemen killed at least 110 people when residents broke in to steal ammunition.

In April, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) presented a transfer of power plan under which Saleh would hand over power to his vice-president in exchange for immunity from prosecution for himself and close aides.

With the regime fighting for survival, the Yemeni offshoot of Al Qaida seized control of the southern town of Zinjibar on May 29. The militants extended their control to the neighbouring cities and declared an "Islamic emirate" in Abyan province.

On June 3, an explosion rocked Saleh's presidential complex and killed some security guards. Saleh and other officials sustained serious injuries. They went to Saudi Arabia for treatment. In July, hundreds of people died when Al Houthi rebels in the country's northern region tried to overrun Al Jawaf province.

Student-led protests

On September 30, a suspected American drone strike killed Anwar Al Awlaqi, the US-born cleric who is affiliated to Al Qaida. A month later, his 16-year-old son was killed in another similar aerial attack.

In a major boost to the student-led protests, Tawakul Karman, a leading activist, shared the Nobel Peace Prize on October 7 with other women activists in Africa.

On November 23, despite months of resistance, Saleh finally gave in to pressure and agreed to end his 33-year-old rule by signing the GCC deal. He transferred power to his deputy who formed a unity government and called for an early election in February 2012. Hundreds of lives have been lost in clashes between government forces and protesters.