Yemen today is at the crossroads with regard to the future direction of the nation. The next steps will determine whether the country will define a future for progress or instability. Looking beyond the current moment, it is only the people of Yemen who will have the final say in where their nation should be heading.
Yemen has reached a historic point as President Ali Abdullah Saleh finally agreed to bring an end to his 33-year rule.
After much delay and manoeuvring, Saleh signed the proposition presented by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) which outlined the transfer of power in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, who hosted the signing ceremony, hailed it as a "new page" for Yemen.
According to the agreement, Saleh will hand over "all powers necessary for proceeding with the Gulf initiative and its implementation mechanism and for early elections within a 90-day period which begins immediately after the signing". The next step for the opposition is to put forward a candidate who will head a government of national unity.
This is undoubtedly a significant turn of events for the country as Saleh remained defiant and elusive when it came to the final agreement. For over 10 months Yemen has been at a standstill as the clashes between the government security forces and protesters just brought about more violence and a rising number of those injured and killed.
The clashes in Yemen proved to be very costly — so far leaving almost 900 people dead. In addition, the ramifications of the standstill have been grave as they created a political vacuum and affected the country's already struggling economy.
But moving forward would require the input of all the parties involved — whether they are now part of the government or the opposition. And the first step is to agree that Yemen needs a fresh start that should be peaceful and one that respects the rule of law. A plan has to be chalked out which ensures stability and an end to violence during the transitional period.
The most important of all though are the long-term plans that will determine the shape of the nation. All Yemenis should now unite around the goal of establishing a political system that is based on the principles of respect and inclusion of all opinions, accountability, and the rule of law. Such a roadmap is critical for building the foundations of solid political and legal institutions. If any lesson is to be learned from the past's single rule in Yemen, it is that institutions should be built to safeguard the interests of all the people.