The civil war in Yemen is a complex situation, but the various conflicts in different cities have one thing in common: everywhere, the humanitarian situation is dire. Millions are on the brink of starvation. Hunger is not new to Yemen, but used to affect mostly its lowest class. Now it’s creeping upwards, hitting the middle-class as well. Aid organisations are having trouble reaching the areas where the need is the direst, and when they do, supplies often end up on the black market.
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Ever since Hadi took over the presidency, things went wrong. Despite some reshuffles in the leadership of the armed forces, he did not manage to get rid of the remains of the Saleh-clan. Instead, he started appointing his own family members and cronies to strategic positions. It made the Yemeni’s doubt his sincerity and leadership skills.
Peace talks have been underway since 21 April 2016. The Houthi/Saleh alliance and the Hadi government are the only official negotiating parties, with the UN as broker. Assuming they know what they want to get out of these negotiations (which is not at all certain), they cannot simply proceed; there are numerous players outside the palace, buzzing in their ears.
Yemen has made reservations to international conventions, thereby partly undermining some classical – regionally seen as Western and not universally applicable – human rights. But it is law enforcement where a bigger problem lies: even the less controversial rights are not implemented. A stable state with a firmly established rule of law is far from reality.
Yemen’s humanitarian situation is bad in March 2016, after nearly a year of war by the Saudi coalition against Shiite Houthi rebels and forces of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Some organizations claim that the country is on the brink of famine, with 80 per cent of the population in need of humanitarian aid. Whether the numbers are accurate is hard to say, but the country is undeniably in a dark place.
“I felt strongly – even at that age – that with an education I could become anybody and do anything I wanted,” writes Yemeni film director Khadija al-Salami in her book The Tears of Sheba. At the age of 11, she was married off to an older man, but freed herself from her shame-fearing conservative family and landed herself a job as diplomat in France.
The split in the government and its weak performance have created the legitimacy crisis Yemen is experiencing, making it difficult for the government to play its required political role after the war ends. It is thus probable that even a halt to coalition strikes in Yemen will not bring an end to civil conflict anytime soon.