Yemen Agrees to Peaceful Transition Plan As Its People Struggle to Find Food
Yemen’s governing party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), has officially agreed to a plan for a peaceful transition of power away from President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A delegation will be sent early next week to Saudi Arabia to confirm the agreement. However, a coalition of opposition leaders have expressed concerns about one of the proposal’s conditions, that protests end immediately.
The demonstrations that have been going on in the streets of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and other cities in the impoverished Arab state for two months, are primarily led by youthful protesters who do not feel that the opposition parties represent them.
Meanwhile, as Ashley Clements writes in the Guardian, ordinary life has become a struggle for many Yemeni, as food and fuel prices have risen to unthinkable heights:
Jasmeen (not her real name) is a cleaner living in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. She is desperately worried about the current situation, she says. High food and fuel prices mean Jasmeen and her family often only eat one meal a day; usually either bread or rice. She can no longer afford luxuries such as beans or eggs.
She says she has recently heard a rumour that food prices are soon to drop and is clinging to that hope. Otherwise, Jasmeen mournfully tells Oxfam, she is not sure how she and her six children will survive once the small supply of grain, rice, oil, and sugar she has stockpiled runs out.
I am worried that Jasmeen’s hope of lower prices is misplaced. Rises in the price of most staple goods show no signs of abating under current political and economic pressures. The recent harvest has helped ease things in the short term, and there are plenty of cheap vegetables available in some markets at the moment. Household budgets, however, are being stretched to the limit by the volatile currency.
According to the World Food Programme, a third of Yemen’s population — more than 7 million people — have found it a struggle to find enough to eat every day.
Under the terms of the Saudi-led proposal, a national unity government will be created. The opposition is to select a prime minister who will rule jointly with Saleh for 30 days, after which he is to step down.
Says the New York Times:
But a leading member of Yemen’s opposition coalition said that the opposition had given only oral approval to the proposal and that it would not send a delegation to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, until Mr. Saleh formally signed the plan for the transition. Mr. Saleh will not go to Riyadh.
“First, the president, he should officially sign the agreement,” the opposition leader, Mohammed Abdulmalik al-Mutawakil, said. “Because he is not going to Saudi Arabia, therefore he has to sign it before we leave.”
The back and forth between the two sides has been a trademark of the political impasse over the past few months in Yemen, as tens of thousands of protesters in cities throughout the country have called for Mr. Saleh’s ouster.
A protester was reported killed in the central city of Taiz, an act of violence recalling the force used repeatedly by government security troops to put down the demonstrators—who have numbered in the tens of thousands — in the past few weeks.
Is this a new beginning for Yemen? Should the US, which withdrew its support of Saleh’s regime earlier in April, support the new unity government once it has formed?
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Photo by Sallam.