As of last month, Yemen’s ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the Prime Minister resigned after the Houthi’s took over the presidential palace. “Houthi leaders have accused Hadi of attempting to bypass a power-sharing deal signed back in September, while also claiming that they are seeking to protect the state from corruption.” (rt.com) This has left Yemen in a transitional state of a power vacuum with competing powers in Yemen creeping with interest, not to mention the competing interests outside Yemen. Currently, the Houthi forces have stepped in to fill the lack of government.
However, this action has been met with local and foreign opposition:
“The Sunni Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), made up of oil-rich Persian Gulf countries, has blasted the Shiite Houthi rebels for “staging a coup” in Yemen after they announced on Friday they were dissolving parliament and forming a new government.” (rt.com)
The GCC’s concerns arise out of the Islamic divisions between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam, inevitably, the Houthi movement is being accused of illegally taking over the control of Yemen.
Despite these foreign concerns, other parties consider the move by the Houthis to be illegitimate.
Abdel Malik al-Houthi , the leader of the Houthis, has responded the accusations and said on Saturday that Yemen is open to all parties participating in Yemen’s future:
“Our hand is extended to every political force in this country ... the space is open for partnership, cooperation and brotherhood and now everybody bears their responsibility for building, not destruction,” Abdel Malik al-Houthi said in a televised speech.
Houthi’s statements, however, must be contrasted with the local atmosphere of Yemen. According to the Yemeni population, the stability in Yemen has changed; In Sanaa, Yemen’s capital city, citizens will be stopped different checkpoints set around the city by Houthi forces dressed in military uniforms and traditional outfits. While for some the haunting Houthi presence is bothersome and worrying, the military and supporting numbers for the Houthi movement seem to give a sense of direction away from the current condition of Yemen:
“It feels more stable under the Houthis, the outgoing government was very weak. But we are worried about the future,” said Ahmed, a merchant of copper handicrafts in the old city of Sanaa, once a sightseeing area.” (bbc.com)
That’s the central worry for people in Yemen – the future.
Yemen is the poorest of Middle Eastern countries, and for the majority of the population, there is a harsh struggle with life, not power. More than half the population of 24 million live in poverty with no access to basic needs. In Sanaa, residents have only two or three hours of electricity a day.
BBC’s Sally Nabil comments the following:
“The constant refrain I got from many people, regardless of their level of education or social status, was how life was hard and getting worse.”
Ultimately, it appears to be the case that the Houthi movement is at least giving progress to the circumstances of Yemen; whether the progress will be answered is yet to be answered. Nonetheless, while there is a political, economic, religious, and social layer to the conflict, the lived experience of the people in Yemen continues to be in disastrous with a constant ambiguity as to what will occur in the future. Regardless of power vacuum or not, the circumstances for people in Yemen demand for something productive to happen despite whatever political power is leading it.
While this is one layer of the problem, of course, the social, religious, economic, and political concerns remain to be of importance, for depending on what happens in Yemen, the region will respond. If the Shia Houthis gain power, it will be in the middle of a mostly Sunni part of the region that will look suspiciously at their government. If the Houthis gain power, then the U.S. will miss a strategic location for combating al-Qaeda and partake in oil trade. However, if the Houthis do not gain power, then Yemen could return to a power vacuum with even more ambiguities as to what will happen next.