January 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 23 December 2011
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action
The Council is expecting in January a briefing on the situation in Yemen by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar.

Key Recent Developments
Support for President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen continued to deteriorate in the weeks and days preceding his signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative. More than 400 troops reportedly defected from the Yemeni military on 19 November on 2011. On 23 November, Saleh signed the GCC initiative in Riyadh after negotiating an implementation mechanism, initiating the transition of power from Saleh to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi during an interim period leading up to elections. (The initiative provides immunity to Saleh and his family and allows him to remain as honorary president for three months. Following the elections, Hadi would be expected to become president as the consensus candidate agreed by all sides. Hadi would also oversee national dialogue to consider proposals for constitutional reform. These would include replacing the presidential system with a multi-party parliamentary system, which would be decided by a popular referendum.)

On 26 November 2011, and as envisaged in the GCC initiative and the accompanying implementation mechanism, Hadi signed a decree calling for early presidential elections to be held on 21 February 2012. (Prior to Saleh’s signing of the GCC initiative, the election was not due to take place until 2013.) Mohammed Salim Basindawa, a senior opposition figure, was named interim Prime Minister on 27 November.

On 4 December, Hadi also endorsed a decree to form the Military Affairs Committee charged with restructuring the military. (The 14-member committee is to be chaired by Hadi himself.)

On 10 December 2011, and as agreed to in the GCC initiative and the implementation mechanism, the new unity government, with 34 cabinet posts divided equally between the ruling party and the opposition, was sworn in. It will serve until the swearing in of the new government following the presidential elections. There were widespread protests across the country when the inclusion of Saleh loyalists in the new cabinet was announced.

On 13 December, the government ordered the release of all detainees held in connection with the protests, reportedly around 1,400.

Benomar briefed the Council on 28 November and 21 December 2011 after extensive travel in the region and within Yemen. In a press statement after the 28 November briefing, the members of the Council welcomed the signing of the GCC initiative and urged all parties to honour the timetable in the implementation of the agreement. During the 21 December briefing, Benomar said that political developments following the signing of the GCC initiative and the accompanying implementation mechanism were taking place on time. However, he also noted that there remained many challenges on multiple fronts and that the forthcoming presidential elections would be a significant milestone. Members of the Council issued a press statement the following day welcoming the formation of the Government of National Unity while reiterating the call for the implementation of the GCC initiative and the implementation mechanism in a timely fashion.

On 3 December 2011, at least 30 people were reported to have been killed in Taiz during clashes between government forces and anti-government fighters.

On 10 December 2011, Tawakkul Karman, the first Arab woman and the youngest (32 years) person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, said Saleh wanted to push the country into civil war and he would not leave despite signing the GCC initiative.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen has steadily deteriorated. On 28 November the Council was briefed on this matter by Philippe Lazzarini, Deputy Director for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). On 2 December, Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator of OCHA, reiterated in a press conference that the humanitarian situation in Yemen was of deep concern.

Human Rights Related Developments
On 6 December 2011, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, deplored the recent killing of unarmed civilians in Yemen. “It is appalling and extremely disappointing that despite the successive deals and ceasefires, government security forces continue to use live ammunition against unarmed protestors”, said Pillay. She stressed that violence was not the way to resolve Yemen’s difficulties and that the government must ensure that lethal force was not used against peaceful demonstrators. Pillay also urged that the economic, social and cultural rights of Yemenis be better protected, noting that the rights to education and health had been seriously curtailed over the past ten months. UN agencies had reported that access to basic social services had been increasingly limited, directly affecting more than 100,000 children who now had limited or no access to schooling or health facilities.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is to determine what role it can play in the aftermath of the signing of the GCC initiative to minimise the violence and foster a peaceful political transition that abides by the timetables of the implementation mechanism.

A further issue for the Council is its role in ensuring the territorial integrity of Yemen and preventing any large-scale civil war.

Options
The Council’s options include:

  • simply keeping abreast of the developments in Yemen and receiving regular briefings from Benomar and the Department of Political Affairs;
  • issuing a statement encouraging Yemen’s key players to continue to engage in dialogue and ensure the full implementation of the GCC initiative and the accompanying mechanism, whilst emphasising greater unity and political inclusiveness, with the aid of the GCC; or, although less likely,
  • agreeing to a clear message that any attempt to derail the current transition process will be taken seriously by the Council and will have consequences.

Council Dynamics
Council members are aware that Yemen’s politicians, as well as the country’s public opinion, follow closely any messages coming out of the Council. Members seem to be cautiously optimistic though they are concerned that while the political developments since the adoption of resolution 2014 are encouraging, Saleh continues to interfere with the political process. Council members also seem to be in agreement that it may be time to evaluate the role of the UN in Yemen and to give thought to a longer-term engagement.

Some Council members also feel that it is necessary to send the message that there will be consequences should anyone attempt to derail the current progress in Yemen. Most members would like to maintain the current focus until the full implementation of the GCC initiative and the accompanying implementation mechanism has occurred.

The UK has the lead in the Council on Yemen.

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/2014 (21 October 2011) endorsed the GCC initiative for a peaceful transition of power.

Security Council Press Statements

  • SC/10504 (22 December 2011) welcomed the progress that had been made on implementing the GCC and reiterated their call that it be implemented in a timely and transparent manner. 
  • SC/10460 (28 November 2011) welcomed the signing of the GCC initiative.
  • SC/10394 (24 September 2011) urged all parties to reject violence.
  • SC/10357 (9 August 2011) expressed concern at the worsening economic, humanitarian and security situations.
  • SC/10296 (24 June 2011) expressed grave concern at the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation.

Other Relevant Facts

Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen

Jamal Benomar (Morocco)

Full forecast

 

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