One year after the beginning of the revolution, Yemen’s Change Square is still bustling with activity. Protesters remain demonstrating in the Square, unconvinced that the Gulf Co-operation Council plan (GCC) and the upcoming elections are real democratic change and skeptical that the Saleh family will actually give up power. Hundreds of tents full of men and women that have been camping out in the square for almost one year remain inhabited by unsatisfied citizens determined to keep fighting for the change they wish to see.
After more than 10 months of revolution and more than 32 years as president, President Ali Abdullah Saleh finally signed the GCC in November 2011, marking the beginning of the transition of power and the formation of the new government. Unfortunately, when speaking to the average Yemeni about the changes in Yemen post-GCC, most people say nothing has changed. Although Yemen is in the “transition period,” there is still a lack of electricity and water, armed check points throughout the city, and opposing armies still control different neighborhoods. Extremists groups associated with Al Qaeda have taken control over Rad’a, just 100 miles outside of the capital, and there is still a high level of insecurity in Sana’a, not to mention violent conflict in various regions in the north and south. Considering these factors, it is no surprise that many Yemenis continue to feel the lingering threat of civil war.
The GCC calls for Saleh to hand over power to his vice president Abd-Rabbo Mansur Hadi. The ruling party, General Peoples Congress (GPC), and the opposition coalition, Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) agreed upon this. Thus, many are asking, what is the point of elections? Hadi is the only candidate in the presidential election taking place on February 21st 2012. Masses of Yemenis have decided to boycott this ‘election,’ explaining that this is not the democratic process they have been fighting for and highlighting the fact that no Western country would agree to stage an election with only one candidate who has already been chosen to take power. Violence is expected to erupt around the elections, especially in Aden where the southern secessionist movement continues to gain influence.
The new government, consisting of 35 ministers, is also the product of GPC and JMP negotiations. Many of the same faces remain in the government and youth and women continue to struggle for representation. There are only three women ministers, just one more than in Saleh’s regime. Youth have almost no barging power and have been largely excluded from the new Yemen, although they were initially the driving force behind the revolution. As one youth leader in Change Square said, “This government is just as corrupt as the last!”
Yet, for the average person in Sana’a, the lack of electricity and water is the number one concern. In the last few months, there have been dozens of protests throughout the capital demanding basic services rather than political change. For the last year, Sana’a has seen only a couple of hours of electricity a day. At night the city rumbles with the sound of generators. But as the price of petrol continues to skyrocket, more and more of Sana’a is left in the dark. Furthermore, in many neighborhoods, the government has stopped supplying water.
Many were hopeful that the transition would bring working faucets, democratic processes, demilitarization, and proper representation of women and youth. Thus far, the new Yemen has not addressed any of these issues.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons