Thirty protesters have just been killed in shootings at a pro-democracy rally in Yemen. Its the highest toll so far in weeks of protests. If there was ever a case for bringing the international community together to forge a Comprehensive Peace Agreement with opposing groups in a country before a civil war, Yemen today is that case.
Yemen already suffers an unresolved war around the northern town of Sa’ada between the government and rebels who claim to advocate for the Houthi religious minority. Thousands have been displaced. Yemen also hosts tens of thousands of African Horn refugees, and stands in the crossfire between the U.S. and anti-Western terror groups. Now – while concerned global citizens for good reason have their eyes on Libya – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has made moves indicating that he is raising a cloak to hide his next moves to repress pro-democracy protesters.
Yemen spent the last few weeks expelling and clamping down on journalists who covered protests against the government, including reporters for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Al Jazeera, then allegedly participated in, or at least did not do enough to stop or discourage, these latest killings of protesters. As the government obstructs coverage, violence is happening more often.
Despite the clamp down, at least two Yemeni publications, Al Masdar (in Arabic) and the Yemen Times (in English) are still attempting to bring out breaking news stories on the confrontation between government forces and protesters, but it’s hard to know the degree of objectivity in their reporting.
President Saleh did offer concessions to protesters, and now leaders in the business community and international community, even rebel leaders, are offering proposals for talks to resolve the multi-layered crisis, but Saleh has not made moves to indicate that he is ready to leave office or negotiate new elections fairly. Instead, Yemen’s security forces stand by as witnesses claim some of their elements, along with unidentified snipers, have used violence against peaceful protesters.
Consider what a terrific precedent it could be for a peace agreement to be forged in Yemen which includes not only the violence in the north but also the national concerns motivating the current protests in the rest of the country before thousands are potentially killed.