President Saleh: Turning a blind-eye to humanitarian crisis

Ali Abdullah Saleh, former president of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) from 1978 and president of the newly united Yemen (North and South Yemen) from 1990 up until 2012, when he was ousted. When he initially came into power, expectations for his presidency were very low. The US Central Intelligence Agency predicted that he wouldn’t last 6 months in office; very far off from his 33 years in power. Despite winning the presidential election of 96% in 1999 and 77% of the vote in 2006, his popularity quickly decreased. Saleh was already unpopular with the South, who were very frustrated by the economic climate and the power being in the hands of the northern-dominated government.


Whilst president, Saleh completely turned a blind-eye and did not address any of the critical issues hitting the nation, such as shortage of food and water and high unemployment rates. It has been said that Saleh and his family greatly benefited from the corrupt government. This was up until 2011 when the Yemeni Revolution began as a result of the Arab Spring, with anti-government protests highlighting these issues and causing months of unrest. The protestor’s demands quickly escalated and called for the resignation of Saleh. After months of demonstrations, Saleh finally agreed to a deal however, at the last minute he refused. This angered the opposition even more so they launched missiles at the presidential palace, injuring Saleh, which resulted in him flying to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Months later, he returned to Yemen and finally signed an agreement handing over the power to Vice President, Hadi. After signing the agreement, Saleh said, ‘I hand over the banner of the revolution, of the republic, of freedom, of security and of stability… to safe hands’. This description of Yemen is absurd, describing a country that is almost polar opposite to the Yemen that currently exists. In 2015, the Saudi Arabia led Intervention began with the aim to reverse the takeover of the Houthi rebels. Since the handover of power, Saleh and the Houthis (a religious political movement) have formed a close political alliance, despite them being rivals whilst he was President.

Paige Middleton


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