Yemen, the poorest nation in the Middle East, has witnessed its third straight day of anti-government protests as hundreds of demonstrators squared off against police in the capital city of Sanaa.
No doubt emboldened by Egyptian protesters who toppled Hosni Mubarak, their Yemeni counterparts are demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and democratic reforms.
According to press reports, Sanaa protesters shouted a Yemeni revolution after the Egyptian revolution.”
Saleh has been in office since 1978 (even before Mubarak took over Egypt) has promised to resign in 2013. He has also vowed he would offer new economic incentives and other concessions.
But protesters are skeptical given that he has made similar pledges before.
So far everything that we've heard are just words, but we are waiting for action, we are waiting for him to deliver, said Yassine Naman, the leader of Yemen's opposition socialist party, according to media reports. He is the weakest he's been in a long time.”
Not only is Yemen poverty-stricken – 40 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day -- but it faces many other formidable problems, including a rapidly expanding population (more than two-thirds of Yemenis are under the age of 24), the presence of al-Qaeda militants, rebels in the north, and a separatist movement in the southern region of the country.
Yemen, an ancient tribal land, is also burdened by 35 percent joblessness, while more than half the people cannot read nor write.
Moreover, analysts have pointed out that an all-out protest as seen in Egypt and Tunisia is unlikely to occur in Yemen. For one thing, Saleh is supported by tribal chieftains who wield enormous power in their fiefdoms. Also, with very few Yemenis with access to the internet, instant communication between opposition groups will be difficult.