Yemen's 'day of rage'

Today has been declared a "day of rage" in Yemen and a demonstration is about to start in Sanaa as I write. This follows a series of protests in the capital last month (here and here) in which several thousands took part. The organisers are hoping for a much bigger turnout today – but that remains to be seen.

Jane Novak, who blogs about Yemen, says the protest has been switched at the last minute from Tahrir Square (like Cairo, Sanaa has one too) to the new university roundabout due to "regime thugs camped out in Tahrir Square with car loads of guns".

The interior ministry announced yesterday that it has set up roadblocks around Sanaa and stepped up its security forces – supposedly to stop people smuggling weapons into the city.

Meanwhile some (but not all) of the government websites have 
gone down, including the websites of the president and parliament. It is possible they have been attacked by the Anonymous hacking group.

A Yemeni website,, with a mirror site at, is covering the events in Arabic, but Twitter and Facebook are not playing much of a part in the Yemeni protests. Internet penetration in the country is less than 2%, compared with 21% in Egypt and 34% in Tunisia.

New WikiLeaks document

Coinciding with today's protests, WikiLeaks has released a new US embassy memo from June 2005, headed: "Priorities for Washington visit: Saleh needs to be part of the solution".

Among other things, the document says: "Saleh touts Yemen as a leader in regional reform and has committed to democratisation. Domestically, however, he has run out of reforms he can implement at no political cost to himself." It also says: 

"Rampant official corruption impedes foreign investment, economic growth, and comprehensive development ... MCC [the Millennium Challenge Corporation] provides the opportunity to commit the [government of Yemen] to a serious plan to combat endemic corruption. Saleh's feet must be held to the fire on what has thus far been mere lip service. MCC membership serves as both a carrot and stick in this regard."

The MCC is a US government agency that works with developing countries for the promotion of good governance, economic freedom and investment.

In November 2005 – five months after the leaked memo was written – Yemen was suspended from eligibility for the MCC's Threshold Programme "due to a deterioration in performance on the eligibility indicators". It was reinstated in 2007, "due to a demonstrated commitment to reform, particularly to reforms that address policy slippage".

In September 2007, the MCC granted Yemen $20.6 million to help it "fight corruption and improve the rule of law, political rights, fiscal policy and government effectiveness".


Posted by Brian Whitaker, 3 Feb 2011