Staggering along in Yemen

Chatham House, the foreign affairs thinktank, has issued a progress report on Yemen's post-Saleh transition – though I'm not sure "progress" is the right word to describe it.

"With attention focused on the National Dialogue process," it says, "the transition government is paying insufficient attention to Yemen’s economic crisis." 

Distribution of the $6.4 billion in international aid promised at the Riyadh donor conference last September has stalled because of "disagreements over mechanisms for delivering the aid". 

That is a polite way of saying donors are worried about the money falling into the hands of Yemen's various patronage networks – though the report does add that this need not be a barrier to humanitarian aid which is "less subject to political conditions".

President Hadi has also been accused of trying to build his own patronage network – "Abyanising" the government with appointees from his home province – but so far this hasn't gone beyond his inner circle, the report says.

One potentially positive development is that political rivalries in the transitional (coalition) government "has been the provision to civil society of valuable evidence of government corruption, as each party has been leaking documents and details of the other’s corrupt practices". 

"However, this increased flow of information has not been paralleled by any institutional response or signs of reform."

With the traditional elite and the establish patronage networks still firmly in place, Yemen is facing "a systemic crisis of representation" which neither the National Dialogue nor the inclusion of former opposition parties in the government is likely to change.

One consequence of this is that the youth movement which played a key role in the uprising against President Saleh has been sidelined from the transition process, though it still has influence on some issues. As a result, young Yemenis are increasingly being drawn towards the Houthi movement "as the only credible opposition to established political elites", the report suggests.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 5 February 2013