Yemen’s Transition of Power

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.

The official signing of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) initiative calling on President Saleh to step down—in exchange for his immunity from prosecution—has raised many hopes about the course of Yemen’s crisis. However, not everyone in Yemen has been comfortable with this trade-off of peace for justice, especially the youth. As I explain in my chapter “Yemen: The Search for Stability and Development” in The Arab Awakening: America and the Transformation of the Middle East, the Arab Spring has instigated a nonviolent youth movement that presents both opportunity and risk. Many of them continue protesting in Change Square, insisting that Saleh step down and be prosecuted for human rights violations. Meanwhile, the parliamentary opposition led by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP), has officially endorsed the agreement, which it signed with Saleh in Riyadh in late November.

Over a month after signing of the deal, the parties have made noticeable progress towards an orderly transition of power in Yemen. A presidential election date has been set for February 21, a new government led by the opposition has been formed, and a committee to reform the military and security institutions has been established. The international community has demonstrated a unique consensus fully supporting the implementation of the GCC initiative. Though important, this consensus is not enough to guarantee that peace will prevail in Yemen, as the GCC initiative has in fact preserved a stability that is in reality fragile and unsustainable. In addition, the deal failed to resolve the power struggle between the various military and social forces in Yemen. More importantly, the immunity granted to Saleh may well be challenged by the victims’ families, the youth, and other rights groups—and eventuality could trigger Saleh to withdraw from the agreement.

While the GCC deal may be imperfect, it could be improved by building trust between stakeholders and immediately initiating a national dialogue that allows the revolutionary youth to be included in the process. Furthermore, a strong and thorough implementation plan must guide the process in the coming few months to guarantee the collaboration of all involved parties. Finally, the international community must invest in peace in Yemen and support socio-economic development and job creation, as this will be one of the major issues that will determine the durability of stability in the future.