Air strike in Sanaa, Yemen, 5 November 2015

Political situation Disintegration of a country – rival power groups

The establishment of the Republic of Yemen in 1990 and the so-called Arab Spring reform movement twenty years later gave rise to hopes that the country would stabilise and become more democratic. However, these hopes have not been fulfilled.

The current (2022) Fragile States Index (External link) published by the non-governmental organisation Fund for Peace lists Yemen as the world's most fragile state. Rebels from the Houthi movement have been fighting against the country's government since 2004. Large parts of the north of the country are under their control. Other players in the civil war are regional branches of the Al-Qaeda and “Islamic State” terrorist networks. In 2015, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in the conflict. The coalition supports the official government.

In April 2022, President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi stepped down. Yemen has since officially been governed by a Presidential Leadership Council, which has eight members. Some southern regions, especially around the port city of Aden, are controlled by the Southern Transitional Council, which advocates independence for the country's southern part.

According to the United Nations, the conflict had already claimed about 380,000 lives by early 2023. Most of these people died from indirect consequences of the fighting such as food shortages and inadequate health care.

Human rights

Experts consider the human rights situation in Yemen to be disastrous. Especially since the beginning of the intervention of the military coalition in 2015, serious human rights violations have increased significantly.

A report published by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (External link) in September 2020 accuses both sides of actions that may amount to war crimes, including the killing of civilians, torture, rape, and the recruitment of child soldiers. There are massive restrictions on the freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.

Diplomatic efforts

Brokered by UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg, a two-month ceasefire was agreed between the parties to the conflict in April 2022, which was then extended to October 2022 and has since continued unofficially, accompanied by confidence-building measures. They have included the import of larger quantities of fuel, the temporary opening of Sana'a airport, and talks about opening up roads into the contested city of Taiz in south-western Yemen.

The successful efforts of the UN Special Envoy provide a basis for starting political talks and agreeing a lasting nationwide ceasefire. It remains to be seen whether it will be possible to stabilise the situation.

As at: 28/03/2023