Yemen Brief History

Arab Republic of Yemen (North Yemen). −Under the presidency of ῾Alī ῾Abdallāh Sāliḥ, elected in July 1978, the Yemen of the North juggled for a long time among the solicitations for unification advanced by the Yemen of the South and, inside the country, by the left of the Front national democratic, which also led a guerrilla action, and the will of Saudi Arabia and the local conservative forces to prevent any evolution in a progressive sense. Interference from Saudi Arabia, conserved with a parallel initiative by the United States, came to the blockade of financial assistance in 1980. This was answered by Ṣan῾ā”s decision – after Sāliḥ’s re-election to the presidency of the Republic on May 22, 1983 – to turn to the USSR for aid until he signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Moscow in October 1984. As a consequence of this, despite the tragedy of the civil war that stirred the Yemen of the South in January-February 1986 (the former president ῾Alī al-Nāṣir Muḥammad took refuge in the Yemen of the North with numerous followers), the hypothesis d ‘a connection between the two Y’s did not completely fade, so much so that on 1 July, M. Gaddafi hopes, President Sāliḥ met in Tripoli with his counterpart from the South, Ḥaydar Abu Bakr al-῾Attās. Another important diplomatic initiative was the mission carried out in Ṣan῾ā ‘and Aden by the Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sa῾ūd Muḥammad al-Usaymī, in charge of facilitating the improvement of relations between the two countries.

In July 1988, according to The Country Tutor, elections were held for the renewal of the People’s Council (increased to 159 members, 31 of which were appointed by the Head of State), which in the same month re-elected Sāliḥ for the third time as president of the Republic. ῾Abd al-῾Azīz ῾Abd al-Ġanī was confirmed prime minister. Orienting himself among the various groupings of Arab states, it was Sāliḥ himself who signed on February 16, 1989 in Baghdād, joining the Arab Cooperation Council.

People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen). – With the appointment as Head of State – after the physical elimination of his predecessor Sālim Rubayyi῾ “Alī – of ῾Abd al-Fattāh Ismā῾īl, general secretary of the Yemeni Socialist Party, on December 27, 1978, the problem of instability of the Southern Yemen was not resolved. Having set up a strictly pro-Soviet policy with the signing in Moscow of a twenty-year agreement of cooperation and friendship (25 October 1979), Ismā῾īl did not hesitate to develop a controversy with the Irāq, until then a firm supporter of the Yemen of the South, due to the anti-communist turn that took place there. These choices were perhaps at the root of its replacement, on April 21, 1980, by the prime minister ῾Alī al-Nāṣir Muḥammad who, while safeguarding the relations with Moscow, as new president he initiated an orientation of greater availability towards moderate Arab countries, which culminated at the end of 1982 in the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with ῾Omān. Moreover, Muḥammad was unable to consolidate his power, and in January 1986 another and more dramatic crisis broke out in Aden.

On January 3, Abd al-Fattāh Ismā῾īl and other politicians were suddenly executed on charges of plotting a coup d’etat; ten days later, however, while violent clashes followed in the capital, the Central Committee of the party dismissed Muḥammad (who took refuge with numerous followers in the North Yemen) and appointed Prime Minister Ḥaydar Abu Bakr al-῾Attās as the new head of state, who at that time was in Moscow: the Supreme People’s Council, on February 8, confirmed al-῾Attās in office and appointed Yāsīn Sa῾īd Nu῾mān as prime minister. The following months were made difficult by the need to restore order, even if an amnesty was proclaimed already in March which allowed the return of several exiles. Shortly after, land and air connections between Aden and Ṣan῾ā ‘were restored,

On October 28-30, elections were held for the renewal of the Supreme People’s Council: 71 seats went to the Yemeni Socialist Party, 40 to the independents. The Council appointed the 15 members of the presidium on 6 November and al-῾Attās, elected president, was officially confirmed as Head of State. One of the last consequences of the 1986 upheavals was the conclusion on December 12, 1987, after a year of trials, of the trial against Muḥammad and 141 other co-defendants: of the 35 death sentences, 24 were commuted to 15 years in prison, 5 were carried out; among these, those against AH Mūsā, former head of the aviation, and MS Aḥmad, former commander of the Presidential Guard. Muḥammad and others remained in default.

A phase of normalization thus emerged, marked by the diplomatic resumption with ῾Omān and the reestablishment of relations with Egypt (February 1988). The five-year plan for economic and social development 1986-90 was also approved, and by virtue of an agreement with the USSR it was possible to begin construction of a 230 km long oil pipeline from Šabwa to the coast.

Republic of Yemen – The relaxing developments between the two Ys, which emerged at the end of the 1980s, but especially the international evolution (the end of the Soviet system and the lack of aid from the USSR required a profound rethinking of the leaders of the Yemen South) caused an acceleration in the process of rapprochement between the two Yemeni states. This process, after the approval of a new Constitution, was consecrated on May 22, 1990 with the merger of the two states of the North and the South into the Republic of Yemen: in this way the North would see, among other things, increase its own bargaining force against Saudi Arabia, while the South thought it could safeguard the essential social specificities of its structure. It was also calculated that a larger and stronger state reality would have guaranteed a safer exploitation of the oil resources that were being discovered. ῾Abdallāh Sāliḥ (former president of the North) was designated as president, and the southern Alī Salām al-Biḍ as vice-president.

The unitary choice also made it possible to face more adequately the problems raised by the invasion of Kuwait by the ‘Irāq. The Yemen took an attitude against the Iraqi action, but also against the US-led military expedition against ῾Irāq. In the two-year period 1991-92, the commitment to develop the integration between Ṣan῾ā ‘and Aden continued with good results, although difficulties, misunderstandings and rivalries continually re-emerged. The results of the general elections held on April 27, 1993 made the divergent thrusts explicit: despite the general unitary commitment, the main party was confirmed as the General People’s Congress (northern) with 121 seats, to which was added the support of 25 deputies elected as independent; it was opposed by the Yemeni Socialist Party, rooted in the South, to which 56 deputies went, 13 independent members of which were affiliated. The Union for Reform emerged as a needle of the balance (al-Iṣlāḥ), of fundamentalist inspiration and led by Sheikh ῾Abdallāh al-Aḥmar, to whom 62 deputies went. On May 15 al-Aḥmar was elected president of Parliament: a choice that marked, on the one hand, the realization of the agreement between the General People’s Congress and the fundamentalist movement, and on the other the divergence with the Socialist Party. Thus, on the one hand, the vice-president of the Republic, al-Biḍ, although confirmed, moved permanently to Aden (19 August), on the other, the ideologue of Iṣlāḥ, ῾Abd al-Maǧīd Zandanī, was elected by the Parliament to serve on the five-member presidential council (11 October).

Mutual distrust, political assassinations (especially of leaders of the Yemeni Socialist Party), hostility between tribal clans, polemics over economic policy and administrative decentralization were therefore accentuating. This negative evolution could not even be stopped by the work of a conciliation commission composed of the General People’s Congress and the Socialist Party: following the signing of ῾Ammān, with the mediation of King Ḥusayn of Jordan, of a solemn agreement (February 20, 1994), new clashes occurred which quickly escalated into an armed confrontation between Ṣan῾ā ‘and Aden. The civil war reached its climax in May with a Northern advance on Aden and the proclamation in the South of a ‘ ephemeral independent republic with al-Biḍ as president and Abu Bakr al-῾Attās as prime minister (21 May). After a prolonged siege Aden fell on 7 July into the hands of forces loyal to President Sāliḥ; the secessionist leaders fled abroad. In September 1994 Sāliḥ introduced some amendments to the Constitution, on the basis of which the Presidential Council was abolished and the election of the President by universal suffrage was decided. Islamic law (Sari in) would form the basis of legislation. On 1 October Sāliḥ was re-elected president and appointed ῾Abd al-῾Azīz ῾Abd al-Ġanī as prime minister. In the government, out of 27 departments, 9 went to the Islamic Union.

Yemen Brief History