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Yemen's family wars

With attention focused on the Syria and the struggles of post-revolutionary governments in Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, there hasn't been much information on Yemen's state of affairs. Which is why it's great to get some insightful reports this week from the Brookings Doha Center, the Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan and scholar and author Gregory Johnsen writing in The National newspaper (Johnsen's book on Yemen, The Last Refuge, was just released this week in the U.K. Highly recommend.)

This was a video photojournalist Jim Rankin shot from our travels in Sanaa last year - a lot of uncertainty at the time:



According to Raghavan, as many had predicted, Yemen's three most influential families "continue to cast a large shadow over the political transition." He writes:

"Unlike leaders of other nations altered by the Arab Spring revolutions, Yemen’s elites were neither jailed nor exiled, and they have remained inside the country, free to operate as they will.

The continuity has helped prevent Yemen from descending into a Syria-like civil war or erupting into the violent political turmoil seen in Egypt and Tunisia. But the elites’ lingering influence has also impeded Yemen’s progress, say activists, analysts and Western diplomats."

Johnsen's take is even more bleak: "Yemen is a broken country and no one - not the US, Saudi Arabia or any of the varied Yemeni factions - has the strength to put it back together again." As Johnsen notes, we are halfway through what was supposed to be a two-year political transition period. "(O)ne year left. The clock is ticking."

Brookings' Deputy Director Ibrahim Sharqieh (on Twitter: @sharqieh) outlines steps required to ensure a successful national reconciliation period, including providing a "full account of offenses committed under (former President Ali Abdullah) Saleh's rule."

"Avoiding the past because it is painful or controversial will only complicate the process of reconciliation and lead to instability in the future," Sharqieh writes. Here's the full 36-page report: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/02/11-yemen-national-reconciliation-sharqieh.


Michelle Shephard is the Toronto Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recepient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm


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