Sarah Phillips on Yemen

The Guardian is carrying a great piece from Sarah Phillips on the struggle in Yemen, here’s a taster:

I see pictures on Facebook of my young Yemeni friends demonstrating peacefully but assertively. Some of them are carrying gruesome pictures of those killed by the regime’s snipers to bolster their argument that the president has lost his legitimacy to rule and must leave.

These heady days will remain with them on the difficult road ahead as biographical hooks in their political consciousness. The networks of trust and solidarity that are being consolidated are likely to endure. As such, they are likely to remember how external actors viewed their nascent project.

As leaderless, amorphous and uninstitutionalised as they may seem, some of these people will emerge as leaders in the future, and western policymakers would be wise to take a longer term view of the changes under way. Yemeni politics – any state’s politics – is not a zero-sum game, and here is a group of young people that wants reform and wants a seat at the table.

While the old guard may maintain power for a while longer, the current generation of Yemeni leaders has, essentially, had its day, and it is prudent policy to forge good relations with the next generation.

American policy on Yemen has taken an encouraging turn in the past week. On Wednesday, it was reported that the annual aid package – believed to be in the region of $1 billion – has been frozen until further notice, and reports suggest that the US are seeking to cultivate links with the protesters. Although difficult, this is a crucial step. Yemen’s political architecture is changing and whilst the future remains uncertain, the youth will not forget how they were treated in their time of need.

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