Yemen’s suffering will only be alleviated when it is released from this chokehold
An end to the Houthi-Saleh alliance is long overdue
During his 33-year-long reign as president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh fought at least half a dozen wars with the Houthis. Enmity between the two was an unchanging feature of Yemeni politics. But the old foes set aside their differences and entered into a marriage of convenience after Mr Saleh was compelled to quit the presidency in 2012 by the widespread protests.
Since then, this self-serving alliance has brought nothing but misery to the people of Yemen. Collectively, they have driven out the legitimate government of Yemen, besieged its capital, emptied out its treasury, wrecked its economy and presided over the transformation of the country into a theatre of deprivation and affliction. Diseases that are obsolete in much of the rest of the world are rife in Yemen: cholera alone has claimed 2,000 Yemeni lives and infected half a million more. More than 10,000 Yemenis have died in this conflict.
This is why the rupture in the opportunistic partnership between Mr Saleh and the Houthis must be welcomed. It is this alliance forged against a national process for critical transition that necessitated intervention by Yemen’s neighbours, including the UAE. Now the nightmare has to end, if only to ensure that further incidents of bloodshed are avoided.
It is important, however, to remember that while the Houthi-Saleh combine has suffocated Yemenis, even stopping many Yemenis from performing the Hajj, the coalition has sought to create a viable future for Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among the largest international aid donors to Yemen. Last month, the UAE donated $10m to fight the cholera outbreak in Yemen. And Saudi Arabia is improving infrastructure at multiple ports in Yemen to speed up aid delivery. But infusions of foreign money cannot end the suffering of Yemenis. That will only happen when Yemen is released from the chokehold of the Houthis and Mr Saleh. This moment must be seized.
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