Winds of Arab revolt reach Yemen

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Yemeni capital yesterday to demand the end of the three-decade rule of its President in the latest sign of rebellion sweeping the Arab world.

With satin pink sashes around their shoulders and carrying pink placards to mirror the so-called "jasmine revolution" of Tunisia, demonstrators called for an "end to the regime" of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"Game over," read one banner, carried by a 20-year-old protester from the University of Sanaa, who shouted "We want change like Tunisia."

Despite the size of the crowds, believed to be the largest political demonstration since Mr Saleh came to power in the Arab Peninsula's poorest country in 1978, riot police and soldiers kept a low profile.

"No major clashes or arrests occurred, and police presence was minimal. The government strongly respects the democratic right for a peaceful assembly," a government spokesman said.

Even before the outbreak of popular anger, Mr Saleh faced more challenges than most: a secessionist movement in the south, an on-off rebellion in the north, and a resurgent branch of al-Qa'ida that has entrenched itself in remote parts of Yemen.

But analysts suggest that it is precisely the disparate and chaotic nature of the opposition that will prevent a Tunisian-style revolution from sweeping Mr Saleh from power.

The President, whom many accuse of overseeing a corrupt regime that has failed to tackle economic grievances, has reacted to the unrest by backtracking on plans to seek another term in 2013, and fending off accusations that he will try to hand power to his son.

He has also promised to slash taxes and cap food prices, while raising salaries of civil servants and the military – probably to ensure the army's loyalty. In a speech on Sunday, the President asked for "the pardon of Yemeni people, if I have made a mistake or failed in my duty," according to state news agency Saba.

Yemen remains desperately poor, and its oil reserves, which make up 70 per cent of the government's revenue, are dwindling, denting the government's ability to dispense patronage and quell dissent. Nearly half of all Yemenis live in poverty, and unemployment is at least 35 per cent. Flooding and conflict have made thousands homeless.

In Tunisia, an educated but disaffected middle class called for change. Social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, were crucial in galvanising people to join the uprising.

Yemen is still largely a tribal society, its middle class is much weaker and less politically savvy than its more prosperous regional peers, and the internet has a much more limited reach.

Washington has thrown money at Yemen – making up in part for lost oil revenues – and is keen for the government to remain stable to avoid leaving a vacuum that al-Qa'ida could fill.

The main challenge to Mr Saleh, analysts say, would come if the various opposition groups were to look beyond their own grievances to mount a broader challenge. Until then, it looks as if it could take more than mass protests to remove Mr Saleh from his 32-year rule.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick