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The causes behind the Yemini conflict

By Peter Bowden - posted Monday, 10 December 2018

This avid reader of every news blog that appears on his screen had long wondered what were the causes behind the Yemini war. And which side had started the war. The lack of explanations for the war initiated several hours of digging. Here are the results. Those who know better are urged to comment.

The Yemen conflict appears to be a power conflict between two would-be presidents who wanted power; with overtones of a Shia – Sunni religious conflict. But it also goes back to the legacy left by British colonial powers. In 1962, Yemen's northern and southern regions were governed separately. North Yemen was an independent state ruled since the 1930s by a monarchy, while South Yemen was under British colonial administration. In September that year factions within the armed forces in North Yemen overthrew the monarch, Imam Muḥammad al-Badr, and proclaimed the Yemen Arab Republic. Al-Badr evaded capture and rallies tribal support, leading to a civil war. Saudi Arabia, ever conservative, intervened on behalf of the monarch. In South Yemen a newly formed nationalist group, the National Liberation Front, launches a guerrilla campaign against the British. In 1962,the British withdraw. The Royal Marines, who had been the first British troops to occupy Aden in 1839, were the last to leave.

The royalists and republicans in North Yemen reach a reconciliation in 1970. That same year South Yemen renamed itself the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, aligning itself with the Soviet Union and embarking on a socialist development program.


In October 1972, fighting erupted between north and south; North Yemen was supplied by Saudi Arabia while South Yemen was supplied by the USSR.

Following the cease-fire, both sides agree to political unification, but relations between the two countries deteriorated in the following year, stalling unification.

Following the assassination of two presidents of North Yemen in two years, Ali Abdulla Saleh becomes president of North Yemen in 1978.

.Another brief war broke out between North and South Yemen in 1979. Hostilities are ended with a unification agreement that once again collapsed.

After months of negotiations, the Republic of Yemen is proclaimed on May 22, 1990 uniting North and South Yemen. Ali Abdullah Saleh of the north became Head of State.

The newly united Yemen suffered international isolation and economic losses when it opposed the use of force to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion that prompted the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). This was the war waged by 35 nations, at the initiative of the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait. Led by Saudi Arabia, several Arab countries cut off aid to Yemen and expelled Yemeni workers.


Yemen held its first direct presidential elections in September 1999, electing the existing President Ali Abdullah Saleh to a 5-year term.

In 2004 Government forces suppressed a rebellion around the northern town of Ṣaʿdah. The conflict was sparked by the government's attempt to arrest Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a Zaidi religious leader of the Houthis and a former parliamentarian on whose head the government had placed a $55,000 bounty. The rebels, led by members of the al-Houthi family, a Zaydi Shiite clan, called for the preservation of Zaydi religious identity .They condemned the Saleh regime as pro-Western. Zaydis make up about 42% of Muslims in Yemen, with the vast majority of Shia Muslims in the country being Zaydi. The Washington Institute tells us that Yemen's Zaidis are " A Window for Iranian Influence " (February 2, 2015).

Ali Abdullah Saleh ruled Yemen for more than 30 years in total. He was forced to resign as part of the 2011 Arab Spring revolt. On February 20 thousands of Yemeni university students and recent graduates staged a sit-in on the campus of Sanaa University, vowing not to end their protest until Saleh stepped down as president. Thousands of inmates rioted at the central prison in the capital, also calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. One person was killed and over 100 were injured. Saleh resisted calls for his ouster, saying that his early departure would cause chaos in the country.

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About the Author

Peter Bowden is an author, researcher and ethicist. He was formerly Coordinator of the MBA Program at Monash University and Professor of Administrative Studies at Manchester University. He is currently a member of the Australian Business Ethics Network , working on business, institutional, and personal ethics.

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