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Yemen Defence and Security Report 2013

Yemen defence market: New market research published

The 33-year reign of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was finally brought to an end in late February 2012 when he flew to the US for medical treatment and was replaced in the Presidential Palace by his deputy, Vice-President Abdrabbuh Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi. Saleh had ruled since 1978, initially as president of North Yemen, then as the first president of modern Yemen when North and South were unified in 1990. His removal was the result of the Yemeni Revolution, a wave of popular protests against corruption, unemployment and weak economic leadership inspired by the Arab Spring of 2011 and particularly the uprisings seen in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Violent public rallies, military defections and government resignations left Saleh with nowhere to turn and, under heavy diplomatic pressure from Saudi Arabia, he duly agreed an exit strategy with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Hadi was formally elected on February 21, following a vote with a 65% turnout in which his was the only name on the ballot paper, and the country is now preparing swingeing political reforms.

These are clearly unsettled times for Yemen. Hadi has much to do before his country can make the transition to a stable democracy. In an early meeting with UK Foreign Office Minister Alastair Burt on March 5 2012, the new president said that thwarting al-Qaeda would be a priority for his administration: We intend to confront terrorism with full force and whatever the matter we will pursue it to the very last hiding place. Hadi was speaking just days after two suicide bombers had killed 110 Yemeni soldiers in twin attacks on two military outpost in the southern city of Zinjibar. The Islamist militants belonged to Ansar al-Sharia, a cell with known links to al-Qaeda, the terrorist organisation having seized upon Yemens recent political upheaval to set down roots in the temporarily weakened country.

Hadi also moved quickly to reform the countrys military, many of its top positions being occupied by relatives of Saleh still loyal to the old regime. Hadi removed four governors and 12 generals in an April 2012 purge, including Salehs half-brother Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, who had been Yemens air force commander for over 20 years and was deeply unpopular with his troops. Hadi also replaced Salehs nephew as the head of the presidential guard, winning the backing of the US in the process. The expresidents son Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh retained command of the Republican Guard, however. Hadi has since brought together three brigades of the Republican Guard with one from the First Armoured Division (FAD) to serve as his Presidential Protection Force, the FAD being controlled by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a man once loyal to Saleh but who eventually turned against him.

We expect Yemen to spend US$2.19bn on defence in 2013, a 13.09% (year-on-year) y-o-y increase following on from a 20.02% y-o-y hike in 2012. Hadi himself was a former defence minister before becoming vice-president, so will well understand its role and the challenges the ministry currently faces.

Unifying the armed forces after the divisions that emerged within its ranks in 2011 will be a major task and an important one for Hadi to get right if he is to bolster internal security, especially as tensions between the North and South still exist and threaten to erupt into another bloody civil war as they did in 1994. Questions have already been raised about the new presidents relationship with General Ali Mohsen, who is known for his violent past and close political affiliations with the Islamist party Isah, the countrys dominant opposition. Observers fear that nepotism and patronage could again take root in the political hierarchy as they did under Saleh if Hadi allows himself to become embroiled in internal power struggles rather than listening to the concerns of his people.

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