In Yemen there is a massive coalition of protesters seeking the removal of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. On the other side are pro-government supporters of Saleh. In the capitol of Sanaa, both sides are entrenched and heavily armed.
With this standoff comes the horrifying prospect of more bloodshed, such as last week’s massacre which killed over 50 protesters.
There is intense anger. Both sides have a choice in the coming days. Protesters and the pro-Saleh forces can take actions that plunge the country into more violence–and perhaps even civil war. Or both sides can make choices toward a peaceful resolution of this crisis. They can choose what direction to steer the country and what legacy will be associated with their name: Peace or violent conflict.
President Obama says, “It is more important than ever for all sides to participate in an open and transparent process that addresses the legitimate concerns of the Yemeni people, and provides a peaceful, orderly and democratic path to a stronger and more prosperous nation.”
For Yemen, there is no real alternative to peace. This country has had enough conflict. There are still hundreds of thousands of people displaced from the war in northern Yemen between the government and rebels.
One in 3 people in Yemen suffer from hunger. Many can barely afford bread. There is a growing shortage of water. The education system is broken and there is a low literacy rate. Yemen has one of the highest infant malnutrition rates. What better indicates the state of a country than the health of its youngest? There is an Al Qaeda presence in the country. Unemployment rates are high.
People in Yemen are demanding a better life. They deserve to have it. But only peacemakers in this country can help bring it to them. These are the voices of reason that can get Yemen through this standoff and on to tackling the great challenges facing the country.