Yemen is located on the Arabian Peninsula and is the poorest country in the region. The present Yemen was formed in 1990 through the merge of former states of north and south Yemen. Efforts of the government to form a modern state that is unified have met many hurdles such as north-south segmentation based on religious sectarian differences, disputes over apportioning of oil revenues and political rivalries. The incumbent president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Salih was reelected in 2006 with a popular vote of 77%. Despite having a central government, most parts of Yemen are ruled by powerful tribal leader. The tribal leaders exert more authority in these areas more than the central government.
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Due to subdivisions among the Yemenis population as well as poverty in which the population lives in, Yemen has been a scene of random violence and kidnappings. It is approximated that there are 60 million firearms in the hands of the public in a population of about 20 million people. The kidnappings are mainly carried out by dissatisfied groups as a means of forcing the central government to finance projects in their area or improve the infrastructure. The kidnappings are mainly targeted to Yemen officials and foreign tourists. However, the hostages are well cared for and usually released in good health.
Due to the persisting climate of anarchy in much of Yemen, some terrorist groups have found opportunities to maintain their presence in Yemen. Such group is al-Qaida. Al-Qaeda is believed to have sympathizers and operatives in the eastern part of Yemen called al Hadramut. This is the ancestral land of al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. United States has been a major target for al-Qaida and in September 2001 terrorist attack on Washington is believed to have been carried out by the group.
With scarce and rapidly depleting natural resources, a stultifying illiteracy rate, and rapidly growing population, Yemen is faced by a range of scaring development challenges. These challenges are so much that some observers think that Yemen is at risk for turning into a failed state in the near future. More than 43% of Yemenis population lives below the poverty line (Padro & Sharp, 2007). The country is faced with serious water scarcity and water demand has forced people to dig deeper wells and as result causing depletion of underground water reserves at an alarming rate. The problem of water scarcity is further compounded by the fact that 45% of water used in agriculture is not conserved and instead allowed to go to waste. Moreover cultivation of qat, a natural stimulant, is rapidly depleting the water resources.
Bilateral relations between Yemen and USA
The relationship between United States and Yemen has been generally good though occasionally marred by differences the Arab-Israeli conflict. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on United States, U.S. officials have welcomed Yemen’s backing for the war on terrorism. Uncertain attitudes among the Yemeni public around any western military presence, however has caused government of Yemen to somehow play down U.S.-Yemeni military and intelligence associations. Nonetheless, the U.S. government sees Yemen as an important for the American national security. Since the resumption of giving aid to Yemenis government in 2003, U.S. through USAID has steadily increased its aid programs for Yemen. Also U.S. military and economic aid to Yemen has increased dramatically. For the 2011 financial year, the Obama administration is looking for $106.6 million in foreign aid for Yemen, which is well above previous amounts of $67 million in the 2010 financial year. Yemen has received increasing assistance from U.S. 1206 Department of Defense (DOD). In the 2010 financial year DOD is giving Yemen approximately $150 million in assistance (Sharp, 2010).
United States funds several development projects in various sectors. For example in the health sector, USAID has funded various projects. An example of such project is Queen of Sheba safe Motherhood Project. It is a four year community based project supporting performance of the Yemenis health sector, and finally, the health of the population.
In the education sector, USAID has funded projects in the effort to increase the literacy levels among the Yemenis populace. Literacy rates in Yemen stands at 49% for males and 33% for females (Padro & Sharp, 2007). One third of Yemeni children do not have access to primary school education and hence a need for over ten thousand new schools to be constructed in upcoming years to cater for the education of a rapidly growing population. This is according to Yemen’s Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. In the 2004 USAID In collaboration with other U.S agencies implemented a three-year program in three governorates of Amran, Mareb, and Shabwah to improve the basic education especially for women and children.
Through the project women and girls were able to learn how to read and write basic numeracy. It also helped in creating awareness among women on social, environmental, health, economic and religious spectrums that helped them in find solutions for the challenges in their daily lives. They were also able to assist their children with lessons in basic reading, writing, and mathematics.
Trade between United States and Yemen is very imbalanced. Yemen exports very little and imports enormously from U.S. In this year, from January to September, Yemen exported a total value of $151.3 and imported $300.9. The main exports to U.S are food and live animals. Its main imports on the other hand are; food, live animals, machinery and transport equipment.
In a nutshell, the relations between U.S and Yemen can be described as generally good. The ties between the two countries range from economic, democratic to development. In terms of economic ties, the two countries are trade partners though U.S benefits most from the trade. United states has been instrumental in helping the Yemenis government to establish a democratic state. U.S has helped in training Yemenis military that in turn led to increased security. Yemen is a great American supporter of war against terrorism and in the view of United States it is important for their national security. Development wise, USAID has funded many projects in different sectors in Yemen. These include health programs and educational programs.
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