Conflict in Yemen: From Ethnic Fighting to Food Riots
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Yemen is considered a global terrorist base for Al-Qaeda and in recent years rampant violence is threatening social order. Here we show that the socio-economic origins of violence recently changed. Prior to 2008, violence can be attributed to inter-group conflict between ethnically and religiously distinct groups. Starting in 2008, increasing global food prices triggered a new wave of violence that spread to the endemically poor southern region with demands for government change and economic concessions. This violence shares its origins with many other food riots and the more recent Arab Spring. The loss of social order and the opportunities for terror organizations can be best addressed by directly eliminating the causes of violence. Inter-group violence can be addressed by delineating within-country provinces for local autonomy of ethnic and religious groups. The impact of food prices can be alleviated by direct food price interventions, or by addressing the root causes of global food price increases in US policies that have promoted conversion of corn to ethanol and commodity speculation. Addressing the food prices is the most urgent concern as a new bubble in food prices has been projected to begin before the end of 2012.
KeywordsFood Price Social Unrest Violent Incident Social Disruption Ethnic Conflict
We thank Jeb Boone and Charles Schmitz for helpful comments on the manuscript, and Urbano França for editorial assistance. This work was supported in part by AFOSR under grant FA9550-09-1-0324.
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