The Yemen Republic: From Unification and Liberalization to Civil War and Beyond

  • Gerd Nonneman


When the leaders of North and South Yemen met on 16–18 April 1988 and agreed to revive unity discussions, following this up with a summit in Sanaa on 4 May, observers could be forgiven a certain scepticism. Over the years, a range of previous declarations had gone essentially unheeded, and the gap between the North’s relative traditionalism and free-market orientation on the one hand, and the only officially Marxist system in the Arab world on the other, was perceived by sceptics as too great. Yet on 30 November 1989, on the occasion of the celebration of Independence Day in Aden, South Yemen’s Ali Salim al-Baidh joined with the North’s Ali Abdullah Salih in signing an agreement for the unification of the two states. The draft joint constitution for the union was approved and published, and both legislatures were given six months to ratify it; subsequently the constitution was to be submitted to a referendum, within a year of the signing of the accord. According to the draft constitution, the new state — to be called the Yemen Republic — was to have its capital in Sana’a and have a five-man presidential council. It would be a democratic state, with a parliament elected every four years. Political groupings and trade unions would be allowed to organize.


Saudi Arabia Middle East Security Council World Trade Centre World Order 
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    BBC, Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB) ME, 4 December 1989; Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 9 December 1989;Google Scholar
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    Although one account interprets the North Yemeni leadership’s position as, rather, ‘playing to the gallery’, trying to get Aden off-balance, in the expectation that the South Yemeni leaders would not respond positively to unification moves: C. Dunbar, ‘The Unification of Yemen: Process, Politics and Prospects’, Middle East Journal, vol. 46, no. 3 (1992), p. 460.Google Scholar
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    See MEED, 3 May 1991, for a contemporary report. For a more extensive treatment of the Yemeni economy with the relevant estimates, see Gerd Nonneman, ‘Key Issues in the Yemeni Economy’, in George Joffé (ed.), The Unity of Yemen: Crisis and Solutions (London: St Malo Press, 1996).Google Scholar
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    The best treatment of these elections can be found in Sheila Carapico, ‘Elections and Mass Politics in Yemen’, Middle East Report, November 1993, pp. 2–6, and Renaud Detalle, ‘The Yemeni Elections Up Close’, in ibid., pp. 8–12. The reader is referred to these sources for a detailed account and analysis.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • Gerd Nonneman

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