Yemen Population and History



The progressive increase in the population, which at the 1994 census had reached 14,587,807 residents, which rose to 16,887,000 according to a 1998 estimate, caused an excessive demographic load for a very poor country with serious social problems. This situation has worsened further in recent years, since 1,168,200 citizens residing between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were forced to repatriate following the Gulf War, and nothing has changed even after the stabilization of relations with the two countries. The main demographic and economic center is the capital, Ṣan῾ā ‘(1,284,000 residents In 1998). Aden (562,000 residents), The ancient capital of southern Yemen, has a free zone and, favored by a good strategic position – at the entrance to the Red Sea – with respect to the great currents of maritime traffic, has promoted subsequent interventions to strengthen its functions commercial.

Economic conditions

According to, the country is struggling to get out of the political events of the 1990s (unification of the North and the South in 1990, an attempt to secede the South in 1994 with consequent civil war), and is currently engaged in a severe program (launched in 1996) of structural adjustment of its economy, with the support of international organizations.

The only riches of Yemen are hydrocarbons: in 1996 17.5 million tonnes of oil were extracted, while the exploitation of the substantial reserves of natural gas (481 billion m³) is expected to start in 2001. The manufacturing industry is increasingly penalized by obsolete and inadequate infrastructures and contributes less than 8% to the formation of GDP. Among the cultivated plants the qat prevails, from whose leaves a drug is extracted that represents a not negligible source of wealth for the farmers; its cultivation covers from 120,000 to 140,000 ha, occupies 16 % of the total workforce and supplies 5.5 % of GDP. Still practiced with archaic systems are farming and fishing; the latter, however, yields a fair amount of product (103,743 t of catch in 1996). Tourism (84,450 admissions in 1997) has good development opportunities due to the charm of the desert environments and the architecture of the ancient Yemeni cities, but is struggling to establish itself due to the country’s insecurity conditions.

On the international level, Yemen has asked to be admitted to the Gulf Cooperation Council, but has encountered the obstacle of the Kuwaiti and Saudi veto. Founding member (March 1997) of the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), he hopes to be welcomed also in the Commonwealth, by virtue of the historical background of the former British protectorate of Aden.


The birth of the Republic of the Yemen, in May 1990, while effectively sanctioning the merger of the northern and southern Y, was characterized from its beginnings by a strong tension between the two leading groups and by the progressive isolation of the Socialist Party Yemeni, deeply rooted in the South and until 1989 the only legal political formation in southern Yemen

In the summer of 1994, the president-designate of the new Yemeni state, ‚Abdallāh Sāliḥ, former president of the North and leader of the majority party, the General People’s Congress, easily got over the secessionist attempt by the Southern forces that had proclaimed in Aden in the month of May an independent republic. With the end of the civil war, the role of the Socialist Party in the political life of the country was reduced even more, while an Islamic-inspired formation, al-Iṣlāḥ (the reform), led by Sheikh ‚Abdallāh al -Aḥmar. In early October 1994 the Yemeni Parliament reconfirmed ‚ Abdallāh Sāliḥ as President of the Republic and, in the same month, a coalition government was established between the General People’s Congress and al-Iṣlāḥ. During 1995, however, the positions of the two parties became more distant: al-Iṣlāḥ opposed the economic reforms recommended by the World Bank and endorsed by the president and condemned the Congress party for having participated in an economic meeting where some representatives of the State of Israel were present.

On April 27, 1997, on the occasion of the legislative elections, the overwhelming victory registered by the president’s party, which won 187 seats, led to the formation of a single-color government of the General People’s Congress. In the meantime, the repercussions of the civil war were being felt in the country and internal security was threatened by the actions of some Islamic terrorists. Between 1997 and 1998 the attention of the international community was also drawn by the repetition of acts of violence perpetrated by Islamic terrorist groups against foreign tourists. In fact, since 1992 there have been over a hundred tourists kidnapped. In December 1998 Some members of a small terrorist group, the Islamic Army of Aden-Abyan, were responsible for the deaths of four of the sixteen tourists taken hostage, who died during the raid attempted by the security forces to free them. The leader of the terrorist group and some of its members were sentenced to death the following May. In September 1999, the first presidential elections with popular vote were held in the country since 1990. President Sāliḥ, in power in the Yemen of the North since 1978, triumphed with over 96% of votes. The only challenger, an independent candidate very close to the Congress party. The oppositions, led by the Yemeni Socialist Party, two Islamic formations and the Baath party, voted for an electoral boycott after their candidates presented for approval by Parliament, as required by the Constitution, had not received the necessary number of consents to participate in the electoral competition.

On the international level, starting from 1995 the normalization of relations with Saudi Arabia had allowed the start of negotiations for the definition of the borders between the two states, but the new clashes that occurred at the borders in July 1997 slowed down the course. In 1995 the dispute between Yemen and Eritrea for the control of the archipelago of the al-Ḥanīš islands in the Red Sea gave rise to a brief conflict between the two states. In October 1998 an international arbitration established the sovereignty of the Yemen over the al-Ḥanīš islands.

Yemen Population

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