Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh is resisting calls for him to step down, as the mass pro-democracy movement in the capital, Sanaa, continues to mobilise against him.
Protests began in January, and since then hundreds have been killed and many more injured.
However power is also contested in the capital by rival sections of the elite. In March several senior army commanders defected, and tribal militias fought the President’s forces in May and June.
Salah was badly injured by shell fire in June and left for treatment in Saudi Arabia for several months.
But now he is back.
The struggle has many sides as Yemen’s dysfunctional state is also split by insurgencies in the north (led by a reactionary Shia sect) and secessionists in the South. The chaos has created additional space for Islamists linked to al Qaeda to operate.
Even a competent, rational government would have difficulty dealing with Yemen’s multiple social problems. 40% of the population live on less than $2 (£1.25) a day. Oxfam calculates that one-third of the population are hungry.
The UN has called on Saleh to step down. The Saudi-led Gulf Co-operation Council has also got a plan to ship Saleh out, replacing him with his deputy and granting him immunity from prosecution.