Yemen is a developing country and the poorest country in the Middle East. Under the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen was described by critics as a kleptocracy. According to the 2009 International Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, Yemen ranked 164 out of 182 countries surveyed. In the absence of strong state institutions, elite politics in Yemen constituted a de facto form of collaborative governance, where competing tribal, regional, religious, and political interests agreed to hold themselves in check through tacit acceptance of the balance it produced. The informal political settlement was held together by a power-sharing deal among three men: President Saleh, who controlled the state; major general Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who controlled the largest share of the Republic of Yemen Armed Forces; and Abdullah ibn Husayn al-Ahmar, figurehead of the Islamist al-Islah party and Saudi Arabia's chosen broker of transnational patronage payments to various political players, including tribal sheikhs.
Since 2011, Yemen has been in a state of political crisis starting with street protests against poverty, unemployment, corruption, and president Saleh's plan to amend Yemen's constitution and eliminate the presidential term limit, in effect making him president for life. President Saleh stepped down and the powers of the presidency were transferred to Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was formally elected president on 21 February 2012 in a one-man election. The total absence of central government during this transitional process engendered the escalation of the several clashes on-going in the country, like the armed conflict between the Houthi rebels of Ansar Allah militia and the al-Islah forces, as well as the al-Qaeda insurgency.
In September 2014, the Houthis took over Sana'a with the help of the ousted president Saleh, later declaring themselves in control of the country after a coup d'état; Saleh was shot dead by a sniper in Sana'a in December 2017. This resulted in a new civil war and a Saudi Arabian-led military intervention aimed at restoring Hadi's government. At least 56,000 civilians and combatants have been killed in armed violence in Yemen since January 2016.
The conflict has resulted in a famine that is affecting 17 million people. The lack of safe drinking water, caused by depleted aquifers and the destruction of the country's water infrastructure, has also caused the world's worst outbreak of cholera, with the number of suspected cases exceeding 994,751. Over 2,226 people have died since the outbreak began to spread rapidly at the end of April 2017. In 2016 the United Nations reported that Yemen is the country with the most people in need of humanitarian aid in the world with 21.2 million.
1559 – 1962 Al-Mansur al-Qasim was an Imam of Yemen, who commenced the struggle to liberate Yemen from the Ottoman occupiers. He was the founder of a Zaidi kingdom that endured, under many vicissitudes, until 1962