Monday, July 4, 2011

What Is Next For Yemen?

By Ali Saeed from Sanaa
Over five months of uprisings in Yemen against President Saleh’s regime has led to an precarious stalemate with the country now teetering on the edge of economic collapse. Crippling power blackouts, fuel shortages and the spiraling costs of basic necessities has wrought a terrible human cost upon the Yemeni population. The call for political change has led the country to a point where a choice between a number of scenarios appears imminent.
The regime leaders have been threatening that Yemen “will become another Somalia” in which some areas will be dominated by radical Islamists affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In line with this scenario, Vice President Abd Raboo Mansour Hadi, stated recently in an interview with the US television station CNN, that five of Yemen’s 20 governorates are already out of the state’s control.
General Yahya Mohammad Abdullah Saleh, chief commander of Yemen’s Central Security Forces and President Saleh’s nephew, said recently in an interview with the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, that Abyan and Lahj have been taken over by Al-Qaeda and Aden is on the way to being run by the same armed Islamists.
However, the official opposition and pro-change protesters in 17 governorates say this is only one of the regime’s tactics. They claim that the regime is playing the Al-Qaeda card in order to maintain Western economic and political support.
The regime’s central figures insist that Ali Abdullah Saleh must stay in power until his term ends in 2013, and Saleh himself has several times declined to sign a GCC initiated power transition proposal. Saleh has repeatedly claimed that if he left office, “Yemen will be divided and terrorists will take over more areas of the country.”
Pro-democracy protesters, who were inspired by the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings, say that their unfinished revolution exists to save Yemen from “Somalization and Afghanization, which the regime has been threatening so as to cling to power.”
“Signs of victory for change are looming and the stage of building a new Yemen has started,” said Khaleel Hadi, 21, a university student in the poor governorate of Hodeida, 250 km west of Sana’a. He has been protesting for five months in the ‘Change Square’ in Hodeida. Hadi spoke to the Yemen Times on the phone while he was helping a protester recently injured by armed thugs under the pay of Saleh’s ruling party.
When the Yemen Times suggested that “the power was still in the hands of Saleh’s regime, and no change on the ground has yet occurred,” Hadi replied: “In fact there is no state. Three branches [of government] are absent. There is no cabinet, no parliament, and the regime’s military units are continuously suffering defections.”
The first phase of building a new Yemen according to Hadi is to “create a transitional council to run the country for a transitional period, in which a new president is elected and a new system of justice and good management comes.”
“We have more than one choice for escalation to take the people’s rights back from Saleh’s sons and relatives. Through extending marches and demonstrations to the streets and the neighborhood level, as well as dismantling the Central Security Forces, the Republican Guards and pro-regime tribes,” said Waleed Al-Amrai, one of the youth protesters at the Change Square in the capital Sana’a.
“Dozens of officers from both the Republican Guards and the Central Security Forces still join our revolution every week,” he said. “We will avoid the ‘Somalization’ even as they [the regime] attempt to wheel Yemen towards this scenario.”
Dr. Saleh Samea, professor of political sciences at the University of Sana’a, told the Yemen Times that “any potential scenario will lead to the success of the revolution, and Yemen will head into new era in which democracy will be real and not just décor.”
The professor outlined three possible scenarios. The first was a “smooth and safe power transition from Saleh to his deputy. This would be as a result of Saleh’s injuries. According to the constitution, if the president becomes unable to perform his duties, the vice president takes over.”
In the case that Saleh remained in good health, power could also be transferred to the vice president if Saleh was personally willing to leave office in response to international pressure, according to Samea.
The second scenario would be the fall of Saleh’s sons and relatives who still occupy leading security and military positions. “This development could take place due to increasing defections [from the military] and a national economic collapse that suspended the soldiers’ salaries. Salaries [of soldiers] for last month were paid from a grant received from a neighboring country,” according to the political scientist.
The third scenario could be a military determination in favor of the revolution by the defected section of the army. This scenario may take place “in case Saleh’s sons and nephews acted stupidly and started taking revenge against the backers of the revolution,” the professor said.
He explained that intimations of this third scenario have already been seen in Taiz, where there was an attempt to sweep away the uprisings there, because Taiz was the first spark of the revolution and spread its human resources to many other areas of the country.
“If this is attempted again, massacres are going to happen. Like the one on May 29 in Taiz, where 50 protesters were killed in a raid on their camp, and some were burnt inside their tents,” he concluded.
This analysis was published in The Yemen Times on 04/07/2011

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