News / Middle East

President Sacks Generals, Renews National Dialogue in Divided Yemen

President Hadi could boost national constitutional debate if he manages to end military careers of family who ruled for Yemen for three decades.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi opened a six-month National Dialogue on March 18, 2013 and invited 565 Yemenis to chart a new future for their troubled nation. (AP)
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi opened a six-month National Dialogue on March 18, 2013 and invited 565 Yemenis to chart a new future for their troubled nation. (AP)
David Arnold
Interim President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen hopes to rebuild his government by purging remnants of the Saleh family that ruled the country more than 30 years.
 
Among those remnants of Saleh family are high-ranking army generals who have refused to step down.  
 
Hadi's move against the generals comes as he is trying to recruit 565 leaders from all of Yemen's political, tribal and social factions to join in a six-month National Dialogue designed to produce a new constitution.
 
Hadi became transitional president more than a year ago when the Gulf Cooperation Council forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign under threat of being charged in the 2011 shooting deaths of 45 demonstrators protesting his 33-year rule.
 
The GCC-brokered presidential resignation had strong support from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United States, which – with Hadi's agreement – has been using drones to go after al-Qaida suspects in Yemen.
 
Can Hadi declare presidential independence?
 
After becoming interim president, Hadi bided his time before making his first moves to weed out elements of the Saleh government. As his first move, Hadi announced the removal of Ahmed Ali Saleh, the ex-president’s eldest son, ex-head of the powerful Republican Guard and former heir-apparent to rule Yemen. He was appointed ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.
 
Many of these decrees only exist on paper and they have to be implemented, which in Yemen is always a trick.
A Saleh nephew who was deputy chief of intelligence became military attaché in Yemen’s embassy in Ethiopia. Another Saleh nephew who headed of the Presidential Guard was named military attaché in Germany.
 
Yet another Saleh military man to get removed was Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who commanded 50,000 troops of Yemen’s First Armored Division in Sana’a. The general was effectively neutralized by being appointed presidential adviser.
 
Can Hadi make good on his word?
 
“Many of these decrees only exist on paper and they have to be implemented, which in Yemen is always a trick,” said Greg Johnsen, a Yemen scholar at Princeton University.
 
“I see it as one of the best moves in Yemen following the departure of former President Saleh,” said Khaled Fattah, Yemen specialist from the University of Lund. “There is a trust now in the transitional government and that he is capable of achieving. So, it’s really a catalyst for the National Dialogue.”
 
No Kalashnikovs allowed in the Movenpick
 
That dialogue to draw up a new constitution started in March and Danya Greenfield of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East wrote that it has been dealing with Yemen’s thorniest issues.
 
I see it as one of the best moves in Yemen following the departure of former President Saleh.
Among those issues are calls for independence by southern Yemen, an ongoing uprising in the north waged by the large al-Houthi tribe, the need for strengthened federal governance in a country dominated by traditional tribes, and a voice for women and youth who were big factors in the Arab Spring protests that helped topple the Saleh regime.
 
The constitutional talks are being held at Sana’a’s Movenpick hotel and security around the complex is tight. Yemen is a nation where it’s not unusual to see civilian men carrying submachine guns in public. But all those taking part in the talks must check their weapons with the military before entering the Movenpick area.
 
Facing Yemen’s political future
 
Despite the desire for a new constitution, not all of Yemen’s major players are taking part in the conference.
 
Among those staying away were Tawakkol Karman, whose charismatic voice for political reform earned her a Nobel Peace Prize, and Ali Salim al-Beidh, a former president of South Yemen.
 
Beidh was Saleh’s vice president during Yemen’s short north-south unification. He now leads the Hirak movement and is pressing for South Yemen’s independence, a demand that analysts say is a major issue in the constitutional talks.
 
Princeton’s Greg Johnsen cites another obstacle that needs to be overcome in the constitutional negotiations.
 
“One of the shortcomings of the National Dialogue is that it is seen largely as something that the international community - both the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) as well as the U.S. and the U.N. - really pushed on Yemen,” said Johnsen.
 
“The idea is to bring a lot of Yemenis together, put them all in a room and hope they come up with a solution,” he said, adding that most delegates are there only to protect their own interests.
 
The plan is that Yemen will hold new elections sometime next year – if the National Dialogue talks can come up with a new constitution.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gudrun from: UK
April 30, 2013 5:06 PM
The Huthis are not a tribe but a large extended family with branches all over the Yemen. As for the "ongoing uprising", since they have taken over Sa'dah province in 2011 it has been largely peaceful. Huthi representatives constitute the second largest group at the National Dialogue Conference.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs