News / Middle East

Yemen's Wounded President Saleh in Saudi Arabia

Yemeni army soldiers lifted by anti-government protestors, chants slogans and wave their national flag as they celebrate President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure to Saudi Arabia, in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, June 5, 2011
Yemeni army soldiers lifted by anti-government protestors, chants slogans and wave their national flag as they celebrate President Ali Abdullah Saleh's departure to Saudi Arabia, in Sanaa, Yemen, Sunday, June 5, 2011
Elizabeth Arrott

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in Saudi Arabia for treatment of injuries sustained in a rocket attack Friday, raising further uncertainty in his country, where many are seeking his ouster.

Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Sana'a to celebrate President Saleh's departure. While many in the crowd decried the violence that culminated in the attack on Saleh's compound Friday, some, like this man, felt the country would be better with him gone.

Referring to the recent killing of protesters in the southern city of Taiz, the man, who did not give his name, called Saleh a murderer who has received his punishment.

A Timeline of Unrest in Yemen

January 22: Hundreds of students and other protesters gather at Sana'a University, calling for an end to the 32-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
March 1: Tens of thousands of opposition activists demand the ouster of Mr. Saleh. President Saleh fires five of 22 provincial governors, some for criticizing the crackdown on the protests.
March 20-21: President Saleh dismisses his entire Cabinet. Some senior military commanders join the protesters.
April 5-8: President Saleh accepts an invitation from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to hold talks in Saudi Arabia with opposition representatives.
April 21-25: The GCC presents President Saleh with a plan for ending the political impasse and unrest. The plan calls for him to resign within a month and for a presidential election two months later.
May 21-22: Yemen's opposition said it signed a Gulf-brokered deal.  Mr. Saleh denounces the proposed deal as a "coup."
June 3: President Saleh and five other Yemeni officials are wounded in a rocket attack on the presidential compound in Sana'a.
June 4: President Saleh's forces and forces loyal to tribal leader Sheikh Sadiq al-Ahmar accept a Saudi-brokered cease-fire. Mr. Saleh flies to Saudi Arabia for treatment. Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi takes over.

How long the president will be out of the country is uncertain. His injuries appear to be more serious than the "scratches" officials described in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

Deputy Information Minister Abdou al-Janadi said the president had assigned Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur Hadi as acting president.

Janadi said the vice president was in continuous communication with Saleh, who he now described as having suffered burns. The official added that the president would be returning to Sana'a and resume his duties as soon as he is recovered.

But even if Saleh's physical condition improves, Saudi Arabia, which has led a regionally-mediated effort to have him leave power, could try to encourage him to not return home, as it is far from clear what his reception in Yemen would be.

The chairman of the Gulf Research Center, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz Sager, believes that while the Yemeni president would never have wished for the attack that killed at least seven other people, it does provide him with a certain political cover.

"I think he could not have been luckier than that to have a face-saving device by leaving the country for a good medical cause, and not for another reason that would, in his own way of thinking, make him ashamed in front of his tribe and his people," he said.

In the interim, Sager thinks Vice President Hadi will be able to provide some short-term stability.

"We are starting to see the vice president in Yemen quickly acting in putting the scene together," said Sager. "Most likely, we are going to see a transition council, and this transition council will consist of military, tribal leaders and different opposition parties together and this is the most likely scenario we are going to see in Yemen in the next couple of days."

Beyond seeking Saleh's ouster, those leaders do not share much common ground.  Rivalries split the country on political, military and tribal lines, with alliances frequently shifting.

Some officials blame the al-Ahmar clan of the Hashid tribal federation for the attack on the president's mosque, but the clan says it was not involved. Government officials say they are also investigating whether the local terror group, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was responsible.

Political protesters issued a statement after Saleh's departure calling for a civilian transitional leadership, without those involved in the violence.    

While not civilian, several leading military officers who broke with the president in recent weeks have not engaged in any fighting. They have given their moral support to the anti-Saleh movement and have control over an unknown number of troops.

There are reports other troops were abandoning their positions in Taiz, and that gunmen attacked a presidential palace in the city.  Security forces are also said to be withdrawing from their posts in the southern port city of Aden.  

Security in Yemen is already tenuous, with areas beyond the capital largely in the hands of a variety of forces, including southern secessionists, northern rebels, a strong Islamist movement, and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Add to that an influx of Somali refugees from across the Gulf of Aden and some observers are wondering if Yemen faces the same lawless, chaotic fate as Somalia.  It is a scenario Yemen's neighbors, as well as the United States are trying to prevent.

The Gulf Research Center's Sager says any interim council must work quickly.

"Today we have a vacuum in the constitutional issues because, you know the president released the government," said Sager. "So there is no more government in place.  The parliament duration is ended, so we are going to need to have elections for the parliament also, we are going to need a transition and interim government now to run the issues for a month or two until everything is put in place. I think the amount of effort required now is far, far, far, far more than what is expected during the time of Ali Saleh if he had made a smooth transition."

Analyst Sager notes that whoever runs the Arab world's poorest country must tackle all these problems with a near-empty government vault.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid