Thursday, August 25, 2011

A different endgame

August 25, 2011

Yemen's scenario is not following that of Libya,

Nasser Arrabyee

Both sides in Yemen want an immediate solution for the eight-month long crisis which has had such a negative impact on political, economic and social aspects of their life.

The opposition want a fate for Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh like that of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. However, Saleh's supporters are still calling for him to return from Saudi Arabia and finish his presidential term which would end only on 20 September 2013.

This week, each side called on their own supporters to stage million-man demonstrations to show their strength. Security measures were tightened and additional troops were deployed in the capital Sanaa.

On Wednesday, Saleh's supporters organised a big funeral for the chairman of Saleh's advisory council, Abdel-Aziz Abdel-Ghani, 72, who died Monday of injuries he sustained in the failed assassination attempt against Saleh early last June. A popular and official reception for the body was organised Tuesday at Sanaa airport for the "martyr of freedom and democracy", the official media said.

President Saleh was expected to return and attend the funeral of his friend and most obedient official during the 33 years of his rule. Earlier in the week official sources said that Saleh had finished the recovery period required by doctors and he could return Wednesday. This date also marks the 27th anniversary of the establishment of Saleh's party, the ruling People's General Congress.

Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansor Hadi, who is acting in Saleh's absence, said earlier this week the crisis is close to an end, after consultations with American and European officials.

Before the return of Saleh, opposition parties formed an umbrella council to use it to pressure Saleh while negotiating about power transfer. But the council was rejected by more than half of its chosen members especially by the separatist groups in the south and Al-Houthi Shia rebels in the north.

This rejection has shown big divisions among the opposition parties and independent young people protesting in the streets. All the groups and individuals who rejected it denied they had approved the "National Council" and were surprised why their names were included.

On 17 August, the opposition parties chose 143 members allegedly representing all groups and individuals of Yemen. A total of 23 politicians and activists from the southern separatist movement denied their approval of the council. The 23 persons include two former presidents of the south, Ali Nasser Mohamed and Haidar Abu Bakr Al-Atas, who are living abroad but inspiring and leading the southern separatist movement. "We were surprised to see our names in the list of the council without our knowledge and approval," said the politicians in a statement sent to local media. "The council reproduced the dominance of the traditional tribal and military forces which were the essence of the tyranny of the regime."

Earlier, three top officials of the opposition party Ray denied their approval of the council. Two members of parliament, Abdel-Wasee Hayel Said and Abdullah Hussein Khairat, also denied they had agreed to give their names to be members of the council, as did writer Huda Al-Atas and tribal Sheikh Naji Al-Shayef and Amal Basha, chairwoman of the Arab Sisters Forum for human rights.

A group of the independent youth in the squares, calling themselves the national council of the independent, revolutionary and peaceful youth, issued a statement rejecting the council. "The council of the opposition is only a response to the desire of Hamid Al-Ahmar, who wants to co-opt the youth, social figures and soldiers working with him to achieve his ambitions to rule Yemen."

Hamid Al-Ahmar, the Islamist billionaire who has been grooming himself for the presidency since 2006, is widely viewed in Yemen as the main rival of President Saleh and his son Ahmed. Critics claim he has been orchestrating the anti-Saleh protests, and he is widely viewed as the most important politician behind this second opposition council.

So is Tawakul Karman, who was behind the first council which was declared on 17 July but failed to achieve any approval or recognition.

Meanwhile, government troops are battling with Al-Qaeda operatives in the southern province of Abyan, and with armed tribesmen supporting the anti-Saleh protesters around the capital Sanaa and in the central province of Taiz.

Dozens of people have been killed and injured in the almost daily clashes and battles taking place in these areas. Two suicide bombings by Al-Qaeda members killed more than 14 tribesmen in the southern province of Abyan. The tribesmen in the south recently sided with the government troops to get rid of Al-Qaeda.

A total of 80 Al-Qaeda operatives were killed in the fighting in the southern province of Abyan, said the chairman of Yemen's intelligence on Monday. Ali Al-Ansi, head of the National Security Agency, told Al-Methaq, mouthpiece of the ruling party, that those killed were both Yemeni and non-Yemeni operatives and have been identified by name.

The fighting has been ongoing between government troops and Al-Qaeda since the latter declared the city of Zinjubar an Islamic emirate on 29 May. Al-Ansi said that Al-Qaeda operatives are also fighting alongside opposition tribesmen in Arhab and Taiz with support from ex-general Ali Mohsen.

The intelligence official said some Al-Qaeda elements are hiding among protesters in squares and inside the opposition First Armored Division of Ali Mohsen. "The opposition has made it difficult for us to arrest them," said Al-Ansi.

He said that 80 per cent of the investigations over the failed assassination attempt against President Saleh and senior officials have been carried out. "The results will be announced very soon in public trials of those involved," said Al-Ansi.

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