Thursday, January 5, 2012

Yemeni leadership committed to the GCC Initiative, UN Resolution

Sana'a, Jan, 5 (BNA) – An official presidential source said here today that the Yemeni leadership is committed to implementing the GCC initiative and relevant mechanisms as well as the UN Security Council's Resolution No.: 2014.
The same source, in a statement to the Yemeni News Agency, demanded the block Yemeni opposition parties to be committed and to accurately implement the GCC initiative in line with its timetable in order to achieve security and stability for Yemen before early presidential elections can be conducted on 21st of February, and urged them to ignore any statements or remarks issued by hostile sources which attempt to foil the political reconciliation process in Yemen.

Yemen - Despite Saleh departure plan, supporters and security forces still targeting journalists

January 5, 2012
December was a particularly black month for media freedom violations in Yemen although President Ali Abdallah Saleh agreed to a plan proposed by Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh on 23 November under which he is to stand down as president in February.
Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the continuing violations and urges the international community to intercede. December was above all marked by violence by government troops and Saleh supporters against journalists covering the “March for Life,” which set off from Taiz, a city 270 km south of the capital, on 20 December.
There were many attacks on the marchers on 24 and 25 December as they arrived at the Sanaa district of Dar Salm. Security forces opened fire on the crowd. At least 13 demonstrators were killed and 50 were wounded. Journalists were among the victims. Among other demands, the protesters had been calling for President Saleh to be prosecuted for his use of violence against earlier demonstrations.
On 24 December, Ahmed Al-Mussibli, a journalist with the opposition TV station Suhail TV, was beaten and arrested by security forces, and was held overnight. BBC correspondent Abdallah Ghorab narrowly avoided being arrested. Suhail TV cameraman Kamal Al-Mahfadi and reporter Walid Ablan sustained serious head injuries.
Ahmed Al-Jabar, a member of the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate and reporter for the state-owned Saba News Agency, was hit in the face with a rifle butt by a Saleh supporter, sustaining an injuries below one eye. Soldiers also broke the windows of the car that members of the Journalists’ Syndicate were using to cover the march.
Three journalists – Samia Al-Aghbary, Arwa Abdu Othman (a writer) and Marwan Ismail, who works for the Imanate news website – were accosted and arrested by members of the Republican Guard at a checkpoint on Sanaa’s 50th Street while accompanying the March for Life on 24 December. Two activists who were with them, Marwan Al-Wajihi and Nabil Soua’i, were also arrested. The soldiers searched their car and took their mobile phones and three cameras. All five were released that evening.
Earlier this week, a group of gunmen tried to storm the Press Foundation in Taiz for the third time in three days on 2 January in defiance of clear instructions from the province’s governor. The foundation’s headquarters is located near the military police building and just a few metres from the provincial security directorate.
Nasser Taha Mustafa, a former head of the Journalists’ Syndicate, was threatened in late December by Tarek Mohamed Abdallah Saleh, President Saleh’s nephew and commander of his personal guard, over his articles in support of the revolutionary movement.
Two journalists with the 26 September newspaper, Ali Ghaleb Al-Harazi and Yahiya Al-Sadmi, were threatened for calling for the resignation of the newspaper’s editor, Ali Hassan Al-Chatr, who has a reputation for high-handed treatment of his employees and has had some of them thrown in prison in the past. The journalists began a sit-in at the newspaper to demand Chatr’s departure.
Firing in the air, gunmen in civilian dress attacked an Al-Alam TV crew at around 2:15 p.m. on 23 December in Al-Qaedi, a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital. They grabbed cameraman Mohamed Hamran’s camera, hit him, took his identity card and, threatening to shoot the tyres of their car, forced the journalists to return to the city centre.
Armed baltajiyas (pro-Saleh thugs) stormed the headquarters of the government newspaper in Sanaa on 20 December, threatening journalists at gunpoint and stopping the next day’s issue from coming out. The raid was prompted by new information minister Ali Al-Umrani’s decision to rename Hassan Abdel Warath as the editor of the newspaper, which is published by the “Revolution for the Press” foundation. Warath had resigned at the height of the anti-Saleh protests.
Gunmen burst into the office of the Arab Information Agency in Sanaa on the night of 13 December, pointing their firearms at its director, Issam Al-Khaled, and his employees. The office houses more than a dozen Arab and international TV stations and news agencies.
The prosecutor’s office ordered the journalist Omar Al-Amuqi’s release on 8 December on the grounds that there had been no justification for his arrest two days before.
The journalist Abdelhakim Thi’il was freed at the end of December after being kidnapped in October and held incommunicado for two months in a national security prison operated by the intelligences services. His whereabouts were unknown until 12 December, when he was transferred to a regular prison centre and the head of the Journalists’ Syndicate, Marwan Damaj, was able to visit him.
The precise reasons for his abduction and detention are still unknown. The authorities examined his computer and found photos and videos of baltajiyas and gunmen attacking and killing demonstrators in Sanaa’s Change Square.

Yemen – the second Somalia?

January 5, 2012
Ongoing anti-government protests, attacks by Islamic extremists and desires in the south to break from the north, have fueled concerns that Yemen could become another Somalia.
Yemen is a tourist's dream with wild and rugged mountains, picturesque medieval homes in the capital, Sana'a, and the Yemeni's famous hospitality. For a long time, the country was a popular destination among globetrotters looking for a different experience.
But, foreign tourists haven't been going there for some time. Most foreign businesses have pulled out, aid organizations have quit the country and embassies have reduced personnel to a minimum.
The situation in Yemen, on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is too dangerous.
Somewhere between hope and dread
Most Yemenis themselves cannot leave the country. They are left dangling between hope and dread. They are hoping for an end to the authoritarian regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a new, democratic, beginning. What they dread is a violent escalation of the internal power struggle and a full-blown civil war.
For months, people have been demonstrating on the streets demanding the ouster of President Saleh. In November, after long, drawn-out negotiations chaired by the Arab Gulf states, Saleh signed an agreement obligating him to step down. In return, Saleh, his family and closest aides were assured exemption from prosecution.
Since then, Saleh has officially handed over power to his deputy, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, but the return to normalcy that everyone had hoped this would bring has failed to materialize.
There are still regular demonstrations, mostly in the capital and Yemen's second largest city, Taizz. Protesters are still dying. At the end of December, government troops in Sana'a fired shots at a crowd of demonstrators, killing at least 13 people.
In the meantime, government workers and civil servants have joined the protests with their own demonstrations. Even members of the security forces have risen up against their superiors.
Public wants punishment for Saleh
Horst Kopp, a geographer and long-time observer of Yemen, is not surprised that the protests are continuing.
"The deal with Saleh ignores the most important demand of the demonstrators. They oppose Saleh's exemption from punishment," he says.
The protesters want Saleh to answer for the shots that were fired at peaceful demonstrators. Hundreds of people have been killed in Yemen since the protests began early last year.
Günter Meyer, a Yemen expert at the University of Mainz in Germany, pointed to another shortcoming of the Saleh agreement.
"The old elite in the country, the Saleh supporters and the tribal and clan leaders have agreed to set up a new transitional government. However, those that triggered the protests – the young people, the intellectuals – are not part of that new government," he stressed.
"The real power in Yemen," notes Horst Kopp, "belongs to the military and the security apparatus."
Whether the elite Republican Guards, or the secret police: "Everywhere at the top are relatives of Saleh, his son, his brother, his nephews. The whole system has been tailored to Saleh's extended family in the last few years. Even the economy, as a whole, is controlled by this family," Kopp says.
For the protesters, it is not enough that just the man at the top is switched; the system remains the same. They want an entirely new beginning. Even if Saleh were to leave the country - which has been a topic of discussion lately – that would not pacify the situation. Besides, Saleh has since declared that he will not be leaving right away.
Election with no choice
The agreement reached with Saleh calls for a new president to be elected on February 21. So far, there is only one candidate: the transitional leader, Mansour Hadi, Saleh's long-time confidante.
"The elections won't change anything. He is only a puppet. Power will remain in the hands of the Saleh family," says Kopp.
Günter Meyer is somewhat more optimistic. Mansour Hadi is considered weak and does not have his own power base, notes Meyer, but he could act as an integration figure. Furthermore, says Meyer, Mansour Hadi comes from southern Yemen and could temper the desires there to secede from the rest of the country.
Until 1990, Yemen was divided between a capitalist north and communist south. After unification, the south has felt disadvantaged by the central government in the north. The south is home to the country's largest oil reserves and a large part of the national income is earned there. The center of power, however, is in the hands of the Saleh clan, which comes from the north.
"We have given the regime an ultimatum," the leader of the secessionist movement, Nasser al-Taweel said recently. "Either they recognize our legitimate demands for self-rule, or Yemen will soon disintegrate into two countries."
Shiites vs. Sunnis
But, if that weren't enough, Northern Yemen, which borders on Saudi Arabia, is seething. For weeks, the Huthis, a Shi'ite group, have been skirmishing with the majority Sunnis.
The conflict has escalated before on several occasions. In 2009, the Saudis found themselves forced to intervene. Riyadh views the Huthis as the henchmen of Iran. Until recently, the Huthis protested peacefully with the opposition against Saleh.
At the same time, the terrorist organization, Al-Qaeda, has been trying to extend its influence inside Yemen. Last year, Al-Qaeda fighters took control of Zinjibar, the capital of southern Abjan province. Government troops have since regained control of some parts of the city but have failed, so far, to drive the rebels out completely.
The situation is reminiscent of Mogadishu. Is Yemen heading toward being another failed state, like Somalia?
"The country has hit rock bottom. Without generous outside help, the destabilization will continue," warns Günter Meyer.
"I am very pessimistic about the future of the country," adds Horst Kopp, "more pessimistic than a year ago." Kopp fears "Somali conditions" and "a break-up" of Yemen.
The people of Yemen have also suffered dearly under the crisis. The economic situation is a disaster, notes Kopp. Half the population lives below the poverty level. More than 40 percent of the children are malnourished. Water and electricity supplies are interrupted regularly. "There is a terrible humanitarian disaster going on there," warns Kopp, "but the rest of the world has hardly noticed."
Author: Nils Naumann /gb
Editor: Michael Knigge