Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rival Yemen army units clash near president's home

SANAA, March 1 (Reuters) - Rival units of Yemen's divided military traded fire on Thursday outside the residence of the country's newly elected president, with no reported casualties, witnesses said.
Troops from the First Armoured Division, commanded by a general who mutinied last year against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, traded fire with members of the Central Security force, which is led by Saleh's nephew, said witnesses.
The exchange of fire near the residence of Saleh's successor Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi ended shortly after it began, people at the scene told Reuters.

Yemen's peaceful transition

by: David Ignatius
From: The Australian
March 01, 2012
IN the turbulent annals of the Arab Spring, last weekend's ceremony in Yemen was so quiet it was barely noticed. But it marked the transfer of power from an ageing autocrat who had ruled his country for 34 years to a new leader who's saying the right things about reform.
This was a stage-managed change of regime, and one that left some loose ends and unresolved questions. It was a product of backroom dealing and regional realpolitik. But in its very lack of visibility, the Yemen handover offered a counterpoint to the violent and still-uncertain transitions in Egypt, Libya and Syria.
So how did the Yemen story unfold, and what are its lessons as the US struggles to cope with the other Arab revolutions? Every story in the Arab Spring is different, and there isn't a "Yemen model" that can easily be replicated, but there are some interesting approaches here, including:
- Working with regional proxies: The transition was brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Yemen's wealthy neighbours, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, massaged and bankrolled the process, which culminated in an agreement last November that President Ali Abdullah Saleh would go. The GCC has often been a feeble talk shop in the past, but under Bahraini Secretary-General Abdul Latif al-Zayani, the organisation is finding its voice. The Arab League has undergone similar transformation, from dictators' friend to change agent.
- Fighting terrorism without sending troops: Al-Qa'ida's potent presence in Yemen made the country an urgent priority, and the US several years ago began Qa'ida resistance to al-Qa'ida forces in the south. The effort was coordinated by White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan, but it involved Centcom commanders, State Department diplomats and CIA officers. The US often gives lip service to the "interagency process" while the military does the work, but in Yemen there actually was an aggressive joint strategy without "boots on the ground."
- Playing tribal politics: As with many Arab countries, Yemen's state structure is loosely overlaid on powerful tribes. The US has often botched this tribal factor, but it did better in Yemen - understanding Saleh's tribal roots as well as those of dissident military officers. The big tribal confederations were convinced to align against al-Qa'ida. The Yemenis are now discussing a federal system that would ease the historical tensions between north and south.
- Finding the right front man: To succeed Saleh, the US and its allies tapped the longtime vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. An ex-military officer, he understood that the corrupt Yemeni system needed reform. Hadi was elected president last week in a one-man race that gave a veneer of democratic transition. He has promised to hold a referendum within 18 months on a new constitution.
- Reforming the military: In Yemen, as in so many other countries, the military is corrupted because soldiers are paid through their division commanders, who skim money and undermine morale. The US is encouraging Hadi to pay troops directly. Reform is needed, too, in the two security services headed by Saleh's son Ahmed and his nephew Yahya. Because the US depends on these organisations against al-Qa'ida, it hopes to finesse change over the next several years. OK, but if it waits too long, it will seem to be coddling the Saleh family.
- Reaching out to the opposition: The US was caught flat-footed in Egypt and Libya because it lacked good contacts with the opposition. US Ambassador Gerald Feierstein and his colleagues in Sanaa have done better, meeting regularly with civil society groups and dissidents. Protesters say they plan to remain camped in "Change Square," even with Saleh gone, which will test the diplomats' patience.
The challenge in Yemen is getting closure on transition. As we've seen in Egypt, protest can become a way of life - to the point that it threatens the gains the opposition fought to achieve. The US wants to play its hand slowly - gradually easing Saleh's relatives from their leadership of the security forces, and moving to a more professional military. "This revolution has been stabbed in the back," Khaled al-Anesi, one of the protest leaders, complained to The Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan. Hopefully, Hadi will deliver enough on reform to ease this sense of betrayal.
The very fact that Yemen is so poor and remote is an unlikely source of leverage for the US and its allies. Curbing corruption and spreading the wealth in this far-away country is the best strategy for getting "buy-in" for the Arab Spring's quiet revolution.
Washington Post Writers Group

Yemen troops protest demanding army chiefs' ouster

Anti-corruption protests staged by Yemeni soldiers following handover of power from strongman Saleh to his deputy
AFP , Thursday 1 Mar 2012
Hundreds of Yemeni soldiers staged protests at several military institutions across the country on Thursday demanding the departure of their chiefs, whom they accuse of corruption.
The demonstrations come just days after Ali Abdullah Saleh formally handed power to his deputy Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi following a year of protest.
Around 500 soldiers and officers from the First Brigade of Marine Infantry, based on the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Gulf of Aden, protested outside Hadi's residence in the capital Sanaa, an AFP correspondent reported.
The soldiers were calling for the ouster of Brigadier General Hussein Khairan whom they accuse of corruption.
Several soldiers told AFP that the remaining officers were also staging a sit-in at their base in Socotra.
Meanwhile, air force soldiers held a massive rally that began outside Hadi's residence and headed towards the air base near Sanaa International Airport, calling for the ouster of air force commander General Mohammed Saleh Al-Ahmar.
Military sources said that protests against Ahmar, a half brother of Saleh, were also being held at other air bases—Al-Anad in the south and in Taez, Yemen's second city.
Anti-corruption strikes have spread across several military and government departments in the impoverished Arab country, where the economy is on the brink of collapse after last year's popular uprising and months of violence.
Saleh finally stepped down on Monday after 33 years in power, based on a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal he signed in November.
But during his time in office, he carefully chose members of his regime, appointing relatives to head the country's military and security apparatus.
In addition to his half brother, Saleh's son commands the elite Republican Guard troops while his nephew Yehya commands the central security services and Tariq, another nephew, controls the presidential guard.
The power transfer deal stipulates that during the two-year interim period, Hadi will oversee the restructuring of the army.

Can President Hadi Tackle all Yemen Challenges?

By Fatik Al-Rodaini
Sana'a, March 1, 2012 - Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi has taken the constitutional oath on Saturday to become Yemen's new president, formally replacing former president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power after a year of protests that paralyzed the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.
The new President, who stood as the sole candidate to replace Saleh in a US-backed power transfer deal brokered by Gulf neighbors, was voted in after more than 60% of eligible voters took part in the election last week, in which many protesters boycotted the elections as Houthi rebels in the north and separatists in the south.
No doubt Hadi inherited from former president significant challenges in economic, social and security areas. The new president has to deal with challenges practically, or chaos will reign in the whole country.
In his speech before Yemeni parliament after the constitutional oath, President Hadi pledged to draw a line under the crisis and tackle pressing issues such as a deepening economic crisis, and bringing those displaced by Yemen's crisis back to their homes.
Reconstruction of the army units
Major events on ground indicate otherwise. The biggest challenge at the political level is the reconstruction of the army units, a step that is planned to start after the presidential elections.
Protesters say by electing Hadi to replace Saleh they achieved the first goal of their peaceful revolution; however, they still have other goals that need to be fulfilled, including the removal of [ex-president] Saleh’s relatives from the army and security institutions, restructuring these institutions and building a civil state.
They also demanded President Hadi to remove the whole old guards, including Al-Ahmer family and General Ali Mohssen in order to build strong civil state in the country instead of the current fragile state.
Freeing Youth Detainees from government and First Armored Division Prisons
There are many detainees in Yemeni prisons protesters wanted new president freeing youth detainees from government prisons, youths who have been protesting against President Saleh for more than year asked president Hadi to free their friends from First Armored Division prisons as well.
Tackling Security Problems and Ensuring Safety in the country
Actually, Yemeni crisis need strong determination to tackle all problems in the country. Not only problem in the political area but also there is several are waiting to be tackled. Security and stability need to be improved everywhere in Yemen especially in the south where AQAP increased its operations against government forces and expanded its presence in south as well as Houthis In the north who attempts to control and expand in new areas in the north. Thousands of people have been displaced as a result. Civilians have called upon the Government to bear responsibilities and solve the problem.
This state of instability in the north and south will lead to the existence of new extremist groups. The Abaad study said there are some parties that seek to control cities by force under the pretext of Al-Qaeda as is the case in Abyan and Radaa cities and the same scenario is expected to be repeated in Ibb, Al-Dalei, Lahj, Aden, Hadhramout governorates.
In the economic area, there is several problems face the new president after almost one year of protests against president Saleh which inherited real problem to the economic and it needs to years to be tackled. According to development agencies operating in Yemen, Prime Minister, Mahmoud Basondowa, said last month Yemen needs “billions of dollars” for development.
Public services like electricity and water need also more to be tackled after of being damaged by tribesmen in Mareb and other districts nearby.
Yemenis need public services like electricity and water to be restored very fast.
Still many development challenges remain on the surface such as the highest rates in illiteracy, unemployment, and malnutrition in the country which need to a magic stick to be solved.