President Saleh looses the control over several parts of Yemen

Posted on | maart 31, 2011 | No Comments

Tribesmen stand with the bodies of people killed in an explosion in an ammunition factory on Sunday in the southern town of Jaab. It is believed that up to 150 people were killed and some 80 wounded. The disaster occurred after the government had withdrawn its security troops. Local oppostion forces after that looted the Soviet build factory. When locals started to follow their example a fire broke out that caused the blast.

As Yemen searches for a solution to the current political crisis, many restive areas in the poverty-stricken country have broken away from the central government and are being governed by local armed groups. The regime has lost its grip on many provinces such as Saada, Jawf, Abyan and Shabwa.

In the northern province of Saada, Houthi rebels seized control of the province following clashes with local tribes, a resident told Arab News. The rebels now run government facilities and control checkpoints. Residents approved Faris Manna, an alleged notorious arms dealer, as replacement for the governor. This governor left a few days ago aboard a chartered plane after emptying the central bank – literally carrying the money with him in sacks to Sana’a. Police deserted their posts and relocated themselves to army camps.

Armed groups in the jihadi-laden governorate of Abyan in south Yemen have taken over the local radio station, Presidential palace and an ammunition factory while the area is still witnessing violent clashes between the republican guards and armed rebels. News reports conveyed only one casualty but the clashes are ongoing and the citizens are still hearing the gun shots until the time of writing this report.

Locals with support from the attacking rebels — some of whom are jihadis– have formed popular committees to control the area.

The government on Saturday announced that it killed three Al-Qa’ida members from the governorate, but the locals rejected this claim and said that the men killed were locals and not aligned with Al-Qa’ida. They vowed to take revenge, hence the clashes today.

The central government, in a move to appease the secessionist movement in the south, has ordered the release of a number of leading figures in the movement who were arrested because of their campaign against the beleaguered Yemeni president.

The state’s position has been significantly weakened after Gen. Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, chief of the western army division who controls almost half of Yemen’s army, defected last week and joined the opposition movement that aims to oust President Saleh from his reign of 32 years.

The other controversial governorate, Mareb — which is known for its armed tribal men and kidnapping of foreigners — has also witnessed armed clashes with unknown gunmen at a security check point as recently as March 26. At least 14 security men were killed or injured in that attack.While some of the tribal men of Mareb are very much part of the movement for change in “Change Square” in Sana’a, there is a question regarding the united position of Yemeni tribes.

The authority of the airport of Taiz, a city in the middle of the counytry, has announced joining the change revolution, becoming the second airbase after Hodeida on the Red Sea to break-off from the central government.

Saleh has promised that even if — or when — he releases power he is not going to give up his position as president of the General People’s Congress party. “I am telling all those defecting soldiers that I will forgive them if they come back to the truthful side now before it is too late. And we will investigate the cases of the resigning government officials and deal with them soon,” Saleh said in a Sunday news conference while inaugurating the fourth GPC conference.

He warned that if the opposition continues such resistance, not agreeing to dialogue, Yemen is likely to fall into the hands of terrorists and rebellion, a situation not unlike the present one.

 Saleh has made a new offer to protesters demanding his ouster, proposing he stays in office until elections are held but transferring his powers to a caretaker government. The opposition promptly rejected the offer, with a spokesman calling it “an attempt to prolong the survival of regime.” Saleh made his offer at a meeting on Tuesday night with Mohammed al-Yadoumi, head of the Islamist Islah party. It was the first time Saleh had dealt with Islah, once a partner in his government, an opposition spokesmen said.  Groups calling themselves the Youth Revolution said on Wednesday they would not end a sit-in near Sanaa University until Saleh and his allies are removed from power. The group said ´a temporary presidential council of five individuals known for experience and integrity´ should run the country for an interim period (of six months) and this council should appoint a technocrat to form a caretaker government.

The group also called for corruption trials, return of “stolen public and private property,” release of political detainees, dissolving state security forces and closing the information ministry — steps taken in Tunisia and Egypt after similar pro-democracy uprisings had removed entrenched leaders. They called for dialogue over the complaints of northern Shi’ites and southerners who lean toward secession.

Saleh long had the backing of the US which considered him a trusted ally in the fight against the local branch of Al Qaeda. Washington might still consider him the man who is the best guaratee against total chaos in the country.  However, the Yemeni opposition suspect incidents of lax security over the past week are government ploys to show to foreign powers that Saleh is the strongman who can hold the impoverished country together. The opposition says Saleh is to blame for the presence of militants, including al Qaeda, in the Abyan city of Jaar, where an explosion at a bullet factory killed 140 people on Monday.

In opposition circles it is believed that Saleh himself has been at least in part responsible for bringing Al-Qaeda into the country. Sheikh Hamid al-Ahmar, a leader of the biggest tribal coalition of the Hashed and also a leader of the Islah party, told Reuters on Tuesday Islah and the opposition could handle the militant issue better than Saleh. “I think Yemenis would be capable of freeing Yemen of terror within months,” Al-Ahmar said, adding that the United States and European countries should call directly for Saleh’s departure.

AUTHOR: Martin Hijmans
E-MAIL: m.hijmans [at]


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