Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has once again announced his decision to leave office. This time around, however, he has given a timeline of a few days. Many of his opponents disbelieving him feel it is yet another tactic to thwart an impending decision in the UN Security Council regarding Yemen and significantly Saleh’s departure from office.
In all probability — conditional on consensus, likely to be achieved — the Security Council is likely to pass a Resolution where Saleh will be asked to honour the Gulf Cooperation Council’s previous proposal for Yemen. The same proposal Saleh had initially accepted and then
refused to honour.
Saleh’s current term ends in 2013 and though he has reiterated once too often that neither he nor his family will contest the next election, Yemenis feel otherwise. They know him to be a clever political player and one who has reneged on past promises just to stay in power. The current situation in Yemen is highly unstable not only in terms of the anti-regime protests but for the standoff between the government forces and those units that defected to the opposition under rebellious General Ali Mohsen. With clashes having erupted between General Mohsin’s troops and the government the capital, Sanaa, has been carved out territorially between pro and anti-government control. At the same time the government camp is trying to re-establish control and unify the military.
In any case, the status quo cannot be sustained for long. There is increasing international pressure on Saleh to relinquish hold and instead allow for the process of political reform to take place. While Al Qaeda affiliated cleric Anwar Al Awlaki may have been successfully eliminated by a drone strike in recent days, the organisation’s capability is still a major worry. This is why Yemen’s political stability and security is so important for it borders neighbouring Gulf States that host some of the world’s largest strategic oil reserves.
In addition, Yemen’s internal problems including the Houthi Shia rebels in the North and separatists in the South are a continuing challenge to the country’s unity and security. Further tipping of the political instability because of Saleh’s refusal to step down is likely to trigger off these factors that would only compound the situation. It is feared that Yemen could well lapse into another civil war. In addition the instability may well lead to a spawning of more terror attacks aimed elsewhere.
This is exactly the situation the GCC has tried hard to prevent by using hectic diplomatic efforts to persuade Saleh not to pursue such a policy, that will only backfire on him and jeopardise Yemen’s stability.
It is unfortunate that Saleh refused to heed the call of reason and look beyond his quest for power. It is hoped that now at least Saleh stands by his promise to give up power lest the situation