Yemen’s new president, Abdu Rabu Masour Hadi, will have his work cut out to ensure the county’s unity and stability, with tens of thousands of protesters still camped out in the main cities, and significant opposition from Houthi rebels in the Sa’dah and Hajjah governorates as well as from the Southern Movement (SM), which wants autonomy for the south.
Protesters say their task is by no means over: “By electing Hadi to replace Saleh, we achieved the first goal of our peaceful revolution. We 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,” said Adel Omar, a protest leader in Ibb city.
“We will not go home unless all the goals of our revolution are achieved. We are ready to stay here for another year or more,” he told IRIN.
Abdu al-Janadi, deputy information minister and spokesman for the General People’s Congress (Saleh’s old party), said the “revolutionaries” should go home. “We need a calm atmosphere to work together on solving protracted issues in the country and build a civil a state. Staying in the street will take us back to square one,” he said.
“There is nothing to make me optimistic about the future. Protesters’ tents are still placed in front of my shop [which has been closed since February 2011],” said Mohammed al-Ansi, owner of a stationery shop on University Street in Sana'a. “We haven’t seen any official efforts to remove these tents. Why did we vote?”
Meanwhile, Suhail TV, a satellite channel loyal to the Joint Meeting Parties currently sharing cabinet seats with Saleh’s party, quoted Prime Minister Mohammed Salim Basindwa as saying on 25 February: “Asking revolutionaries to go home is one of the things he [Basindwa] cannot do. If they demand that I step down, I will do so.”
As if to underline the new president’s problems, on the day he was sworn in (25 February) 26 Republican Guard soldiers were killed and dozens injured when a suicide bomber blew up a car in front of a presidential palace in the southern city of Mukalla; and in the southern city of Aden two people were killed and 10 injured in clashes between SM gunmen and the army, said Ghazi Ahmad, head of Aden’s security department.
|By electing Hadi to replace Saleh, we achieved the first goal of our peaceful revolution. We 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|
“These forces are sending a strong message to the new president that he has to prepare himself for a challenging job,” said Ali Abu Holiqah, chair of parliament's Constitutional and Legal Committee.
“I understand that there are complicated security, economic and social crises, which require strong determination,” Hadi said after being sworn-in. He called for a “comprehensive national dialogue” involving all political forces, and promised to improve security, help hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons return home, and restore public services like electricity and water.
Electricity supply problems have been exacerbated recently, according to the state Electricity Corporation, after power lines from the Marib gas-fired power station, the country’s main power provider, were attacked in Nihm District, Sana’a Governorate, where armed tribesmen have been clashing with Republican Guards (led by Saleh’s son).
The tribesmen are reported to have sabotaged the power lines in retaliation against the Republican Guards, whom they accuse of killing their relatives and destroying their homes. “The problem will not be solved unless Hadi removes Saleh’s relatives from their posts, which seems impossible for him,” said Mohammed al-Haddad, a political analyst from Marib Governorate.
Unlike the Houthis, who peacefully boycotted the elections in the northern governorates of Sa'dah and parts of Hajjah, SM members resorted to violence in southern governorates to prevent people from voting. In constituency 25 in Aden Governorate, a group of SM supporters broke into a polling station, took the ballot box onto the street and set it ablaze.
Gen Ali Mohammed Salah, head of operations at the Supreme Commission for Elections and the Referendum (SCER), told IRIN eight police and election management staff were killed and another 28 injured in the southern governorates of Aden, Lahj and Hadhramaut, and polling was halted in several dozen centres, mainly in Dhalea and Lahj governorates.
Asked by IRIN why they had resorted to violence on polling day, Lutf al-Yafie, an SM leader in Aden, said: “Our territory is occupied by the northerners. The regime hasn’t recognized our cause [independence and return of the pre-1990 southern state].”
He added: “Had we remained silent, the regime would have brought soldiers and citizens from the north to vote here and then claim they were from the south.”
Asked if the SM will engage in a “comprehensive national dialogue”, Nasser al-Khubaji, an SM leader in Lahj Governorate, said: “This dialogue is for the northerners to tackle their own problems. It doesn’t concern us… We will continue our struggle until we reclaim our state.”