Yemen at a crossroads
The fact that two top generals, including the Air Force Chief, General Mohamed Saleh Al-Ahmar who is Saleh’s half brother, as well as his nephew the Presidential Guard’s head, General Tarik Mohamed Abdallah Saleh, were among the officials who got sacked says a lot for the changed power dynamics in Yemen. It also sends a strong message to Saleh who has given the impression of returning to Yemen even after agreeing to a power transfer deal, which does not take into account his return to politics.
The anger against Saleh’s relatives and affiliates in the period following his departure had bred resentment and mistrust for the new setup. Even though President Hadi was Saleh’s vice-president earlier, he enjoys the support of the opposition groups in government. Moreover, his win at the ballot – irrespective of the fact that he was the sole candidate – in February has given him the credibility to run office. How Hadi manages affairs will set the precedent for the course of the country’s future political roadmap. It will also determine political stability that has been rocked by the anti-Saleh protests and other political and security issues following his exit.
Yemen remains fragile security-wise, facing ethnic and sectarian tensions and a virulent Al-Qaeda presence. Any further spread in instability is likely to trigger a worse security situation, something the country cannot afford. As a matter of fact, deterioration in Yemen’s security can impact other Gulf states because of geographical proximity. More important is the threat of a growing terrorist presence to the region’s strategic reserves of oil on ground and the energy shipping lanes in the Gulf waters. Though Hadi may have risked starting a rebellion in the army corps with his recent decision to sack the top brass, it was much needed, given the popular opposition to these men retaining these strategic positions.
It is a good start and it is hoped that the government is able to impose its will and control and put the state institutions in order in less time than imagined.