Yemen: Protesters reject dictator’s offer

April 16, 2011

Pro-democracy protesters in Yemen have shown their determination for real change by rejecting a proposal that would allow hated President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave power on his own terms and escape prosecution for his crimes.

In the face of ongoing repression, the opposition rejected a proposal from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and maintained their demand that Saleh leave immediately, Al Jazeera said on April 11.

The GCC proposal called for “the formation of a national unity government under the leadership of the opposition which has the right to form committees ... to draw up a constitution and hold elections”.

However, the proposal would allow Saleh to escape prosecution for attacks on protesters throughout the weeks of rallies that have called for his removal.

The Civil Alliance of the Youth Revolution, made up of 30 opposition youth groups, said in an April 13 statement: “The initiative does not clearly mention the immediate departure of the head of the regime and it did not touch on the fate of his relatives who are at the top military and security agencies that continue killing the peaceful protesters.”

The alliance said the GCC proposal was an attempt to abort the Yemeni revolution. The GCC is made up of the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which are all threatened by the protests across the region.

The GCC sent troops to Bahrain in March to help the government crush the pro-democracy movement.
Tens of thousands of people filled the streets of Sana’a, Taiz, Hudaida, Ibb and the south-eastern province of Hadramut on April 11 to protest against the GCC’s proposal, Al Jazeera said that day.

Saleh said in a statement he “has no reservation against transferring power peacefully and smoothly within the framework of the constitution”. Such an arrangement would likely allow Saleh’s brutal regime to continue under his deputy, Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi.

The US and European Union expressed support for the GCC proposal, said on April 13.

State repression continues. Seven people were killed when police attacked a dissident army unit in Amran province on April 13, AFP said that day.

Two protesters were also killed in Aden that day, AFP said. They were shot by soldiers for trying to set up roadblocks to enforce a general strike.

The Yemen government also closed Al Jazeera’s office and withdrew the network’s licence to report from the country, said on April 10.

This came after an April 8 protest that involved hundreds of thousands of people calling for Saleh to leave.

That day, two protesters were shot dead and 40 wounded by gunfire in the southern city of Taiz, said on April 10. At least 25 people were injured by gunfire and police batons in Sana'a.

More than 100 hundred protesters have been killed since protests began in February.

Saleh’s reputation for providing a “stable” country for Western interests has made him the West's preferred ruler since 1978.

He is often praised for being able to “manage” Yemen’s many competing tribal interests and for being a political “survivor” — obscuring the brutal methods he has used to maintain power.

However, the protests against him have unified the people of Yemen in ways Saleh never could.

Pro-democracy activist Tawakkol Karman told the April 8 Guardian: “Violent tribesmen who have fought each other for decades have come together in ‘liberation squares’; blood feuds have been forgotten.

“When snipers killed more than 50 protesters and wounded 1,000 on the Friday of Dignity, it was the young who arrested the culprits; not one was attacked or injured, despite the anger and the blood that had flowed in the streets.

“This was the peaceful nature of the revolution in practice.

“For the first time people in the south stopped calling for separation, raised the national flag and demanded an end to the regime. It’s been truly historic.

“The country is united in its aim to rid itself of the regime through public vigils and rallies, civil disobedience and slogans instead of tear gas and bullets.”

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