Al-Ahram Weekly Online   19 - 25 May 2005
Issue No. 743
Region
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Rebellion continues

Contrary to repeated official announcements, Yemen's armed rebellions have not come to an end, reports Nasser Arrabyee from Sanaa

Earlier this week, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh ordered army and security leaders to halt the military campaigns against followers of the Shia preacher Badreddin Al-Houthi, the spiritual leader of the rebellion which has so far cost the country some 700 lives and more than 270 million dollars.

The Shia cleric refused an offer of presidential pardon after his conditional offer for surrendering was ignored. Saleh had said that the pardon would be granted in return for respect of the state. He said a tribal broker would bring the two rebellion leaders from their hideout to the capital Sanaa, on condition that the rebels declare their compliance with the constitution and laws. Shajee Mohamed Shajee, the tribal sheikh who is tasked with mediating between Saleh and rebels, left Sanaa with a letter from Saleh and was due to return on Saturday 14 May.

Saleh was supposed to have declared a clear- cut pardon for all rebels. However, he said the pardon of all Al-Houthi detainees -- some 1,000 -- must be preceded by pledges that they would give up their extremist ideas.

Addressing a consultative meeting with religious scholars, law-makers, and ministers, Saleh said, "we entrust you scholars to go to the detainees in prisons and persuade them to provide guarantees from their relatives, and sheikhs [tribal chiefs]; then they will be released. We do not want any one to remain in prison."

In the meeting, the president down-played the role of Al-Houthi and his slain son, preacher Hussein in what he referred to as a "conspiracy against the republican system".

"We have documents disclosing details of an external and internal conspiracy against the republican system," Saleh said.

He attacked two Islamic opposition parties -- Al-Haq Party (from which Hussein had dissented) and the Federation of Popular Forces Party -- and held them responsible for the insurgence in Sada north of the country. "I would like to brief you on what happened in Sada in 2004 and 2005. These were bloody incidents and reckless troubles caused by some rebels and outlaws," he said.

"They were the military wings of Al-Haq Party and FPFP. These militant groups were formed with the intention of completely rejecting and overthrowing the republican system in an attempt to turn back time," he added.

Earlier that day, some armed FPFP members closed the party's headquarters and arrested a leader. A "change of current leadership for political reforms inside the party" was demanded. The party accused the authorities of standing behind the move.

Instead of announcing a solution to the crisis, Saturday's meeting turned out to be an occasion for highlighting the damages caused by the rebellion. The prime minister, interior minister, planning minister and local administration minister spoke in the meeting. They explained to religious scholars the impact of the insurgence which killed 552 and injured 2,708, costing more than 270 million dollars in the process.

The interior minister, Rashad Al-Alimi read a letter from Al-Houthi and Abdullah Al-Ruzami, the military leader of Al-Houthi followers, in which they said that they would come to Sanaa or send representatives once injustices committed against them were stopped. "But if injustice continues with killing, destroying, and imprisonment... then the trouble will not be solved, but will become more complicated and the gap will become even wider" stated the letter, which was signed by Al-Houthi and Al-Ruzami.

Al-Houthi, who was accused by the government of wanting to overthrow the republican system, denied accusations that he had disobeyed the president or rejected the republican system. "We never refused the republican system nor the president. Don't believe the rumours of the hypocrites and lies of malicious people," the letter stated.

Al-Alimi also read a letter from President Saleh ordering the Sadah governor and military and security commanders there to stop hunting down Al-Houthi and his followers.

Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi, son of Badreddin, welcomed the presidential directives saying, "we are not calling for war, we are with the efforts to end the war."

"We hope to see these directives being translated in reality by stopping the hunting down of innocents and stopping the fabrication of accusations," Al-Houthi told an Islamic website by phone from Al-Naqaa, a village near borders with Saudi Arabia, where he and his remaining followers are located.

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