Al-Ahram Weekly Online   17 - 23 November 2011
Issue No. 1072
Region
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Picking up the pieces

The UN envoy to Yemen faces daunting challenges to end the crisis, says Nasser Arrabyee

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A boy, with his face painted in the colours of Yemen's national flag, shouts slogans during a march calling for the trial of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh and against the proposed immunity deal for him, in Sanaa

It's been one week now since the UN envoy arrived to Yemen to end the 10-month long political crisis. In the first week of his current sixth round, Jamal Bin Omar has achieved very little, but still seemed determined and optimistic to achieve more before he briefs the Security Council on 21 November.

On Tuesday, Bin Omar discussed with President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the presidential palace in Sanaa the steps for transferring power according to the internationally and regionally supported deal which was brokered by the Saudi-led six nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

In the meeting Saleh said he is sticking to the GCC and UNSC Resolution 2014 which urged the conflicting parties to implement the GCC deal. Bin Omar said the UN resolution calls for a compromise political solution based on the GCC deal. The political solution includes early presidential elections with the opposition and ruling party agreeing on one candidate. This candidate would most likely be the current vice president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.

However, leaders of the Islamist-led opposition parties were still outside Yemen Tuesday despite repeated calls for them to come back from Bin Omar, the US and EU ambassadors.

Bin Omar said the international community would condemn any party that would not stop violence and the violation of human rights. He regretted the continuation of violence from the conflicting parties which has caused a lot of suffering to civilians.

President Saleh said he is ready to step down within 90 days maximum if his deputy reached a scheduled mechanism for implementing the GCC deal. "I am not clinging to power. Whoever clings to power is mad," Saleh said on Monday in televised statements.

Saleh said that without reaching an agreement on how and when to implement the GCC deal, Yemenis will descend into an all-out civil war.

Two important and controversial issues faced the UN envoy since he arrived last week.

The ruling party wanted the GCC initiative to be signed simultaneously with its implementation mechanism while the opposition wanted President Saleh or his deputy to sign the GCC first, after which its implementation mechanism would be signed in Riyadh later.

The ruling party wanted the leaders of the opposition to return to Yemen to finalise the last details of the implementation mechanism of the GCC.

Secretary General of the Socialist Party Yassin Said Noman, secretary-general of the Islamist Party Abdel-Wahab Al-Ansi, and Chairman of the National Council Mohammed Ba Sundwa have been mobilising support outside Yemen since the middle of October and they do not want to come back until the GCC is signed, despite the American and European calls for them to come back.

The ruling party also wants guarantees from the opposition or from the international community to end protests as soon as the national government is formed according to the implementation mechanism of the GCC.

The opposition keeps saying their protesters have the right to demonstrate and sit in regardless of any agreement between the parties.

Furthermore, there are three groups who completely refuse the GCC deal as a solution for the Yemeni crisis. In south, the southern separatist movement group rejects the GCC deal and describes it as a northern issue that has nothing to do with them.

The Shia rebels of Al-Houthi in the north also refuse the GCC deal as something that excludes them and enhances the persecution from Sunni groups. The GCC deal is believed to favour the historic opponents of the Shia Al-Houthi group.

The Sunni Islamist Party Islah and the rebel general Ali Mohsen, who is very close to Islah and who led six wars against Al-Houthi, are the historic opponents of Al-Houthi group. Al-Houthi is the second largest and influential group after Islah that dominates the Yemen main opposition coalition, which includes Islamists, Socialists and Nasserites.

From March to this month, hundreds of people were killed and injured in fierce battles between Islah and Al-Houthi in Al-Jawf, Saada and Hajja provinces. Each group wants to control as much as possible of these provinces in the absence of the central government because of the current unrest.

On Monday, 10 people from both sides were killed after Al-Houthi fighters arrested and killed a suicide bomber allegedly from Islah who tried to blow himself up in a big group of Al-Houthi followers who were celebrating their sacred annual day of Al-Ghafir in the area of Matoon, in Al-Jawf province, in northeastern Yemen.

The third group that refuses the GCC deal is Al-Qaeda. This terrorist group rejects both the opposition and the government and describes them as the "agents of Americans, the enemies of Muslims and Islam".

In the areas under their control as Taliban-style Islamic Emirates in the south of the country, Al-Qaeda whips, cuts hands, and executes as punishments for anyone who violates what they call Sharia law.

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