‘Who would be a fool to offer guarantees to a regime that kills peaceful protesters? Our principal demand is that Saleh leaves first.’
That was the reaction of Yemen’s opposition coalition to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s plan to end the current unrest in Yemen.
The plan talks of passing the President’s powers to his deputy, elections to be organised by the opposition but, fundamentally, immunity for the President Ali Abdullah Saleh. It is on this point that the youth revolutionaries and the opposition coalition will not compromise.
For his part, Ali Saleh and his regime have been ‘flip-flopping’ in their reaction. On Friday morning Saleh welcomed the proposal. However, during his speech to his supporters before Friday prayers, he rejected the proposal and launched a bizarre attack on Qatar, accusing it of interfering in Yemeni affairs. That appears to have been a typically excited Saleh reaction after seeing the large crowds. Now, on Monday, he has apparently welcomed the proposals.
Is this the end game? Or will Yemen enter a third month of upheaval?
This will largely be down to the people’s reaction to the GCC proposal. So far, it appears to be largely negative. One of the main calls of the anti-Saleh masses is that he and his family must leave all their positions of power immediately, and that they must be held to account for the crimes they have committed against the Yemeni people, especially those committed since the start of this Yemeni revolution.
“These proposals leave Saleh a free man, how can we allow this after the murders he has committed. We need a complete overhaul of this corrupt system. We simply don’t trust him, so we can’t take any risks,’ said Baraa Abdullah, a university graduate.
Walking through Change Square in Sana’a it is clear what the reaction here is. Placards everywhere declare that complete change is the only solution. ‘The people want the downfall of the regime’ has turned into ‘ the people want the trial of the regime.’
To explain their reaction it is important to remember the events of the last week. A lull in the violence followed the ‘Sana’a Massacre’ of March 18, when 52 anti-regime demonstrators were killed by snipers. However, over the last week there has been a notable upsurge in the attacks on the demonstrators. At least 12 protesters were killed in Taiz on the 4th April, after they were met by security forces whilst trying to march on the governor’s building. Protests in solidarity with the people of Taiz were held all over the country, and one of those, in Sana’a, was again met with violence from the regime, with at least one person killed and 500 injured in the dead of the night on the 9th April.
Fadi Alwadan, one of the protesters, presented his clear reaction, “Saleh must return the money, remove his family members from their posts, and must go to court. The opposition parties should not take charge of Yemen, everyone should.”
The rigid reaction of the protesters is not universal in Yemen. It is safe to say that the majority of Yemenis undoubtedly want Saleh to leave immediately. Nevertheless, many will settle for his removal whilst being immune to prosecution, so the country can move on from this turbulent phase in its history.
There is growing suspicion that the country is bankrupt, with the already weak economy coming to a standstill, and the efforts of Saleh’s regime to stay in power taking its toll. Many roads in Sana’a are blocked, including some of the main routes. Enmity is increasing between those who are pro and anti Saleh.
Many want a return to normal life. The hundreds of thousands in the ‘freedom’ and ‘change’ squares around the country want to make sure that this normal life is without Saleh, his family, or any remnants of his regime. The tide of momentum seems to be in their favour.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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