For the past few weeks, rumors spread widely through Yemen with many foreign and local newspapers announcing the imminent departure for Ethiopia of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Amidst renewed political tensions in between the new coalition government headed by Prime Minister Mohamed Salem Basendwa and members of the General People’s Congress, which is still headed by President Saleh, GCC countries and western diplomats engineered a plan which they hoped would bring back peace to war-torn and hungry Yemen, long enough at least for President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi to complete the transitional period and set the country onto the right tracks.
Most of the arguments revolve around President Hadi’s new decrees towards the restructuration of the armed forces as per provisioned by the GCC brokered agreement which saw the early retirement from power of veteran politician Ali Abdullah Saleh. Bent on breaking up Saleh’ support network it seems, loyalists of the former regime accused Hadi of serving al-Islah’s interests, Yemen’s political faction as they said with every blow sustained by Saleh, al-Ahmars were growing in strength. Al-Ahmar’s sons as they are often referred to, have long been opponents to Saleh’s regime, wanting to assert their own rule over Yemen. Last year, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the powerful tribal leader of the Hashed confederation of tribes sided with the revolution, putting his party, al-Islah at the center of the revolutionary movement.
With the arrival to Sana’a two weeks ago of UN special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, diplomats saw an opportunity to drum in the need for Saleh to “stop meddling within the country’s political affairs” and most importantly for his family members to comply with President Hadi’s decrees.
And although Tarek, Saleh’s nephew and former Commander of the Republican guards 3rd Brigade, and General Mohamed Saleh al-Ahmar, Saleh’s half-brother and former Commander of the air force, eventually handed out their posts after weeks of defiance, diplomats felt they needed a more “radical” solution to the country’s political conundrum.
This is when according to western diplomats, Ethiopia came into play. According to local media reports, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi would have handed the Ethiopian government an official letter demanding the country to host former President Saleh for a duration of two years, upon which Yemen would hold its next presidential election.
Ethiopia agreed, promising to treat Saleh with all due respect and arrange for him a suitable residence and dispatch of security personnel.
Sources close to his office told the Yemen Observer that Saleh was “categorically refusing to even contemplate his departure, not for a while, not at all”. The source who asked to remain anonymous said: “About two months, the UAE offered former President Saleh a safe haven, wanting to help move Yemen way from its political deadlock and military arm wrestling game. Russia later on jumped on the “hosting” wagon, saying it would too receive Saleh.”