Debate Magazine

Another One Bites the Dust! The Dictator of Yemenis Driven out by Peaceful Protesters After Being in Power for 30 Years!

Posted on the 24 November 2011 by Mikeb302000
I believe this pertains to the discussion about peaceful protests being more useful to ending tyranny than weapons.
Note this was peaceful civil disobedience; not armed insurrection, not resisting an armed foreign invasion, and not part of an armed civil war.  ALL of those things are different from each other in fundamental, significant ways.  They are more unlike than like each other.
Congratulations to the long-suffering people of Yemen, and best wishes on forming a new, representative government going forward with their part in the dramatic renewal of their region.  One more tin-plated dictator is added to the refuse pile of history.
From the New York Times:
Yemen’s Leader Agrees to End 3-Decade Rule
Another One Bites the Dust! The dictator of Yemenis driven out by peaceful protesters after being in power for 30 years!
Samuel Aranda for The New York TimesProtesters listened to the news of an agreement on Wednesday for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to transfer power to his vice president. More Photos »

Published: November 23, 2011
SANA, Yemen — After more than three decades of autocratic rule, President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed an agreement on Wednesday that immediately transferred power to his vice president, bowing to unrelenting street protests and raising hopes for an end to a political crisis that brought this impoverished nation to the brink of collapse. If the agreement holds up, it will make Mr. Saleh the fourth Arab leader to be forced from power this year by popular uprisings that have shaken the Middle East and North Africa. But the deal offers no guarantee that it will restore calm to a nation fractured by 10 months of political instability and suffering from a power vacuum that groups linked to Al Qaeda have exploited with increasing boldness.
Troubled by the collapse of security, the United States, other Western powers and Persian Gulf leaders had aggressively pushed for the agreement, even as protesters argued that it would preserve the status quo by keeping the country’s elite, including members of Mr. Saleh’s family, in power. On Wednesday, some of the movement’s leaders indicated that they would not back down without more fundamental changes.
It remains unclear how the country’s interim leaders will resolve a bitter three-way power struggle between Mr. Saleh and two rivals — including a renegade general who commands well-armed defectors — that has recently eclipsed the popular protests.
Under the terms of the deal, a presidential election will be held in three months; a consensus figure, probably the vice president, is expected to be the only candidate.  In the meantime, a national unity government, consisting of members of the Yemeni opposition and the current ruling party, will be formed, along with a military commission to restructure the country’s badly fractured armed forces.
In Sana’s “Change Square” on Wednesday, a tent city that has become one of the epicenters of the revolt, protesters held aloft photographs of colleagues killed by Mr. Saleh’s security forces or his loyalists in a crackdown that left hundreds of demonstrators dead. Many protesters, who said they felt that their popular revolt had been hijacked by political elites and their foreign backers, were especially angered by reports that the president and his family would receive immunity from prosecution.
In Sana’s “Change Square” on Wednesday, a tent city that has become one of the epicenters of the revolt, protesters held aloft photographs of colleagues killed by Mr. Saleh’s security forces or his loyalists in a crackdown that left hundreds of demonstrators dead. Many protesters, who said they felt that their popular revolt had been hijacked by political elites and their foreign backers, were especially angered by reports that the president and his family would receive immunity from prosecution.
“We will never accept any agreement that does not meet our goals,” Hamzah Alkamaly, a 23-year-old activist, said Wednesday night. “We will stay in the square.”
The deal, signed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, allows Mr. Saleh to retain his title and certain privileges until new elections are held. Yemeni lawmakers are also expected to pass a law granting him immunity from prosecution, said Abdullah al-Saidi, the former Yemeni ambassador to the United Nations.
It was unclear when, and if, the president intended to return to Yemen.
Mr. Saleh, a former military officer with little formal education, survived for decades in part by dividing or co-opting rivals and building a patronage system that he alone controlled, leaving Yemen with a barren political environment and hollow institutions. Moreover, Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s wealthy and autocratic neighbor to the north, has never wanted to see democracy flourish in its backyard.
Mr. Saleh’s move on Wednesday appeared to take Yemenis by surprise after months of broken promises and skillful political maneuvering that confirmed his reputation as a canny politician.
The president had agreed to sign similar agreements several times, then backed out — once standing up diplomats who were waiting to witness the deal and found themselves trapped for hours in a building by hundreds of armed Saleh supporters.
In a signal of how wary Yemenis have become of Mr. Saleh’s intentions, there was little public rejoicing on Wednesday, a day that could prove to be a crucial turning point for the country.
Although the signing was the first time Mr. Saleh actually agreed to give up formal authority, it is unclear how big a political presence he hopes to maintain. A son and three nephews retain powerful posts in the military and intelligence service.
Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst and the head of a nonpartisan group that campaigns for democracy, said few people thought the agreement signaled the end of Mr. Saleh’s political ambitions. “He figures the rest of the maneuvering can be kept for after the signing,” Mr. Iryani said.
If he does retain some control, political observers say it is hard to imagine that his chief rivals, Maj. Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar and the unrelated Ahmar clan, will stand aside. Conflict between government forces and the well-armed supporters of the general and the Ahmars, who lead the country’s most powerful tribal federation, have turned parts of Sana, the capital, into virtual battle zones in recent months.
Mr. Saleh appeared to have been motivated to concede power this time in part because world powers — increasingly frustrated with his intransigence — were threatening sanctions.
Mr. Saidi, the former United Nations ambassador, said Mr. Saleh had been warned that the Security Council would consider freezing his family assets, and that he might be banned from travel and referred to the International Criminal Court.
“He knows what happened to Saddam, he knows what happened to Qaddafi,” Mr. Saidi said. “You cannot play games.”
And Mr. Saleh and his family are believed to have hundreds of millions of dollars in bank accounts and real estate in the United States and Europe. “He was afraid he would lose his fortune,” said a high-ranking Yemeni official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
A potential travel ban might have been especially troubling to Mr. Saleh, who may need more treatment for serious wounds sustained in a bomb attack on his presidential palace on June 3.
At the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general, told reporters on Wednesday that Mr. Saleh had informed him in a telephone conversation that he planned to travel to New York for medical treatment after leaving Riyadh.
In Washington, the Obama administration appeared to be ushering Mr. Saleh, once one of America’s closest allies in the region, out the door. “The United States welcomes President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s decision to transfer executive powers immediately to the vice president,” President Obama said in a statement. He said the Yemeni people “deserve the opportunity to determine their own future.”
The administration had initially worried that Mr. Saleh’s departure could harm American counterterrorism operations in the country — the United States works closely with local security forces in its fight against Al Qaeda’s Yemeni branch.
But as the antigovernment protests expanded and it became more evident that Mr. Saleh’s refusal to leave posed a security threat, the Obama administration shifted its position and entered into negotiations to ease the president out of office.
Mr. Saleh’s trip to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, had been rumored for days. It came after several days of intense negotiations between opposition politicians and the president’s representatives, brokered by Jamal Benomar, a United Nations envoy.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Benomar addressed the young protesters — and seemingly, their criticisms of the negotiated settlement.
“You have generated the momentum for change in Yemen,” he said. “The door is now open for you to make a real difference in the transition.”
Hours later, Mr. Saleh signed the agreement in an ornate room flanked by members of the Saudi royal family, Yemeni opposition politicians and diplomats. He pledged to “cooperate” with the new government and accused adversaries of staging a “coup.”
“I feel sorry for what happened in Yemen,” he said.
With the signing, power shifted to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi.
Yassin Saeed Noman, a Socialist politician and the leader of Yemen’s opposition coalition, said that while the agreement would not quickly pull the country from its malaise and had involved painful compromises, the political crisis had required action. “We have to avoid violence in order to keep our country safe,” he said. “The president had been here for 33 years. We want to send him out.”
Kareem Fahim reported from Sana, and Laura Kasinof from Greencastle, Pa. Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting from Beirut, Robert F. Worth from Cairo,and Helene Cooper from Washington.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 24, 2011
An earlier version of this article gave the wrong location from which Neil MacFarquhar contributed reporting. He was in Beirut, not Cairo.

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