Will Yemen’s revolution be the most successful?
By taking the presidential oath, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi became the first Yemeni President to succeed the ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh. He was sworn-in to protect the country’s unity, independence and territorial integrity. Yet he only has two years to implement this great oath, and we all realize that his task will not be an easy one.
I believe his principal opponent will be former President Saleh, who doesn’t want to disappear from the Yemeni scene. He returned from his holiday in Las Vegas and New York to take part in the presidential inauguration, but only to appear as a challenge and reminder to his rivals that he is still around. What is even worse than Ali Abdullah Saleh’s presence is his son Ahmed, who continues to head the Republican Guard, along with several other relatives in leading military posts.
The Yemenis have agreed, despite many of them having reservations, to appoint al-Hadi as their new president. Wisely, they have agreed to bring an end to three decades of Saleh’s backward rule. Now what is even more important is for Yemen to remain a united country and avoid disputes. The people of Yemen have relinquished a long list of demands in order to reach an acceptable compromise; thus Saleh and his associates should not be allowed to ruin the future of these people, who forgave him and allowed him to go unpunished.
If the Yemenis succeed in moving forward, then we can say that theirs was the most successful revolution in the Arab Spring. They removed their ruler with the least amount of bloodshed and chaos. This of course is dependent upon whether the new leadership succeeds in establishing a new regime, and avoiding the pitfalls that we expect to be planted by Saleh and his companions. There are other major challenges, including convincing the southern separatists that there is genuine hope this time of the south becoming an active part in the framework of a fair ruling system across all Yemen.
The time has come for the comprehensive reconciliation and reconstruction of the great Yemeni state that President Saleh failed to achieve, although he boasted of being the constructor of unity. He never realized that unity is not a forced military project; but a partnership. South Yemen could have been a source of success for Saleh’s political and economic rule, but he was narrow minded. He only focused his attention on balancing power through disputes between local forces, a practice which qualified him for the title of “snake dancer”.
Al-Hadi and his new ruling team will not only have to confront Ali Abdullah Saleh, but also the al-Qaeda scarecrow. This organization has succeeded in poisoning Yemeni society with the aim of creating tribal, sectarian and regional divisions. Al-Qaeda, which fled the mountains of Afghanistan for the hills of Yemen, will not be an easy opponent, especially as al-Hadi has to rely upon an old military system.
Yet the biggest challenge will be achieving economic development, which is even tougher than toppling Saleh and confronting al-Qaeda. Yemen lacks a proper economic infrastructure and suffers from high levels of illiteracy. It will not be possible to reconstruct the country unless it receives a helping hand from the Arabs, along with international support, to lead Yemen out of the dark tunnel that it has been trapped in for the past 30 years.
Will al-Hadi, the new Yemeni President, be able to do all this in just two years? It is a tough challenge, but where there is a will there is a way.