Sunday, 13 March 2011

No plan for next step in Yemen after President Saleh

By Nasser Arrabyee/14/03/2011

The protests in Yemen are different. It seems that no one thinks of the next the step.
It’s been more than one month now, and the protesters enthusiastically and emotionally demand the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh without saying what can be done when he’s gone?

Even more, you might get in a trouble if you raise such a question to the protesters in the streets or even to the opposition leaders, who have different visions such as Islamic Caliphate and Secularism, but they all agree “blindly” on removing the regime.

“When I raise such a question I get accused of major treason by a lot of excited young people,” said Najeeb Abdul Rehman, one of the protesters, who spends day and night in his sit-in tent at the gate of Sana’a university, the Change Square.

Abdul Rehman agrees that there should be a plan to be declared to the Yemeni people and the world on what the opposition can do when the regime collapses.

The leaders of the Islamist-dominated opposition coalition have not yet said this what we can do when the protesters in the streets succeed in achieving their single goal.

The coalition which includes the Islamists, Socialists, and Nasserites, refused three initiatives offered to them by President Saleh within less than one month despite the fact that those initiatives included almost everything they wanted from Saleh.

The opposition leaders keep saying “We do not trust Saleh, he is lying” as many of them told me. And publicly they say, “It’s too late, the street now is the arbitrator.”

The US ambassador to Yemen, Gerald Feierstein, who always urges both sides to sit down for dialogue and negotiations, said that the street process will not achieve anything .

“We oppose simply saying that Ali Abdullah Saleh should go, without saying anything about what you think is going to happen next. We oppose the idea of chaos. We oppose the idea that this will lead to civil war or to violence,” Feierstein told a small group of Yemeni journalists, including me, in the embassy in Sana’a on March 12th, 2011.

“Those who want President Saleh to leave, they have a responsibility to say if President Saleh leaves, this is what we’re going to do, and until today, nobody has come forward, at least as far as we know.”

“The problem is that people are demanding something without any idea of how they will manage it, and how they will prevent a disaster for the Yemeni people.”

The opposition leaders say they are with the street and the street does not want any talks or dialogue now.

“If the Joint Meeting Parties (opposition) is not the representative of the people on the street then the people on the street need to say who are their representatives,” said the US ambassador.

“ We think if the JMP wants to be the leader of the opposition they need to bring the street into the process,” said Feierstein.

When asked whether US wants President Saleh to finish his term in 2013 or leave now, the ambassador said, “ We do not think that it is up to us what we want is something acceptable to the Yemeni people whether he stays till 2013 or leaves in 2011 or he goes on 2012.”

About allegations that toxic gas was used to disperse the protesters in Yemen the ambassador said, “ We are reasonably confident that the allegations that there are sirens or mustard gas used are not correct.”

“If mustard gas was used there would have been 500 people dead and not one person.”

When asked what Saleh can do more to convince the opposition to sit for dialogue , the ambassador said, “ We think it would be good to remove some ministers who are known to be corrupt .We think it would be useful to remove some of the senior security officials who were involved in some of these violent or forced confrontations with demonstrators particularly in Aden.”

When asked if US is concerned about the Islamist dominance over the Yemeni opposition and if an Islamist leader was elected as President like Al Zandani the ambassador said, “ Abdul Majid Al Zandani as you know is on the terrorism list for the US and the United Nations, so we have a problem if he were elected a president.”

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