Hamstrung by Houthis, Yemeni president and government resign
SANAA // Yemen’s president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and the government resigned on Thursday, throwing the country into further political turmoil.
Presidential adviser Sultan Al Atwani said Mr Hadi resigned after the Shiite Houthi militia who have controlled the capital since September failed to withdraw from the presidential palace under a peace deal agreed on Wednesday.
Mr Hadi’s resignation came soon after he received the resignation of Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, who was besieged in his home by the rebels for two days before being allowed to leave on Wednesday, and his cabinet.
The government’s resignation letter to Mr Hadi said Yemen was going in the wrong direction and they refused to have any part in it.
“We resign as we refuse to be dragged into political differences that are not based on the law,” the letter said, adding “we refuse to be a party to, or be held responsible for, what others will do.”
The resignations have cast Yemen’s transitional political system into a grey area. There were reports that parliament refused to accept Mr Hadi’s resignation, while the information minister, Nadia Sakkaf, said the legitimacy of the legislature itself was linked to the president and had been ended by his resignation.
Meanwhile, fighting in the country continued with the Houthi rebels clashing with tribesmen in Marib province, killing two tribesmen and wounding six others. The rebels also attempted to lay siege to the 7th Brigade military compound in Khawlan district near Marib province.
Local tribes in Marib claim the Houthis are trying to take over the oil-rich Suuni-dominated province and have been mobilising to thwart any offensive.
Violence in Marib would lead to a shutdown of Yemen’s larger oil and gas projects as well as the main gas-fired power station.
Houthi leaders told had The National after overrunning Sanaa that Marib would not be as difficult to seize as it once was. Tribesmen say they are aware of that, but the consequences will be fatal.
“Everyone will lose if Marib is attacked by the Houthis. Tribes will not allow the Houthis to oppress them or gain control over their lands,” said Mufarih Bahaybih, a tribal leader in the province.
“The losses from the recent shutdowns of oil and gas projects in Hadramout and Shabwa province would be nothing compared to what Yemen will lose if Marib is attacked,” he said.
Yemen’s political transition after the three-decade rule of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh ended in 2011 has been derailed by the rise of the Houthis, who have seized several provinces besides the capital after sweeping down from their stronghold near the Saudi border.
The GCC, which brokered a deal to ease Mr Saleh from office following mass protests against him, and the United States on Wednesday expressed support for Mr Hadi after the rebels defeated the elite presidential guard, captured the presidential palace and surrounded Mr Hadi’s residence on Tuesday. The GCC branded the Houthi actions a coup and warned of action to protect the Gulf countries’ interests in Yemen.
The crisis appeared to have been defused when the presidency anounced late on Wednesday that Mr Hadi and the rebels had reached a political agreement that would grant Houthi demands including amendments to the draft constitution, guarantee them and the southern political movement Hirak fair representation in all state institutions, and expand the membership of the Shura Council within a week.
However, the rebels removed only some of their fighters from the presidential palace and Mr Hadi’s residence on Thursday.
“The remaining fighters will remain to ensure the implementation of the deal and will gradually decrease until all demands are met,” a member of the Houthi’s political council told The National.
The rebels had also agreed to free Mr Hadi’s chief adviser Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, who was adbducted on Saturday, but his whereabouts were still not clear on Thursday.
In response to the deal, officials in southern Aden province on Thursday ordered the reopening of all sea and air ports to ease tensions, after closing them a day earlier in protest against the Houthi actions against Mr Hadi and the government.
Athough the deal called for all state employees to return to their jobs and the reopening of schools and universities, Mr Bahah ordered all cabinet staff to stay home in protest over the entry of Houthi militants into the government’s offices on Saturday.
“Houthis entered ministers’ offices and young militants acted as if they were in charge and not the ministers,” a cabinet member told The National.
Earlier on Thursday, the UN special adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, returned and met government officials and political factions to evaluate progress in the transition process. The meetings discussed implementation of the peace and national partnership agreement brokered by the UN in September after the Houthi invasion of Sanaa, under which a government of technocrats headed by Mr Bahah was appointed, and the latest developments in the capital. This is Mr Benomar’s 36th visit to Yemen since he took up his post.
Though the Houthis hold power in Sanaa, they lack experience and will not be able to rule the country alone, said Najeeb Ghalab, a professor of politics at Sanaa University. “We are talking about youngsters, and their abilities and status will only result in more chaos and conflicts between the group and Yemenis and foreign countries,” he said.