x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Praise as Yemen's leader dumps old guard

Saleh's son, nephews and powerful general routed from their posts as President Hadi asserts control over armed forces. Hakim Almasmari reports from Sanaa

SANAA // Yemeni leaders and activists yesterday welcomed decrees from the president, Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, removing former regime members from their posts and asserting his control over the armed forces.

The country's fragile transition to democracy has been destabilised by people loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president forced from office last year.

Under pressure to unify the army and restore stability, Mr Hadi on Wednesday removed Mr Saleh's son and nephews from powerful security posts.

Mohammed Abulahoum, president of the opposition Justice and Building Party, hailed the moves.

"A little over a year ago no one thought this would be possible," Mr Abulahoum said. "But it is today and we have to work together to move Yemen forward.

"We are one step closer to the Yemen we envision."

Tens of thousands gathered outside Mr Hadi's residence and chanted "we are all united" after he announced that Mr Saleh's son Ahmed, once tipped to succeed his father, had been relieved of his duties as head of the Republican Guard and appointed ambassador to the UAE.

Two of Mr Saleh's nephews were made military attaches in Ethiopia and Germany.

Mr Hadi also ordered Gen Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, commander of the First Armoured Division and one of the most powerful men in Yemen, to leave his post.

He will now serve as a presidential adviser.

Mr Hadi has struggled to reshape the army since Mr Saleh resigned under a GCC-brokered deal last year because the former leader has continued to exert influence through a network fostered over his 33-year rule.

The decrees were the second step in Mr Hadi's overhaul of the military and loosen the Saleh family's grip on the armed forces.

In his first move, Mr Hadi in December issued decrees that gave him direct control over some army units, including special forces and anti-terrorism units.

Restoring stability in Yemen has become a priority for the US and its Arabian Gulf allies, concerned about militants linked to Al Qaeda operating in the country.

Remnants of the Saleh regime have sought to capitalise on the instability caused by terrorism, which had put pressure on Mr Hadi, as some Yemenis had said they preferred life under Mr Saleh because the country was safer then.

But Wednesday's decrees show Yemen is on the right track, said Ahmed Bahri, head of the political department in the opposition Haq Party.

"Not only did he remove the heads of the former regime but he forced them to live outside the country to ensure political progress," said Mr Bahri. "Saleh and Ali Mohsen's military powers are now part of the past."

Given the fate of other leaders forced from power by the Arab Spring, Mr Saleh has leveraged a good deal for himself and his family, said Dr Wajdi Al Absi, a political analyst in Sanaa.

"Saleh wanted a secure exit for him and his family and these decrees give him just that," said Dr Al Absi. "He was willing to fight until his demands were met after seeing the end of leaders in Egypt and Libya."


* with additional reporting from Reuters

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