Thursday 22 February 2018

Angry protests in Yemen over Saleh immunity deal

Patrick Cockburn in Sana'a

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of cities throughout Yemen yesterday to denounce the granting of immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh as part of a deal under which he would leave office after 30 days.

The demonstrators chanted: "No negotiations, no dialogue - resign or flee." Their rejection of the terms of the peace plan stems from their distrust of Mr Saleh and a belief that he is offering to resign only in order to gain time and stay in office.

The plan is the latest attempt to defuse the crisis over the future of Mr Saleh, who has been in office for 32 years.

Drawn up by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), it proposes that he hand over power to his vice-president a month after an agreement is signed by the opposition. Rival parties would join a national unity government in the next week.

In return, Mr Saleh, his family and aides, would be granted immunity from prosecution.

Immunity is a key issue both for the government and opposition because Mr Saleh's regime is regarded as corrupt, even compared with countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, whose rulers have already been forced to step down.

The main opposition bloc has conditionally endorsed the GCC peace plan, though it says it will not join a unity government. But the agreement is being rejected by many of the youth and ad hoc groups that have organised the mass demonstrations against Mr Saleh. At least 130 protesters have been killed so far by security forces and by pro-government gunmen.

On 18 March gunmen opened fire on opposition demonstrators in Sana'a, killing 55 and wounding hundreds more. In the following days ministers, ambassadors and other officials resigned in protest.

But the president has clung on, relying on the Republican Guard, rallying his allies and supporters, and holding massive counter-demonstrations.

The state is weak, with 40pc of the 23 million population impoverished. Conditions have worsened since demonstrations started in Sana'a on 29 January. Despite his delaying tactics, Mr Saleh is likely to go because of the strength of the opposition against him at home and his lack of firm support from the US or the countries of the GCC. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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