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Hadi on the Ropes | Mellanöstern Tidningen Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
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Published On: Mon, Jan 29th, 2018

Hadi on the Ropes

Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the last president of Yemen who was elected in an engineered referendum where he was the only candidate and expected to be a transitional figure, has little chance of ever returning from exile. When he fled Huthi control of Sanaa, he became the fig-leaf legitimacy that the Saudis needed to launch an aggressive aerial bombing campaign. Never popular at home, his abrupt departure did little to gain any sympathy from Yemenis who saw him as a corrupt politician with a checkered past.

Now it seems he is being sidelined. Today forces loyal to the Southern Transition Council, led by Aidarous al-Zubeidi, followed through on their threat to replace Hadi’s government. After Hadi tried to prevent demonstrations against his government in Aden, there were violent clashes in Aden and the troops loyal to Hadi appeared to be losing control. Reports suggest that Hadi has lost control of major government buildings, but the situation is too close to call. At least 24 people have been confirmed dead with the toll likely to rise as fighting continues, although a truce ordered by Bin Dagher ordered troops to stay in their barracks. The airport, one of the few still operating in Yemen, was closed. There are massive demonstrations in support of the overthrow of Hadi’s ineffective government and secession from the north.

Hadi’s Prime Minister, Ahmad Bin Dagher, who the Southern Transition Council demanded be replaced, has noted that this spells the death knell of Yemen’s unity. The handwriting for a division between north and south has been on the wall for some time, as the southern secessionists have made clear. Whatever happens in the north is Saudi Arabia’ problem, although there is no way Hadi could ever hope to return there. The Emirates have been building up militias in alliance and prisons to support the secession.

Today’s revolt against Hadi clearly has the support of the Emirates, who have no interest in having Hadi return to Yemen. Yet it does not seem that the UAE would back the secessionists without at least tacit agreement from Bin Salman. The Saudis have no love for Hadi either, but he is their claim to legitimacy in a brutal war that has created a horrific humanitarian crisis in Yemen, especially in the north. Reuters is reporting that “A top military adviser to President Hadi, Mohammed Ali al-Miqdashi, said any move toward rebellion would render the southerners an enemy.”  This is bad news for Hadi, since he has now lost the support of much of the south in addition to the Huthis in the north.

Meanwhile in Ta‘izz it was reported that at least 55 Huthi supporters have been killed in the last 24 hours. And Huthi forces continue to kill Saudi soldiers across the border, after killing a number of Sudanese mercenaries near Midi a week ago. So the killing goes on with little prospect for a peaceful settlement in the near future. While all this fighting continues, the humanitarian crisis worsens, as diptheria is now replacing cholera as the most recent health problem.

Hadi, in his luxurious exile, may be on the ropes, but it is the Yemeni people who are suffering.

About the Author


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Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, a Senior Postdoctoral Scholar at the Institute for Social Anthropology at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.