By Eric C. Sigmund
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
SANA’A, Yemen – After weeks of unrest precipitated by pro-reform protests throughout the country, President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s tenure may soon come to an end. Saleh, who has served as Yemen’s President since 1978, announced his intention Friday, to step down as the country’s leader as part of a peace deal between the government and opposition forces brokered by neighboring nations. The deal however, has yet to be signed and Saleh insists that the opposition accept its terms before any final transition of leadership takes place.
Peace negotiations were led by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of six regional oil-producing nations. GCC nations reacted quickly to increased violence within Yemen seeking to prevent a possible spillover effect into their own countries. Dozens of Yemeni civilians have been killed in government led crackdowns since protests began over a month ago.
The finalization of an agreement has been warmly welcomed by anti-government protesters. The agreement stipulates that Saleh be given 30 days to vacate his position however, the deal also provides Saleh and regime officials with complete domestic immunity. One official noted that the issue of immunity was critical to reaching any deal but once this issue had been resolved, the agreement would be finalized without reservations.
Commenting on the prospect of resigning, President Saleh noted “Civil war will not only affect Yemen, but also the whole region and the international security.” The President however, did not waste any opportunity to blame protesters, targeting the youth, for destabilizing the country. “They are the masters of corruption, thieves of lands, and murderers. All their officials and grassroots are rogues, for they lied in this crisis without feeling shame before the Yemeni people who have matured.” While the President announced that is “ready to quit,” he affirmed that any transition must be by free election as required by the constitution.
According to the terms of the peace deal however, Yemen’s vice-president would assume power after Saleh’s final 30 days expired and would have seven days to formulate a unity government. That government may incorporate the President’s General People’s Congress party. Despite approval of the agreement by government opponents, protesters in the streets note that they will continue to demand reform until Saleh is finally removed. At least two were killed Monday, when protesters were again met with violent resistance.
For more information please see:
Al-Jazeera – Deaths Reported in Fresh Yemen Protests – Apr. 25, 2011
CNN World – Yemen’s Embattled President Agrees to Exit, Officials say – Apr. 23, 2011
Reuters – Yemen’s Saleh to Quit but Activists say Protests go on – Apr. 23, 2011
Yemen News Agency – Opposition Dragging Nation into Civil War says President Saleh – Apr. 23, 2011
Yemen Post – Opposition Welcomes Power Deal in Yemen Also – Apr. 23, 2011