Photo by Khaled Fazaa/AFP/Getty Images.
UPDATE: President Ali Abudllah Saleh’s surprise move to sign a resignation pledge did not end the violence in Yemen. In fact, it “threatened to move Yemen to a new stage of political crisis and violence,” writes the Wall Street Journal. Five protesters were killed as activists marched across the country demanding that the ousted leader be put on trial.
“No immunity for the killer,” chanted demonstrators in Sanaa as they vowed to continue their protests. Activists were also angry at the formal opposition that agreed to the immunity deal, which was backed by both the United States and the United Nations. There is also widespread skepticism among the demonstrators that Saleh will keep his word to give up power.
The clashes exemplified how Yemen will likely face what the Associated Press calls “a messy power struggle,” particularly since Saleh’s son and nephew will apparently stay in their leadership roles within Yemen’s security forces.
In an analysis piece, Reuters notes that diplomats have warned that the deal Saleh signed Wednesday “contains flaws that could be exploited to undermine its implementation at every stage.”
Wednesday, Nov. 23: And the Arab Spring rolls on.
Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, signed an agreement to step down Wednesday after 33 years of authoritarian rule, the New York Times reports. In a surprise move, he signed an agreement “that Yemeni officials said immediately transferred power to his vice president,” the Times writes. In exchange, he received immunity from prosecution.
Saleh is the fourth Arab leader to fall since the uprisings began in Tunisia.
Ostensibly a democratically elected president, in practice Saleh proved a master at holding onto power. He's famous for comparing the job of ruling Yemen to "dancing on the heads of snakes." Under pressure for months from pro-democracy protesters, he has repeatedly maneuvered to keep his job despite promises to step aside. Just how much authority he will really give up under the new agreement is not yet clear. What does seem clear is that the political transition will not immediately solve Yemen’s many problems.
Wracked by poverty and insurgencies, the country in recent years has become home to one of the most potent Al Qaeda branches, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. That has caught the attention of the United States, which has carried out drone attacks on suspected terrorists there, including U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.
In Change Square, the locus of Sana's protest movement, demonstrators made no move to dismantle their tents. “This agreement doesn't' solve the real problem in Yemen,” says Dr. Tariq Noman, a cardiac surgeon who established the protest movement's field hospital in a nearby mosque. “It does nothing to stop the corruption and the power abuses.” The agreement made no formal mention of Saleh's cronies and family members who together control the bulk of Yemen's economy, media, armed forces and government services. “If these people stay, nothing will improve,” said Noman.
Still, the agreement was greeted warmly by neighbor Saudi Arabia, the European Union, and the United States, Reuters reports. “This agreement marks a significant step forward for the Yemeni people in their quest for a unified, democratic, secure and prosperous country," Deputy Spokesman at the U.S. State Department Mark Toner said in Washington.
Reuters adds that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters that Saleh had told him on Tuesday that he hoped to "come to New York to take medical treatment immediately after signing this agreement." He was injured in a bomb attack on his life earlier this year and has received treatment in Saudi Arabia.
For more in-depth analysis, read the full story at Reuters.