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A Yemeni protests against the government in Sanaa on January 12, 2012. After the official handover of power to President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi, protesters call for the removal of al Saleh family members from positions of political and military power. © Mohammed Huwais - AFP/File
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Catherine Shakdam
Last updated: February 28, 2012

As Saleh hands over power, protesters gather across Yemen

As President Ali Abdullah Saleh and President Abdu Rabbo Mansour Hadi were attending the latter’s inauguration in a ceremony held at the presidential palace, demonstrators across Yemen once again gather up in a mass protest.

After a much controversial return to Yemen on the wake of the presidential elections, Saleh insisted that a ceremony be held in which he would officially hand out the reins of power to his former deputy and collaborator, President Hadi.

The Joint Meeting Parties, the main block of the opposition, refused to take part in the festivities, arguing that Saleh was sending the wrong message by “meddling within the state’s internal affairs.” One politician declared that “once again Saleh cannot help himself but meddle with Yemen despite the fact that the transfer-power agreement specifically specify that he could no longer be involved in politics, nor could his family for that matter. Having Hadi standing by Saleh gives Yemenis the impression that the old regime is still here, endangering stability.”

Abdu Ghaleb Al-Odaini, a spokesperson for the JMP said in a press release on Sunday that Saleh’s ceremony was illegal as it breached the law and Yemeni traditions. “It is not good for Hadi to appear beside the ousted president Saleh at this time because it provokes the Yemeni citizens who gave him their trust and voted for him in the presidential elections.”

Despite criticism and widespread condemnation, UN special envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar and GCC secretary General Abdal Latif al-Zayani, alongside other foreign officials attended the ceremony, applauding Saleh for peacefully transitioning his powers.

In Taiz, thousands of protesters poured onto the streets to demand the immediate departure from the armed forces of President Saleh’s relatives, warning President Hadi that in the same way as they ousted Saleh they would him too if he did not deliver on his promises.

A similar protest was staged in Sana’a, the capital, with revolutionaries and army defectors gathering in front of Hadi’s residence in 60 Street amid rumours that a deal had been broken between the U.S and the ruling party, provisioning for the departure of some of Saleh’s relatives but not all, with Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former President’s eldest son, remaining at the head of the Republican Guards and the Special Forces.

Moreover, protesters in Aden, Mukallah and Sana’a demanded the immediate departure of U.S. Ambassador Gerard Feierstein as they felt the diplomat was over-stepping the boundaries of his mandate by dictating state officials their policies.

“Who the hell does he think he is telling our government what to do? If he wants to dab in politics I suggest he goes back home and leave Yemen alone. We did not get rid of a regime to have the American invaders swoop in…the nerve of these people,” said an angry pro-democracy activist.

If anything, tensions in Yemen are as high as ever with signs that the military is losing patience. The 27thand 29thdivisions, which are stationed in the southern provinces of Hadramaut and Aden, already rose against their commanders, demanding that they be immediately replaced.

Defectors from al-Dalaimi air force base near Sana’a International Airport also threatened to escalate their protests if President Hadi continued to ignore their calls for the ouster of General Mohamed Saleh, President Saleh’s half-brother, reminding the coalition government that if they had agreed to wait until after the elections, their patience was now spent.

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