Yemeni dictator has worn out his welcome

June 11, 2011 - 0:0

When the wave of change started to sweep across the Middle East and North Africa, leading to the ouster of two dictators who had been in power for decades, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, the Yemeni people took to the streets, hoping to overthrow their own dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled the country for over 32 years.

However, Saleh decided to respond to the protesters with harsh repression, and Yemen became immersed in an intense political crisis.
During the Cold War period, when Yemen was divided into the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen), which was aligned with the Western bloc, and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), which was aligned with the Eastern bloc, Ali Abdullah Saleh became the president of North Yemen in 1978 as a military leader. But in May 1990, about six months after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the two Yemens unified, and Saleh took office as the president of the new country, which was named the Republic of Yemen.
After almost 33 years in power, Saleh has no achievements to speak about. The only results of three decades of dictatorship have been increased poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment, a rise in social problems, and administrative, financial, and political corruption.
However, the Yemeni people became more self-confident when they saw the massive demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, and after over four months of daily protests in various Yemeni cities, Saleh was injured in an attack on the presidential palace on June 3.
Although many believe that the attack on Saleh’s residence was organized by foreign actors, the country’s current situation and the mood of the people clearly shows that the Yemenis are determined to be free.
The course of events suggests that the supporters of the absent president will no longer be able to repress the people brave enough to stand up to Saleh’s brutal thugs. In fact, the people are completely fed up with tyranny and dictatorship, even though they are one of the poorest and least educated nations in the region. Thus, Saleh’s supporters will never be able to create a situation that would allow him to return to the country.
Of course, the potential ouster of Saleh and his government is not the final and definitive act necessary for the creation of a free society in Yemen. There is still a long way to go to build up Yemen and make it a stable and prosperous country in terms of political, economic, social, and cultural development, but ending 33 years of despotism is the most important step on that path. And the recent attack on Saleh and his supporters after almost five months of people power demonstrations shows that the Yemeni dictator has worn out his welcome and there is no way he can return to the country.
Ardeshir Pashang is a researcher at the International Peace Studies Centre (IPSC), which is based in London.