Yemen on Brink of Political Collapse: Tawakkol Karman

File photo: Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman gives a speech at a seminar organised by UNESCO and the Tunisian Government on World Press Freedom Day on May 4, 2012 in Tunis. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID
File photo: Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman gives a speech at a seminar organised by UNESCO and the Tunisian Government on World Press Freedom Day on May 4, 2012 in Tunis. AFP PHOTO / FETHI BELAID

SANAA, Feb 5, 2013. By Jamal al-Jaberi (AFP) – Yemeni Nobel peace laureate Tawakkol Karman warned in an interview with AFP that her country’s transition process is on the brink of collapse and demanded ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh be banned from politics.

The activist, who was a leading figure during the youth uprising in Yemen in 2011, also claimed that President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi is unable to implement his plans to reshape Yemen’s security forces because he does not control the army.

“The main obstacle facing the political transition and threatening its viability is the fact that Ali Abdullah Saleh remains a president of the General People’s Congress,” the former ruling party, Karman said.

She pointed out that Saleh’s party is supposed to present more than 20 percent of participants in an envisaged national dialogue aimed at drafting a new constitution and preparing for fresh elections in February 2014.

“The ousted president is the one to choose the GPC’s representatives,” she said, adding that Saleh’s party “rejects the dialogue”.

Karman insisted that the former head of state “should exit politics completely”.

“He has a lot of money that he uses to destroy Yemen, harm the political process and execute vengeance,” she charged.

Saleh was eased out of office after 33 years in power thanks to a UN-backed and Gulf-brokered deal that ended a year of protests that rocked the impoverished southern Arabian Peninsula nation.

The agreement reached in November 2011 with the opposition gave Saleh and his aides immunity from prosecution, but it did not stipulate a political ban on him.

The deal, signed in Riyadh after months of anti-government protests and deadly clashes between pro- and anti-Saleh troops, brought Hadi to power for an interim two-year period in a single-candidate vote.

It also called for a national dialogue where all parties, including the opposition, youth and northern rebels are expected to come together and agree on a new constitution and on the next presidential and parliamentary elections.

The dialogue was scheduled for mid-November last year but has not yet begun, with several parties failing to name representatives.

“The political transition process is not going according to the mechanism set in the Gulf initiative, which was imposed on us and we accepted it only on the condition that it will be fully implemented,” said Karman.

“The world should listen to us and assume responsibilities now that we say that the country is on the brink of collapse.”

The first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Karman claimed that the interim president has been powerless to implement decisions he made to restructure the military and remove Saleh’s relatives from influential posts.

“President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi does not control the army. It remains within the control of the former regime,” she said.

She claimed that a decision to dismantle the elite Republican Guard, which is led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, and allocating its brigades to other divisions has not been implemented.

Another decision, to dismantle the First Armoured Division, led by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who defected and backed the uprising against Saleh, has also still to be executed.

“This dialogue will fail if this matter is not sorted out; restructuring the military and security forces comes first, then comes the national dialogue,” she said, warning of a possible return to street protests.

“If we find that the country will be heading to collapse, we might find that the solution would be in returning to our base in the street, and demonstrations,” she said, claiming that the youth, women and the civil society are not being given a proper say in the preparations for the dialogue.

Tawakkol Karman was named Fabulous Muslimah in the February 2013 issue of Aquila Style magazine, available for iPad at the Apple Newsstand and for Android tablets at Google Play. Read more on her rise to become a leading activist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and women’s rights advocate.

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