By Arab News
Yemen is burning all over again. Protesters in Sanaa are preparing for a long, messy revolt. Opposition held mass protests yesterday, escalating demands for the immediate departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Earlier, a general was killed and 30 other troops loyal to Saleh were taken hostage when tribesmen overnight attacked their base north of Sanaa.
The world community, Arabs in particular, expected Saleh to learn from his mistakes and make a fresh start to bring peace and stability to his wounded and long-suffering nation. Clearly though the Yemeni leader seems to have learned no lessons from his own experience or the developments in the neighborhood. All attempts and appeals by the Arab and GCC leadership to make him see reason have so far fallen on deaf ears. Addicted to unlimited power of the past four decades and hubris that comes with it, he remains singularly blind to the havoc his intransigence has wreaked on Yemen and its people. He says his future should be determined at the ballot box.
When Saleh left Yemen after being grievously injured in an attack on the presidential palace in June, people had burst out on the streets in spontaneous jubilations celebrating his departure. Alas, their rejoicing proved premature. They are stuck with someone who genuinely seems to believe he’s indispensable. Nobody expected Saleh to return to Yemen after those unprecedented celebrations on the day of his departure. If he had any love for his people, Yemen wouldn’t be in the mess it finds itself in today. And now with this military crackdown led by his son and use of mortar and heavy weaponry against peaceful protesters, he has crossed all limits. Totally unarmed civilians including women and children are getting killed by their own troops. Not even young people squatting in the Change Square and singing national anthem are spared.
What will it take to persuade a ruler that his time is up? How many innocents have to die before the world community decides enough is enough? Today, the demand for Saleh’s departure is no longer the demand of the Yemeni people alone. All Arab, Muslim and Western countries have been urging him to leave immediately. The Gulf Cooperation Council has come up with at least three initiatives to resolve the crisis. In fact, a peace accord brokered by Gulf states offering him a dignified exit and a fresh start for Yemen has been ready for months. Saleh twice came close to inking it but opted out at the last minute. He simply refuses to see that he cannot be part of a solution. He is the problem.
Clearly, the world community needs to take some bold and effective steps — and fast — to break this impasse in Yemen and bring the much-needed reprieve to its people. The silence and inaction of the international community only emboldens the discredited regime in Sanaa. The United States must stop treating Saleh with kid gloves. Unfortunately, it has been more concerned with the “war on terror,” building its military bases and expanding drone attacks and military campaign against Al-Qaeda. But the longer the world remains silent over the brutality of regimes like that of Yemen and Syria, the more innocents are killed. Silence kills — literally.