President Ali Abdullah Saleh finally leaves Yemen

In an earlier post I wrote about the spectacular months-long protests in Yemen and wily Ali Abdullah Saleh’s plan to resign the presidency after more than three decades in power and leave office in thirty days.  Well, that was six weeks ago and Saleh’s many critics who thought this plan was just a trick were proved correct: he is still there.  Or was until yesterday: now he has gone to a hospital in Saudi Arabia for medical treatment following a mortar attack on the presidential palace in which, it was officially claimed, Saleh was only ‘lightly’ wounded, though not lightly enough it would seem to receive treatment domestically.  If this is — at last — the beginning of the end for Ali Abdullah Saleh (though that remains to be seen) it will be his final parting disdainful gift to his country that he allowed violence, not the many months of peaceful demonstrations across Yemen, to force him from power. As J. Dana Stuster points out in The Atlantic:

Over the past two weeks, Saleh has finally succeeded in fragmenting the opposition movement. In doing so, he provoked the violence that has now forced him from the country, but in the process, he has severely undermined the possibility for a transition to the sort of new and inclusive Yemeni government he resisted by all means possible.

Yemen has always had one of the most fractured national identities of any country in the Middle East, divided by tribes and only recently sutured together (by Saleh himself) from two independent countries, so these enduring street protests (The Atlantic also has an excellent gallery of Yemeni protest photos here) held the promise of being the foundation of a truly new political identity for the country.  Unlike the Egypt revolution, which much of the world’s media covered, Yemen’s has happened largely offstage but the video below gives a sense of the breathtaking scale of the demonstrations.  It’s a shame Saleh didn’t listen to them.



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