When Yemen’s Houthi fighters scaled the rooftops surrounding former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s home, killed his guards and put him under house arrest, they left no doubt that negotiating a political settlement with them would be difficult.
The actions of the Shiite Muslim fighters have drawn criticism from across Yemen’s political spectrum, especially after their declaration on Friday that they were dismissing the national assembly and would form a new government.
The move, condemned by Washington and Gulf Arab states, has added to fears in the United States and neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia that Yemen, which is home to an active al-Qaida wing, is on the verge of becoming a failed state.
Even after the United Nations managed to bring political factions to the negotiating table again, two parties walked out, complaining of threats from the Houthis.
“The problem isn’t in selecting a new president … but it’s tied to the militias’ control of the capital and on decision-making,” said Abdullah Noman, secretary-general of the leftist Nasserist Party.
“So any new president will be at the mercy of these militias who are still holding Hadi, the prime minister and a number of officials under house arrest,” he said.
Indeed when the 69-year-old president assumed office after protests ousted his predecessor, he never would have guessed that two years later he would be under the control of rebels who had overrun Sanaa and became Yemen’s new de facto rulers.
Hadi tried to accommodate the rebels even after they took over the capital in September, but the crisis reached a critical point in mid-January that began with battles at the presidential palace and brought Hadi’s resignation.
Anti-Houthi protesters shout slogans against the dissolution of Yemen’s parliament and the takeover by the armed Houthi group, during a rally in the southwestern city of Taiz, Yemen, on Tuesday. Mohammed Al-Sayaghi / Reuters
(China Daily 02/12/2015 page11)