Hostile protests coincide with Independence Day celebrations [Archives:2007/1108/Front Page]

December 3 2007

Mohammed Bin Sallam
TAIZ, Dec. 2 ) Official and popular celebrations on the 40th anniversary of National Independence Day, which took place from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, were accompanied by angry and hostile demonstrations against the authority in several Yemeni governorates, notably in Taiz, which hosted the biggest rally. Aden, Lahj, Al-Dhale', Abyan, Sana'a and Ibb were other governorates that witnessed enraged protests against the government.

Securities can't prevent the marches

Security authorities failed to prevent citizens from joining the demonstrations, although they closed all outlets to Taiz and opened fire on some people while they were trying to enter the city via entrances other than those containing checkpoints. Three citizens were injured badly in the process.

The protestors chanted slogans against corruption, demanded that the government carry out reforms and punish policemen who fired on demonstrators in Taiz, Radfan, Al-Dhale', Mukalla and Aden. At the rally, former Secretary General of the Yemen Socialist Party Ali Saleh Ubad said, “The people, who are exercising peaceful sit-ins and protests, are the only guarantee for protecting unity and independence.”

“The regime has transferred national liberation into a type of hatred, embodied in the oppressive policies seen today. The authority oppresses independence and its military and civic servants, and is therefore responsible for damaging unity by emptying out its national and democratic content. It has changed unity into a cover for influential and corrupt officials to exercise property theft,” Ubad added.

“Today, as we celebrate the National Independence Day that witnessed the evacuation of the last British soldier from Aden, we expect the oppressors and corrupt individuals to leave our homeland,” Saleh Hamoud Hassan declared, addressing demonstrators in Taiz on behalf of Radfan locals. “We came from Radfan to you to search together for a homeland free of tyrants and influential persons. We came to you to unite in a peaceful struggle for the sake of Yemeni people in the north and south.

He continued, “Oppressive officials have violated our rights, looted our wealth, plundered our lands and damaged our unity. Regretfully, they are now celebrating the National Independence Day, while in fact they resemble the foreign invaders in terms of oppressing natives and robbing their wealth.”

The rally released a statement pressing the authority to be serous in carrying out comprehensive political reforms, including reforming the electoral process and compensating victims of peaceful protests in Radfan, Dhale', Aden, Hadramout and Taiz. The statement called on all Yemenis and political forces to unify their lines, strengthen their positions and exercise further efforts to reach the goals of the Yemeni Revolution and restore liberty and dignity to the country.

Protests in Hadramout call for fair distribution of wealth

In Hadramout, the Joint Meeting Parties organized on Friday two rallies, the first of which took place in Ghail, Bayamin District, and the second in Al-Qutton. Both rallies were attended by thousands of people. The rallies released statements calling for the government to promote equality, freedom and the fair distribution of wealth, which once had been the goals outlined by freedom fighters and martyrs during the Liberation and Independence War.

The statements strongly denounced arbitrary arrests of innocent citizens for joining peaceful protests against the deteriorating political and economic situations in the country. They urged the government to respond to the demands of its people and cease the use of power and violence against citizens, as such a policy serves only corrupt officials and property thieves, it claimed.

Aden and Ibb Citizens march although the helicopters monitoring

Nearly ten thousand people from Aden and other neighboring governorates participated in the Independence Day festival, organized by Sheikh Othman upon invitations from retirees and JMP leaders. Police began heightening security measures on Wednesday evening to prevent the entry of thousands of locals from Abyan, Al-Dhale', Radfan and other areas into Aden with the intention of joining the rally.

According to eyewitnesses, hundreds of people were forced to go on foot for long distances after the security authorities prevented them from driving their cars into Aden. A helicopter landed at Al-Alam area with troops from the counterterrorism unit in order to prevent citizens from reaching the rally's venue. Other helicopters prevented people in Radfan and Al-Dhale' from assembling, using tear gas and firing into the air to disperse them and force them to return home. Local sources said that government troops killed one citizen and injured another three, one seriously, while trying to disperse the gathering.

In Ibb, thousands of people rallied Friday to express their solidarity with the legal demands of military and civil servants, and those dismissed from their jobs throughout the governorate. They expressed concern about the repeated behavior of local authorities that prevents the JMP from holding their activities at public places. Citizens accused the local authority of restricting these places to functions of the ruling party.

They confirmed that protests and sit-ins taking place nationwide reflect the strong rejection of the government's poor policies and encourage citizens to claim their rights via peaceful and legal means.

And The President called the opposition leaders to come back

Aden hosted on Thursday a carnival on the 40th Anniversary of the National Independence Day in the presence of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and other senior government officials, while the JMP organized a popular rally on the occasion at the same time at Liberty Square in Sana'a. Giving a speech during festival in Aden, President Salleh called on opposition leaders abroad to return home and exercise their political rights.

'We welcome the opposition leaders who live abroad to come back and exercise their political rights,” Saleh said, without naming any of the exiled leaders.

However many political analysts assumed that that Saleh's call was addressed to 14 leaders of the 1994 failed secessionist rebellion, mainly the former prime minister Haidar Abu Bakr Al-Attas.

Al-Attas, the first Prime Minister in Yemen after unity was established in 1990, urged the Yemeni people to renew their struggle in order to restore what he called 'the abducted goals of the September and October revolutions.' Interviewed by Al-Wasat weekly, Al-Attas said, “I am confident that the heroic citizens in north Yemen, who live in constant suffering, will join their brothers in the south in their struggle to restore unity and its goals from the stupid abductors.”

Al-Attas and the other top secessionist leaders fled to Syria, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Oman and the United Kingdom.

They were among four southern leaders who received death sentences in absentia by a state security court in 1997.

In the aftermath of the war, Saleh announced a general amnesty, which applied to nearly 8,000 southerners who left the country after the war, but not for the 16 top dissidents.

In the same context, Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi gave a speech before a large number of his followers in Dhahian district, saying that “The 40th Anniversary of the Independence Day comes as the country is involved in a critical standoff, with a negative impact on national security, stability and unity. The country has turned into a battleground, leading people to an unknown catastrophe while the government and its officials are stupidly engaged in useless celebrations and festivals.”

Al-Houthi called on all social groups, political parties and civil community organizations to be engaged in serious dialogue with the authorities, with the aim of suggesting possible solutions to the persisting standoff.