President Saleh jubilee yearThe man stands always tall [Archives:2003/651/Front Page]

July 17 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The 17th of July 2003 marks the jubilee year of President Ali Abdullah Saleh assumption of power in Yemen.
Born in 1942, Saleh took over the presidency of the former Yemen Arab Republic on July 17th, 1978 just after the assassination of former president Ahmad Hussein al-Ghashmy on June 24, 1978. Saleh was elected by the People's Council at that time. It was a very critical time for the North of Yemen which was passing through the turmoil of conflict and in-fighting and tension with the former Yemen's Democratic Republic. During these years, Saleh faced a lot of problems and difficulties at different levels but he stood tall and was able to overcome them. He faced the rebels of some south-backed forces in Taiz and in Ibb and other places and after years of fighting, he was able to reach an agreement with them. He even established the General People's Congress in 1982 through which he could harness all political parties. It was a mould for all politicians of different colors and affiliations. Later in the late 1980s, he was conducting dialogues with the leaders of the South to reunite Yemen and of course, that took place in 1990. This is considered to be the most important event and achievement in the modern history of Yemen.
President Saleh is known for his sharp mind which enabled him to continue ruling Yemen for such a long period of time, if we compare to other leaders both in the North and the South who either were exiled or assassinated after short periods of time. Being a sharp-witted leader helped him deal with his enemies and tribes in a clever manner, depending on balances. He did not forsake the tribe as his predecessor Ibrahim al-Hamdi rather he observed their significance in a rather conventional and tribal society. Therefore, he gained their favor. Even in dealing with his enemies and rivals, he does not defeat them down to the ground just like what he did with the Nasserite who tried to get out of power in 1978. Also with the socialists who are his partners in achieving the unification, Saleh did not take revenge on the party after the civil war of 1994. He rather issued a general amnesty after the war and last month pardoned even those who were indicted after trial for leading the secessionist movement. Despite the motives behind such a decision which still needs more steps to be taken, it was a formidable move that shows the tolerance of this man.
It was also during his reign that Yemen's border disputes with Oman and Saudi Arabia were settled. The most important, of course, is the Jedah International Treaty to put an end to as old border dispute as 66 years between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Even with the problem with Eritrea, he was clever enough to avoid the trap set to him and preferred to go to international tribunal instead of using force to settle accounts with Eritrea. The verdict of the International Arbitration Court was fortunately in favor of Yemen in getting back the occupied island of Hunaish.
After the September terrorist attacks in the US, Yemen was the second target country after Afghanistan. However, the regime of Saleh could manage with the US administration to avoid any strike by the US. It was for the interest of Yemen that the government has been working with the US and other countries to fight against terrorism.
Despite the fact that there are other people who worked with him and that chance was with him, Saleh is a lucky man that Yemen witnessed such great transitions and changes during his tenure in office of presidency. Yet, Saleh has many other things to do. Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar believes that president Saleh has to be more liberal and tolerant with his opponent politicians as he used to be. Saleh has to start a real war against corruption and crook corrupts in the country including his cronies whom if he listened to he would not have this position as a president respected by the Yemeni people and even by his enemies who acknowledge his merit of tolerance and liberal mind. The power and influence of the tribe which has increased during the last two decades has to shrink and wither away if we really want to establish a civil society ruled by law and order for tribalism as been recognized as major detriment to such transition into a modern society. All in all, nobody can deny the fact that Yemen has witnessed many important changes during the rule of President Saleh despite the fact that it is difficult to evaluate his work while he is still in power.