Yemen's president clears out the military cronies
A Yemeni man sweeps a street during the "Sharik (participate), My contribution builds Yemen" cleaning campaign in the capital. (AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMMED HUWAIS)
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Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi announced on Wednesday the restructuring of the army and defense ministry, purging them of relatives and cronies of former head of state Ali Abdullah Saleh, AFP reported state television as saying.
Hadi took a series of decisions, including one scrapping the elite Republican Guard which was under the command of Saleh’s oldest son Ahmed, the state broadcaster said.
Hadi took over the reins of power in Yemen less than a year ago, after veteran strongman Saleh stepped down as part of a power transition agreement, following a year-long uprising against his rule.
Under the new restructuring, eliminating the powerful Republican Guard, the army now consists of three main branches: ground forces, navy and the air force, the state broadcaster said.
“The army was restructured into four units: the land forces, the navy, the air force and the border forces.”
Three new structures were also created and placed under the presidency’s direct control: a presidential guard, special operations forces and a unit in charge of ballistic weapons.
The last two had been previously controlled by Saleh’s son, Ahmed.
Other changes ordered by Hadi include the sacking of deputy central security forces chief General Yahia Mohammed Saleh, a nephew of the former president, who was replaced by General Ahmed Ali al-Maqdasi.
Meanwhile, the attempt to implement some of the reforms and trim General Saleh’s power in August triggered clashes between Yemeni troops and about 200 members of the Republican Guard, who surrounded the Defense Ministry.
“The implications of rejecting these decrees don’t bear contemplating,” Yemeni analyst Ali Seif Hassan told Reuters shortly after Wednesday’s announcement.
“Hadi has created a political earthquake in Sanaa,” Ibrahim Sharqieh, of the Brookings Doha think tank, told Reuters.
He said the decrees amounted to a “huge boost” to a Gulf Arab-backed plan for a transfer of power in Yemen, but it was not clear how General Saleh would react.
Elected in February for a two-year interim period with a mandate to restructure the military, Hadi has been trying to get rid of powerful relatives of Saleh out of top jobs in the forces.
General Saleh this month refused orders to hand over long-range missiles to the Defense Ministry, raising fears of a showdown that could threaten a fragile power structure.
Earlier this month tens of thousands of demonstrators took part in a protest march in Sanaa against Saleh, his family and close aides, accusing them of holding out for a comeback.
Saleh stepped down in February after a year-long deadly uprising. But he remains president of his General People’s Congress party, retains loyalty of army elements and owns a television station.