Violence continues on streets of Sana’a as President Saleh repeats refusal to go

26 May 2011

Violent clashes are continuing on the streets of the Yemeni capital Sana’a following a renewed show of defiance by President Ali Abdullah Saleh who says he “will not leave power and will not leave Yemen”, despite widespread calls for him to stand down.

Saleh – who has led the country for more than 33 years – has been repeatedly urged to sign a transition agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council following almost three months of anti-government protests, inspired by a wave of uprisings across the region.

If adopted, the agreement would pave the way for the formation of a new national unity government led by the opposition, and prepare the country for constitutional reforms to usher in new era of democracy. President Saleh would have one month to leave office under the terms of the deal.

Despite the prospect of free and fair elections, not all Yemenis are happy to see the long-standing regime under threat. Tensions have spiralled out of control in recent days as forces loyal to the President have battled members of the country’s powerful Hashid tribe, killing 44 people and injuring hundreds more.

Local and international news agencies report queues of vehicles as thousands of Sana'a's citizens attempt to flee the fighting. Meanwhile, observers both inside and outside Yemen continue to express concerns the country could yet descend into a protracted civil war.

In recent days, Yemen’s opposition leaders have offered a number of concessions to the Saleh regime in a bid to break the stalemate and bring an end to the escalating violence.

Yassin Noman, the current head of the country’s opposition coalition and leader of the Yemeni Socialist Party, reportedly signalled Saleh could remain in the country once he had stepped down. The opposition-backed agreement would also guarantee the current regime immunity from potential prosecution, media confirmed.

Responding to the ongoing unrest Socialist International said: “We once again condemn the abhorrent government-led violence which is marring the courageous and determined efforts of the Yemeni people to secure their democratic rights and freedoms. We urge President Ali Abdullah Saleh to heed the calls of the international community – and of the vast majority of his own people – to accept the generous terms of the transition agreement and sign without further delay.”

SI added: “The Yemeni opposition continues to play a vital role in the protests – and we support wholeheartedly the efforts of all opposing parties, including the Yemeni Socialist Party, with which SI remains in total solidarity.”