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Ali Abdullah Saleh

Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh once said that governing the Arabian Peninsula country was like "dancing on the heads of snakes". Saleh publicly broke off ties with the Houthis on 02 December 2017, amid intense street battles between the rival factions that led to the killing of dozens of people. In a televised statemen, the former president expressed his openness to talks with a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels, in what the fighters called "a coup" against their fragile alliance.

"Yemeni citizens have tried to tolerate the recklessness of the Houthis over the last two and half years but cannot anymore," Saleh said. "I call on our brothers in neighbouring countries … to stop their aggression and lift the blockade … and we will turn the page," he added.

The tactical alliance between Saleh and the Houthis had often appeared fragile, with both groups suspicious of each other's ultimate motives and sharing little ideological ground. The Houthis had gained control of most of Sanaa from Saleh's forces. Only small pockets remained. Fighters had secured key areas south of the capital, including the "very strategic" al-Mesbahi residential area, which is approximately 200 meters from Saleh's home.

Saleh was killed 04 December 2017 by Houthi rebels near the capital, Sanaa, a development expected to have major implications for the war in the Arab world's poorest country. Houthi sources said Saleh was killed by the rebels in a rocket-propelled grenade and shooting attack on his car at a checkpoint outside Sanaa. Footage circulating on social media appeared to display a body resembling Saleh, with one video showing how armed militiamen used a blanket to move the corpse into the back of a pick-up truck.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh had been in power for 30 years by 2011. Ali Abdullah Saleh was a Zaidi Shiite, but had the support of key Sunni leaders, and his Vice President was a Sunni Muslim. The president of Yemen also appointed the prime minister, who was the head of government. The prime minister, in consultation with the president, selected the Council of Ministers. Although there was a multiparty system, President Saleh's General People's Congress Party (GPC) dominated the government during his regime. Although civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were a few instances in which elements of the security forces acted independently of government authority.

Salih's rise to the presidency of a country which combined southwestern Arabia into one political entity was the culmination of a remarkable career. Marshal Ali Abdullah Saleh, President of the Republic of Yemen, was born March 21, 1946. He was born in modest circumstances in 1942 in the small agricultural town of Bayt al-Ahmar. He was a member of the Sanhan tribe, a numerically and politically insignificant segment of the powerful Zaydi Muslim Hashid tribal confederation that had long dominated extensive districts southwest of the Yemeni capital of Sana'a.

Salih's formal education was limited to a Koranic primary school in Bayt al-Ahmar. He began his military career in 1958 as a teen-aged private soldier in the Hashid tribal levies attached to the army of the Zaydi imams who had ruled Yemen for a thousand years. However, when the Hashid shaykh supported the military coup that toppled the royalist government in September 1962, Salih's allegiance was transferred to the new republican regime, and in 1963 he was granted the ranked of 2nd lieutenant. He was one of the heroes in the 70-day war when Sana'a was under siege, and was the commander of Khalid Bin al-Walid military camp in Taiz (1975-1978).

Saleh was appointed member of the provisional presidency council and deputy of the general staff commander after the assassination of president Ahmad al-Ghashmi on 24 June 1978. On 17 July 1978, he was elected president of the Yemen Arab Republic (North Yemen) and General Commander of the Armed Forces.

Despite his authoritarian tendencies, Saleh was unable to govern the country single-handedly due to tribal and regional fractures. He relied heavily on a "power sharing" arrangement with the country's leading tribal and military figures, Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar who headed the Hashid Tribal Confederation, and Brigadier General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Commander of the Northeastern Military District and reputedly the most powerful military man in the land. This triumvirate was formed by written agreement in 1978, following the assassination of President al-Ghushaimi. Both Mohsen and Sheikh al-Ahmar wielded great influence over Presidential decision-making, but neither challenged Saleh's presidential power directly.

On 17 September 1979, based on a collective decision of all leaders and personnel of the Armed Forces in appreciation of his efforts to build and develop the Armed Forces and Security on modern bases, Saleh was granted the rank of Colonel. Saleh was elected the secretary-general of the General People's Congress party on 30 August 1982.

On 17 July 1983, he was re-elected president of the Yemen Arab Republic and Commander of the Armed Forces by the people-elected Consultative Council.

On 20 May 1990, the Shura council unanimously granted Saleh the rank of General in appreciation of his great efforts for the reunification of the nation. On 22 May 1990, he raised the flag of the Republic of Yemen in the city of Aden to officially declare the re-unification of Yemen (north and south). On the same day, he was elected president of the Presidential Council of the reunified Yemen (Republic of Yemen).

Saleh was re-elected President of the Presidential Council on October 16, 1993, after the first parliamentary election in Yemen. He was elected president of the Republic of Yemen by the Parliament on October 1st, 1994, after constitutional amendments approved by the Parliament. On December 24, 1997, he was granted the rank of Marshal by the Parliament in appreciation of his contribution to build the modern state.

Saleh was first directly elected president of the Republic of Yemen on 23 September 1999, winning 96.2% of the vote, in an internationally observed election. Saleh ran against a largely unknown member of his own party. On February 20, 2001, a referendum was held and passed, extending presidential terms from five to seven years, parliamentary terms from four to six years, and creating a 111-member Shura council, appointed by the president.

Yemen, with a population of more than 21 million, is a republic whose law provides that the president be elected by popular vote from among at least two candidates endorsed by parliament. On 17 July 2005, President Saleh, who many believed would like to reign until the end of his days, declared that he would not be standing for re-election in the 2006 presidential election. In September 2006 citizens re-elected President Ali Abdullah Saleh to another seven-year term in a generally open and competitive election, characterized by multiple problems with the voting process and the use of state resources on behalf of the ruling party. Saleh has led the country since 1978. In the 2006 presidential election, held on September 20, Saleh won with 77.2% of the vote. His main rival, Faisal bin Shamlan, received only 21.8%. According to the US State Department, "Yemen and President Saleh, who did win re-election in those elections, should be congratulated on the fact that they ran some good elections that met international criteria for free and fair elections." Saleh was sworn in for another term on 27 September 2006.

By the next scheduled presidential election in 2013, it was speculated that Saleh's son Ahmed could be ready to become the country's president. By 2006 was already head of both the Republican Guard and the Special Forces. Under Yemeni election law any potential candidate who wants to get their name on the ballot needs a 10% approval vote in the 301-seat parliament. With the upheaval in Yemen following mass demonstrations beginning in February 2011, this no longer seemed a likely possibility.

On Wednesday February 02, 2011 Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he will not seek another term in office, as opposition groups prepared to renew protests calling for an end to his decades-old rule. Mr. Saleh told Yemen's parliament he will not try to extend his presidency when his current term runs out in 2013, and will not hand power to his son. Opposition groups called for "day of rage" protests, continuing a string of rallies that activists have said were inspired by demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt. In his address Wednesday, Mr. Saleh called for a halt to all planned protests. He also told lawmakers to freeze a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow him to seek another term. The previous week, at least 10,000 demonstrators gathered at Sana'a University and about 6,000 elsewhere in the capital for rallies against the government.

On 23 November 2011, President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a Gulf Cooperation Council initiative to transfer power to a deputy, a move designed to end months of swelling protests against his 33-year rule. Saleh signed the initiative during a ceremony in Saudi Arabia. Under the plan signed on 23 November 2011, Saleh would hand over power to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was to begin the process of forming a national unity government. The plan also calls for an early presidential election and provided Saleh with immunity from prosecution. Saleh had previously agreed to the GCC initiative on numerous occasions since it was first revealed in April 2011. He had subsequently reneged on his promises to follow through with the transfer of power. By December 2011, a new parliament had been sworn in, which subsequently granted former President Saleh immunity from prosecution.

The corrupt practices of Yemen’s former autocratic leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, have netted the strongman up to $60 billion, a UN sanctions panel report to the Security Council on 24 February 2015. The panel’s report says Saleh amassed up to $2 billion a year from 1978 until he was forced to step down in 2012 and that the assets are hidden in at least twenty countries with the help of business associates and front companies.

“The origin of the funds used to generate Ali Abdullah Saleh’s wealth is believed to be partly from his corrupt practices as President of Yemen, particularly relating to gas and oil contracts where he reportedly asked for money in exchange for granting companies exclusive rights to prospect for gas and oil in Yemen,” the report said. The panel’s estimated wealth of Saleh at $60 billion would place him fifth in Forbe’s list of the world’s richest people.

On 27 February 2012, following the election and swearing in of former Vice President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi as the new President of Yemen, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the "Master Balancer", formally stood down from his post.

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Page last modified: 04-12-2017 14:21:08 ZULU