1000s takes to the streets in Yemen

2013-01-27 17:50
A pro-democracy protester in Sana’a. (Mohammed Huwais, AFP)

A pro-democracy protester in Sana’a. (Mohammed Huwais, AFP)

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Sana'a - Thousands thronged the streets of Sana'a on Sunday to demand the scrapping of immunity given ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh under a UN-backed deal, as a Security Council team paid a rare visit to Yemen's capital.

The arrival of the UN Security Council delegation was seen as a clear boost to President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who succeeded Saleh, and aimed at helping ironing out problems hampering national reconciliation talks.

The team, which includes the head and members of the top UN body, held talks with Hadi and government ministers, state television said.

UN special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, said at a ceremony after the talks that the visit was "historic and unprecedented in the region" and was "to stress the importance of pressing ahead with the political process".

Another member of the team, Moroco's Security Council representative Mohammed Loulichki, too said that trip was unprecedented in the region and "stresses the great interest of the international community in the situation in Yemen".

With the UN officials in the capital, demonstrators in their thousands took to the streets to demand Saleh be put brought before the courts.

"The people want to put the killer on trial," chanted the demonstrators, referring to Saleh who was eased out of office in February 2012 after three decades of rule following the UN-backed and Gulf-brokered deal.

Funds

Demonstrators also called for a "return of funds stolen by the former president and his family".

The Youth of the Revolution, a group that was the main engine of the year-long protests that finally led to Saleh's ouster, also called for an international probe into violations and crimes committed by his regime.

It urged the UN Security Council to "freeze the funds owned by the leaders of the former regime and return them to public treasury".

Saleh was ousted under a deal which also stipulated restructuring the army and integrating military and security forces under a single command, a task that remains difficult with Saleh's sons and relatives still occupying senior security posts.

The delegation's visit comes as Sana'a struggles to organise a national dialogue conference that would result in a new constitution and presidential and parliamentary elections in February 2014, thereby ending the current two-year transition period planned as per the Gulf initiative.

The conference, originally set for mid-November, has been repeatedly delayed as some factions of the Southern Movement, which has campaigned for autonomy or secession for the formerly independent south, have refused to join the talks.

UN envoy Benomar said that convening the dialogue "is close" but he did not elaborate.

Earlier on Sunday, he told state television that the "process is difficult", and urged all Yemeni parties to "realise that there is a historic opportunity and join the national dialogue without preconditions to solve all Yemeni issues, including the question of the south".

After North and South Yemen unified, in 1994, a short-lived secession bid was crushed by Sana'a troops and since then the citizens of the south have complained of discrimination.

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