By Yilma Bekele
The embattled former tyrant president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh is going to settle in Ethiopia. Ethiopia will be his home in exile. Ethiopia was not his first choice. He wanted to settle in Oman his neighbor on the West. The Sultan of Oman was not receptive to the idea. Ethiopia is a refuge of last resort. We are being used as a dump. I am certainly familiar with that practice of getting rid of waste. Upon finishing a project we always have left over debris. We normally haul it to a public dump where they charge by the pound. The City makes extra effort to recycle our garbage.
That is what came to mind when I heard about good old Saleh being run out of Sanna, Yemen. They are dumping their debris and I was wondering how much The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was charging for this waste. It is a container full I am told. Considering all the wives and the children and the nephews and the cousins and fellow partners in crime it is quiet a heavy load. It is raining dollars for EFFORT and junior associates.
You might think I am being too harsh. I am being hateful and it is wrong to vent in such a way. How rude of me to call a former President such a name you must be saying. I very much doubt you would judge me harshly after I tell you who Mr. Saleh is. I assure you he is not an ordinary refugee like most of us. None of us left on a chartered plane did we? I present you fellow refugee Ali Saleh.
Ali Saleh has less than elementary education. In 1960 he graduated from the North Yemen Military Academy with a rank of Corporal. In 1978 as a Second lieutenant he was appointed military governor of a province. Upon the assassination of the President Second lieutenant Saleh was appointed a member of the four-man Provisional Presidency Council. The date was June 24th of 1978. On July 17, 1978 Second lieutenant Saleh was ‘elected’ by the parliament to be the President of North Yemen and Chief of staff and Commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
His first act as president was execute thirty officers after charging them with conspiracy. That took place on August 10th. Of 1978. In 1979 he fought with the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen his southern neighbor. In 1990 the two counties merged as Republic of Yemen and the newly minted colonel Saleh became the first president. In 1994 he declared state of emergency and dismissed his Southern partners from office. Fighting ensued between the two Yemen’s. There has been no respite from civil war and civil unrest ever since he came to power. It did not matter the North or the South it was always war and conflict. In his own words he survived ‘by dancing on the heads of snakes.’ He is able to do so by manipulating tribal alliances, political intrigues and iron fisted approach to deal with real and perceived enemies. He created the situation and benefited himself and his family and other criminal friends. He lived in a palace that even got ‘gold-crested armchairs.’
By 2006 Yemen was averaging income of $5.5 billion from oil exports. In 2006 Yemen received $4.7 billion from Europeans and their rich Gulf neighbors. Yemen was not hurting for money. The problem was management of all that was pouring in from oil, donors and remittances from poor Yemenis scattered all over the Middle East.
That is what happens when one is cursed with a sick leader in charge. His political and economic policies are designed to satisfy his and his clan’s parasitic existence not the needs of the country. Coffee used to be Yemen’s main export and principal form of foreign exchange until it was replaced by the non-sustainable (qat). Instead of developing domestic industry thru better education and incentives to entrepreneurs Saleh’s policy made Yemen dependent on outsiders and forced his youngest and brightest citizens to migrate out to send him remittances that he squandered. Yemen became what is known as a ‘failed state.’
As his domestic policy revolved around the survival of his family and friends his foreign policy showed the erratic nature of his regime. Saleh’s support of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait was so disastrous it caused the relocation of over 850,000 Yemenis. They were unceremoniously deported, kicked out, pushed away from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. His clueless dance with Tehran isolated Yemen from its Arab neighbors.
Tyrants are peculiar animals. The same Saleh who was a friend of Saddam and ally of Iran was not shy visiting Washington in 2001 and declaring himself to be the number one fighter against ‘Islamic terrorism.’ It gave him new ammunition against domestic opponents and millions of dollars in US aid to his private army. Did I tell you that his oldest son Ahmed is the commander of the US funded Republican Guard and his nephew Amar is in charge of National Security; his other nephew Tariq is the head of the Presidential Guard while another nephew Yahya controls the Counter-terrorism unit. It is all in the family. He is still dancing on the head of snakes.
Poor Yemen that has been limping from one crisis to another saw an opening with the arrival of
‘Arab Spring’ all the way from Tunisia. January 27, 2011 is a blessed day. That was the day Yemenis got rid of fear and went out in mass demanding the ouster of Saleh and family. A cancerous tumor that has taken over thirty years to attach itself to the host cannot be excised so easy. It took exactly a year to drive this varmint out of Yemen. Human Rights Watch has documented the deaths of 270 protesters and bystanders during last year’s protests. Thousands more protesters were injured by live ammunition. The country was turning or stands a good chance of becoming another Somalia. Saleh is the owner of this debacle.
This is the toxic garbage dumped on our country. The Yemeni people will demand justice. They will hunt this criminal and his family to the end of the earth to bring him to justice. No one can blame them. Ethiopia will be exposed to their righteous anger and be caught in this family affair. Our country that has prided itself protecting freedom fighters and is the seat of African Union is fast becoming a refugee to criminals and misfits running away from their sins and International Justice. Today Saleh may be tomorrow Sudan’s Al Bashir and who is to stop Assad from pitching his tent in the rift valley.
International treaties and conventions are nothing to sneer at. It is true they serve the interest of the big powers in more ways than one. It is also the best tool at hand that usually serves the interest of the weak. Go to International Criminal Court of Justice Web site and look under ‘situation and cases’ and you will see what I mean. (http://www.icc-cpi.int/Menus/ICC/Home) That is one scary bunch you see there. The ICCJ is a last resort of the weak and voiceless. Our country has appealed to the League of Nations and the UN when invaded. Turning against international rules and convention is not the way to garner respect or legitimacy.
What is troubling to the rest of us is the role played by the Western powers in this tragic affair. They were perfectly aware that Saleh is not a pleasant human being to be associated with. They encouraged him because he served their purpose. Wikileaks was kind enough to expose their duplicity in this criminal enterprise. In 2009 the US gave $150 million including $45 million to equip and train an aviation regiment for Yemeni Special Forces. It is sad that in order to safeguard their own security that they turn a blind eye when their gun is used against unarmed civilians.
They are the ones that forced the Yemeni people to swallow this poisonous pill of ‘immunity’. The so-called agreement brokered by the US and the Gulf states is supposed to shielded Saleh, his friends and family from all criminal act against their own people. Thus the Yemenis are expected to pretend thirty-four years of crime and destruction did not happen.
It is supposed to be civilized to forgive and let go. Civility as a principle is understandable but the danger I see is when it is practiced to mask issues such as accountability, justice and the rule of law. What the Western powers did was push international law, international treaties under the rug so some still surviving tyrants will not be unduly alarmed. The about-face action by dear allies and friends of Mubarak and Gaddafi has been duly noted by a few in the neighborhood. As recently as January 6, 2012 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay reasserted that an amnesty cannot be granted for serious crimes under international law. Who is listening?
I was contemplating issues such as this when I heard a report regarding Gambella, Ethiopia – on public radio. Mr. Saleh is being welcomed to settle in our country and Ato Okok Ojulu is displaced from his ancestral land to roam the planet as a refugee.
Ato Ojulu’s Gambella is in Western Ethiopia. It is sparsely populated. They are settled farmers. They are blessed with a beautiful land that has sustained them for generations. Our leader has determined since he is the owner of the land he felt he is better of leasing it to outsiders. The plan consisted of moving Ato Ojulu and his village to a new area. They did not even have time to harvest when they were forcefully moved.
A peaceful villager is now a refugee in Kenya. He is not equipped to live outside of his village. His land is his identity. He was content where he was. Today his beautiful Gambella is becoming one big commercial farm. They are talking about investing billions and growing rice. They are going to use the mighty river for irrigation and dump their fertilizer waste into the water. The fishes and wild animals are going the way of Ato Ojulu. Gambella will be no more. The Anuk way of life will soon be memory.
I sat in my car. I am responsible for my brother’s plight. I let his village down. Ojulu my brother is telling his story all the way from Kenya. He was keeping the spirit of his ancestors alive. He has no control over the action of the Ethiopian Government that looked at him as insignificant. There is nothing he can do about the Saudi/Indian/Chinese investors. My brother Ojulu has control over his own response. He is fighting back the way he knows how. It was a single voice from across the planet but we heard it loud. My friend Solomon heard it and called me. I am sure lots of people heard it and felt moved. How we respond is up to each of us. I also know Ojulu is not asking for pity.
As he remembered his displaced people he is asking us to do what is in our power to help him save a way of life and a proud people. There is a lot we can do. Get involved and make a difference. All our independent sites are filled with programs to help us get informed and be intelligent citizens. Our love and can do spirit will defiantly neutralize all the negatives emanating from the palace. As my brother Ojulu did let us be in control of our response. (http://www.solidaritymovement.net/signPetion.cfm )
Now I hope you will not judge me harshly regarding my indignation about the individual Ali Saleh. He has caused pain and agony to a lot of people. Why will never explain how his criminal activity has impacted real people. Due to his madness and delusion he felt that he was the only one fit to govern. He felt others lack his superior intellect and are very lucky to have him at the helm. All those that oppose him are nothing but enemy of the state to be eliminated and wiped out. This is the person parking his criminal behind on our precious land. I see a doormat.