Yemen’s Hadi: ineffective president in extended exile
Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi struggled and ultimately failed to impose his authority during a turbulent decade as president of war-torn Yemen, much of which he spent in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
bedrabbo Mansour Hadi struggled and ultimately failed to impose his authority during a turbulent decade as president of war-torn Yemen, much of which he spent in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
His bruising tenure appeared to reach an end Thursday when he announced he was handing over power to a new leadership council, a major shake-up for forces battling Iran-backed Huthi rebels that came as a fragile ceasefire took hold.
Hadi, 76, a career army officer, assumed office in 2012 after a long stint as vice president to Ali Abdullah Saleh, winning 99.8 percent of the vote in a race in which he was the only candidate.
But the would-be consensus figure oversaw a sharp slide into grinding conflict, that has triggered what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
coalition led by Iran’s bitter enemy Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered the fight in 2015 with air strikes targeting the Huthis, who had seized the capital Sanaa the previous year.
But Hadi soon fled to Saudi Arabia, and his extended time outside the country he ostensibly ruled reinforced the impression he was controlled by his Saudi hosts.
– In Saleh’s shadow –
Hadi, who is married with five children — two daughters and three sons — was born in 1945 in formerly communist South Yemen.
The discreet Hadi started his career in the military, graduating from an officers’ school in 1964.
He then completed military training in Britain, followed by specialised training in armoured weapons in Egypt until 1970.
He has written several books, including one on the military defence of mountainous areas.
He allied himself with Saleh ahead of the unification of North Yemen and South Yemen in 1990, and was appointed defence minister in 1994, when Saleh crushed a southern secession attempt.
But despite serving many years as vice president, Hadi never played a top role in politics before taking over Saleh’s powers in June 2011, after Saleh was wounded in an attack on his presidential compound.
few months later, he helped convince Saleh, confronted with widespread street protests, to agree to resign as part of a transition plan that paved the way for Hadi’s election.
His project to reorganise the armed forces, where Saleh maintained strong support, did not succeed.
By 2014, the Iran-backed Huthis controlled large swathes of the country.
– Sidelined –
The anti-Huthi camp has long been divided between southern separatists and northern unionists loyal to Hadi.
In January 2018, the separatists occupied the presidential palace in the southern port city of Aden, where Hadi had worked to establish a provisional capital, before Saudi and Emirati forces intervened.
In August 2019, Emirati-backed separatists again clashed with unionist troops.
Riyadh then negotiated a power-sharing agreement and the formation of a new government.
In 2019, the Huthis ramped up attacks on Saudi Arabia, including strikes on two oil facilities that temporarily knocked out half of the kingdom’s crude production.
Earlier this year, they took aim at the UAE.
First Huthi forces seized an Emirati-flagged vessel in the Red Sea, and then carried out a drone and missile attack on an oil facility in Abu Dhabi that killed three workers.
Last month, the rebels launched a new series of drone and missile attacks on Saudi oil facilities, one of which triggered a huge fire near Jeddah’s Formula One circuit with drivers on the track.
Through it all, Hadi continued to denounce Iran’s support of the Huthis from exile in Riyadh.
His decision Thursday to transfer power to the new leadership council came on the final day of Yemen talks in Riyadh, that brought together the various anti-Huthi forces but were boycotted by the Huthis themselves.
nalysts described the formation of the leadership council as significant, though it is unclear how it will be implemented — and whether it can foster genuine unity within the anti-Huthi camp.