Yemenis celebrated on Monday what many hope will be a new era without President Ali Abdullah Saleh, now recuperating in Saudi Arabia after an operation to remove shrapnel from his chest a day earlier.
A tenuous truce was holding in Sanaa after two weeks of fighting between Saleh’s forces and a powerful tribal federation which killed more than 200 people and forced thousands to flee.
Saleh’s exit to regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia, could facilitate efforts to prise him out of power after nearly 33 years in charge of the Arab world’s poorest country. But the future of Yemen, home to an al Qaeda wing exploiting the space available in a nation riven by complex rivalries among tribal leaders, generals and politicians, remains uncertain.
Saleh was wounded on Friday when a rocket struck his palace in Sanaa, killing seven people and wounding senior officials and advisers. He is being treated in a Riyadh hospital.
“Saleh’s departure to Saudi Arabia isn’t just courtesy from the Saudi ruling family,” said Egyptian political analyst Nabil Abdel-Fattah. “The security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf is linked to security in Yemen.”
He expected Riyadh to promote a deal that would usher Saleh out and set up a caretaker government before parliamentary polls. “It remains to be seen what the role of the young rising powers who launched the uprising against Saleh would be.”
Those youthful protesters, interpreting Saleh’s absence as permanent, continued to celebrate in Sanaa where they have staged anti-government demonstrations since January.