Although the defection of army commanders and tribal leaders makes it much safer for protests in Yemen to continue, some protest leaders worry that the new elements may very well quash some of the more radical reforms the movement seeks. One General, who defected, was a close personal aide of Saleh.
On Saturday, Sheikh Sadek Al Ahmar, the leader of Yemen’s most influential tribal bloc, and a host of religious and tribal leaders threw their support behind the protesters. One protest leader said:”The defection is a good sign that the regime is coming to an end. However, we are concerned that the joining of the old guards in the army and tribes could lead to the hijacking of the revolutionary objective of creating a civil state.”
Another leader, from the northern Houthi rebels, demanded that defected Gerneral al Ahmar apologises for crimes committed under the regime of President Saleh. The General led forces against the Houthis who have from time to fime fought against the government.
Abdulbari Taher, an independent political analyst, said: “I do share the concerns of some protesters about the defections of military leaders like [Al Ahmar] who was part of the military regime that committed crimes in different parts of the country.”However, I think now it is difficult to take over a revolution that is gaining its legitimacy from the people in the streets. These young people are the guards of the revolution and the guarantee that it will achieve its goals.”
The situation is somewhat similar to the difficulties faced in Egypt where some worry about the fact that the armed forces is actually running the interim government. In Yemen it would seem that there will be some form of civilian government from the first but even then there is some worry about traditionalist tribal leaders may not want radical democratic reforms.
President Saleh has offered to step down by the end of this year. This has been rejected by the opposition. They want him gone yesterday, or even sooner!