Exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi has transferred his powers to a new presidential council, in a major political shake-up that occurred as efforts to end the country’s years-long war gained momentum with a shaky two-month truce.
Hadi said in a televised statement early on Thursday, the last day of peace talks held in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, which leads a military coalition that supports Yemen’s internationally recognized government against the Houthi rebels.
Hadi added that the council would be tasked with negotiating with the Houthi rebels “for a permanent ceasefire.”
He also dismissed Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a powerful military figure, and delegated al-Ahmar’s powers to the Presidency Council. The Houthis resent al-Ahmar because of previous military campaigns in their northern stronghold, and from the southerners for his leadership role in the 1994 north-south civil war.
After the announcement, Saudi Arabia said it was arranging $3 billion to support Yemen’s war-torn economy — $2 billion coming from Riyadh and another $1 billion from the United Arab Emirates, which is also part of the coalition.
The kingdom also called for an international conference on Yemen, according to state media.
William Lawrence, professor of political science at American University in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera.
“Let’s hope it pays off.”
The new Presidential Council is headed by Rashad Al-Alimi, Hadi’s advisor and former Minister of Interior in the government of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Al-Alimi has close ties to Saudi Arabia and other political groups within Yemen, including the powerful Islah party – the transnational branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen.
The council includes seven other members, each with political and military influence on the ground in Yemen. This includes Aidarous al-Zubaidi, head of the separatist Southern Transitional Council – the umbrella group of heavily armed and well-financed militias that the UAE has supported since 2015.
He appointed Sheikh Sultan al-Aradah, the powerful governor of the energy-rich Ma’rib governorate, as a member of the council. So was Tariq Saleh, a militia leader and nephew of the late president who had close ties to the UAE.
Yemen has been at war since late 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and Hadi, who was elected to a two-year transitional period in 2012 after mass anti-government protests, fled to the south.
The long-running conflict has led to what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The country is in the first week of a two-month UN-brokered truce. This is the first break in the nationwide fighting since 2016.
But the Houthis are not participating in the talks in Riyadh.
Mohammed al-Atab, Al-Jazeera correspondent, said from Sanaa that the Houthis “don’t do that [recognise] Any move by the internationally recognized government, they say this step is “unfounded”.
He added that many in the country hope the announcement will lead to “a new chapter in Yemen’s history”.
“Change and rapprochement with the Houthis will never happen under the leadership of President Hadi,” Elizabeth Kendall, an analyst at Oxford University, told Al Jazeera.
“He’s been stuck for 10 years in total and he’s not an unpopular president,” Kendall said, adding that the leadership shown by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky may have avoided highlighting Hadi’s flaws, increasing pressure on him to relinquish power.
Crisis Group analyst Peter Salisbury wrote on Twitter that the announcement was a “big deal”.
“The most significant shift in the inner workings of the anti-Houthi bloc since the war began. How this actually works will be… complex to say the least,” he said.
Hadi, a former army general from southern Yemen, moved north amid political turmoil at home in 1986. He rose through the ranks to become vice president under Saleh, who unified north and south Yemen in 1990.
Hadi took over the collapsing head of state after the 2011 Arab Spring protests that toppled Saleh, who was later killed in 2017 while trying to switch allegiances.
Hadi was the only name on the ballot for the 2012 elections with the goal of guiding Yemen through the transition to democracy sponsored by Western and regional powers led by neighboring Saudi Arabia.
But he faced long odds, including a collapsing economy and security challenges, in what was supposed to be a two-year period to oversee the transition.
Hadi has failed to build his own power base during decades in uniform. After taking power, he launched a “national dialogue” to draft a new constitution, but things soon fell apart.
Saleh’s army and government allies undermined the transition as al-Qaeda fighters established a small state and bombarded Sanaa with the deadliest bombings.
With the help of army units loyal to Saleh, the Houthis took control of Sanaa and forced Hadi to share power. When the National Dialogue proposed a federal constitution, it was rejected by both the Houthis and southern separatists to undermine their newfound influence.
Hadi noted that his former president, Saleh, made no attempt to help him confront a variety of rival politicians and fighters.
“There is a planned conspiracy and alliances between the former stakeholders who are eager for revenge,” Hadi said after the fall of Sanaa to the Houthis in 2014.
The Houthis arrested Hadi in early 2015, but he fled and fled to the southern port of Aden.
In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition entered the war against the Houthis and took Hadi to Riyadh.
The ensuing war between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition killed tens of thousands and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.
Hadi’s government has faced the same accusations of corruption and mismanagement as its autocratic predecessor, from the Houthis and nominal allies under the coalition.
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