Yemen's Hadi: I am still the president

Yemen's Hadi: I am still the president
As Yemen crisis deepens, the country's beleaguered​ leader flees Sanaa and issues a defiant message, insisting he is still the president.
3 min read
22 February, 2015
Demonstrators have demanded Hadi's release in Sanaa (Anadolu)

A top Yemeni official  has insisted that Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the embattled leader who resigned the presidency last month and has fled the rebel-controlled capital, still sees himself as the country's legitimate president.

The governor of Aden, Abdel-Aziz bin Habtoor, told The Associated Press that Hadi made his position clear at a meeting with him and other governors from four provinces on Sunday.

Hadi met them in the southern city of Aden, where he arrived on Saturday after fleeing house arrest in Sanaa and said that all actions taken since Houthi rebels stormed the capital Sanaa last September are illegitimate.

The logic behind Hadi's legitimacy, Habtoor said, is that parliament never ratified his resignation. The Houthis first prevented the parliament from meeting and then dissolved it earlier this month.

In a statement signed by Hadi and disseminated late on Saturday, he called on world leaders to "reject the coup".

Hadi, whose initial resignation came after his authority was effectively ended by the Houthis, who took over the capital and laid siege to the presidential palace and several other government buildings, is reported to have travelled in a large convoy of vehicles overland from Sanaa to Aden, via the central city of Taiz, which is not under Houthi control. 

"He managed to leave his house this morning and his way is being secured to reach Aden," one of his aides told AFP earlier. 

A top security official later said that Hadi was staying in a presidential residence in the Khormaksar area of the city. 

Although it remains unclear as to how Hadi managed to escape Sanaa, it comes a day after a coalition of major Yemeni parties said they would not participate in a new transitional legislative body if Hadi remained under house arrest. 

Ahmed Lakaz, a spokesman for the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) said the parties told the Houthis that they would not take part in the process should Hadi remain trapped in his house in Sanaa. 

Houthi militiamen and some locals were later seen entering Hadi's residence and looting it, the Associated Press reported. 

It is uncertain what Hadi's next step is. In Aden, the major city of his native south, armed popular committees set up by his supporters have taken over some areas. 

Hadi is also reported to be ill, and may travel abroad to seek medical treatment. 

Nadia al-Sakkaf, the information minister in the Yemeni government that resigned along with Hadi, said that the president's escape was a gamechanger. 

"The political and power balance has changed following Hadi's arrival in Aden," Sakkaf wrote on Twitter. 

Meanwhile, one protester was killed on Saturday and three injured during an anti-Houthi protest in the central city of Ibb. 

Witnesses reported that live fire was used by Houthi militiamen to break up the protest.

The Houthis have adopted a zero tolerance policy to protests against them, repeatedly breaking them up in the capital Sanaa, which they overran in September. 

The Houthis, a predominantly Zaydi Shia group from Yemen's far north, have pushed their advance into areas of central and eastern Yemen, meeting fierce resistance from local tribesmen. 

They announced, via a 'constitutional declaration', that a transitional council was to be set up which would appoint a five-member presidential council to run the country, all vetted by the Houthi 'revolutionary committee'.

But Taiz and some other parts of the north, as well as the whole of the south, are beyond the militia's control.