Millions of Yemenis march to support new ruling council

SANAA, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) — Millions of people from all Yemeni territories crowded Saturday at the center of the Yemeni capital Sanaa to show support and bless the formation of a new ruling political council presided by the Houthi rebels and their allied powerful party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The unprecedented massive march took eight hours – from dawn till noon – to walk the roads and settle at Alsabeen Square, the largest, vast empty square of almost 70 square kilometers.

The huge crowds held banners carrying two messages to the international community, reading “We support and bless the formation of new ruling political council.”

The other one says “We are the owner of our homeland, and we are the owner of our political will,” in reference to their choice to back the new ruling authority to fill the long political vacuum left after exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

“The Houthis and ex-President Saleh are not rebels, but our brothers, relatives and our major partnership of this soil,” 45-year-old demonstrator Ahmed Abdulkarim told Xinhua.

“We are similar to all world’s peoples, we want this mess and long political vacuum to be ended,” he said.

Saddam Hizam, a tribal chieftain in his 40s, said “I came from my faraway village to tell the world we will never ever surrender, we will not handover our rifles and flee our lands after those refused peace and partnership.”

“We are the origin of this land and the surrender will not going to happen,” Hizam referred to the recognized government’s decision which stipulated the Houthi group and Saleh’s party to obey the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216 in order to end the civil war.

National flags are everywhere, in the streets, above the buildings, at the gates of commercial shops and even paste on the foreheads and chests of the old, young people and children who took part in the rally.

It is really hard to find a foothold in this vast square at the center of the capital despite that warplanes from Saudi Arabia-led military coalition kept flying overhead, but that didn’t intimidate the huge demonstrators.

Soon after the arrival of president of the new ruling political council, Saleh al-Sumad, the Saudi-led fighter jets bombed the main gate of the presidential palace, which locates about 500 meter from the platform where al-Sumad and his team stood in to welcome the people.

“Within the upcoming days, we will declare the formation of a new national government to work to achieve the people’s aspirations and to prepare for holding general elections,” the Houthi-controlled official Saba news agency cited what it called “President al-Sumad” as saying in his speech to the nation.

Last week, the Yemeni parliament unanimously ratified the “Higher Political Council” to unilaterally rule the country, lifting the power and legitimacy of the internationally recognized exiled president Hadi and his government, according to the Houthi-controlled state TV.

Internationally recognized President Hadi warned the parliament of taking such a step, threatening to hold them accountable and subject them to punishment.

The ruling council was declared and formed on Aug. 6 between former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party and Shiite Houthi armed group following the breakdown of peace talks with their foes in Kuwait.

It is made up of 10 senior officials, who dominate the decision making in the country, and was declared in a ceremony in the presidential palace in the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.

Senior Houthi leader Saleh al-Sumad was elected as council president and Kasim Labuzah of former president’s General People’s Congress party as vice-president, according to Saba news agency.

They said the council’s next mission is to form a new “national government” very soon.

The escalating move came after the UN-sponsored peace talks with their foes of internationally recognized government of President Hadi in Kuwait collapsed after over three months of fruitless negotiations to end years-long civil war.

Saudi Arabia intervened in support of President Hadi and his government in March 2015 after the Houthis and Saleh forces expelled them to Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

However, Saudi-led military coalition has failed to bring back exiled President Hadi or his government to the office in Sanaa.

Sanaa and most of northern and southern provinces have been under tightened control of Houthi and Saleh armed forces since September 2014 when they stormed the capital and other major cities.

The ground battles and airstrikes of Saudi-led military coalition against the rebel Houthi and Saleh’s supporters have killed over 6,500 people, mostly civilians, and displaced more than two other millions.