By National Yemen
Last Wednesday, a Yemeni committee tasked with demilitarizing the capital has given 48 hours to armed opponents and backers of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh to begin withdrawing after months of street fighting.
While the request to withdrawal began Thursday morning, the announcement of the military committee has gone largely unacknowledged by the anti-Saleh militia and security forces loyal to Saleh. Early morning on January 13th, security forces doubled their presence in the street of Sana’a.
The presence of armed elements in Sana’a, defying an earlier deadline to leave their positions by the end of December, underlines the difficulty of restoring normality to the country, which was paralysed for most of 2011 by protests against Saleh.
So far, it is unclear if the new deadline would prove effective but initial indicators point to no.
The body is perceived as weak as it has no forces to ensure the deadline is met. However, a government source told Reuters the panel would ask the international community to put pressure on any side that refused to withdraw.
Tribal fighters led by Saleh’s opponents and Republican Guard troops commanded by the veteran leader’s son are still deployed in several areas of Sana’a, including the northern district of Hasaba, scenes of some of the heaviest fighting during 2011.
Under a plan drawn up by Yemen’s wealthier neighbours and signed by Saleh in November, the opposition and the ruling General People’s Congress party (GPC) shared out cabinet posts between them, forming a unity government to steer the country towards presidential elections in February.
Jamal Benomar, the U.N. envoy who helped clinch the deal, was due to arrive in Sana’a later on Wednesday to push for its full implementation.