Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi: Yemen’s ‘legitimate leader’

Houthi rebels seek to capture or kill Yemeni President Hadi, widely recognized as the country’s legitimate leader

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Most did not even know who Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi was until he rose to power in 2012, stepping in after former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to resign – even then he was an unknown entity in Yemen and the wider world.

Born in 1945, President Hadi was a graduate of the Army School of Aden Protectorate in 1964, before heading to Great Britain where he attended two military courses - one on military terms, the other a professional military course which lasted until 1966.

He continued his military career through three decades, serving in a number of senior non-combatant roles.

During the Yemen civil war in 1994 Hadi sided with the government of the then President Saleh and was promptly appointed to the position of Minister of Defense, a role in which he led the campaign against the Democratic Republic of Yemen. At the end of the war he was promoted to the office of Vice-President.

Low profile

Despite his potentially high profile roles, he somehow maintained a relatively low profile with many of his own countrymen still not knowing who he was.

He remained in the office of Vice President for two decades.

During the 2011 Arab Spring there was an increasing demand in Yemen for Saleh to stand down. This happened after a bomb attack on the presidential palace that left Saleh seriously injured.

Saleh was treated in a Saudi hospital, while he considered his situation, before eventually standing aside.

Hadi initially stood up as vice president with cross party support – assuming the role of his predecessor, to the position of president, while elections were arranged.

He formally took the office of president in 2012, still largely unknown. But in the short time that followed, he failed to impress.
By 2014 Yemenis believed to be supporters of Saleh and the Houthis took to the streets in protest over Hadi’s performance as the elected president.

On June 11 last year, angry demonstrators cut off streets in the capital and burned tires in response to fuel shortages.

The protests were soon literally on the doorstep of Hadi’s home, where he carried out most of his duties, but rarely left.

Hadi took the unprecedented move of reshuffling the cabinet during the daytime – a task that was usually left until the evening when the official news report is made.

But it was too little too late and the Houthi rebels seized Sanaa in September 2014.

House arrest

He was forced to resign by the Houthi rebels who then held him under house arrest for several weeks – a move that was met with international condemnation, before he managed to leave the compound.

It is not clear How Hadi managed to flee the Houthi siege, but his escape to Aden and declaring it as a temporary capital presented a new challenge for the Houthis and for Saleh.

In Aden, Hadi withdrew his resignation and received wide regional and international support, with Gulf states moving their embassies there from Sanaa, the capital occupied by the Houthis, a group seen by regional powers as Iranian proxies.

Hadi’s growing popularity from Aden and the international support he received prompted the Houthis to attempt to kill or capture him.

In three incidents in March 2015, the Houthis bombed his presidential compound in Aden and later launched an all-out invasion of the south, capturing a key airbase where U.S. forces were once stationed.

The rebels also issued an offer on state television of some $100,000 for President Hadi, whose whereabouts in Aden remain unknown.

A presidential source told Al Arabiya News Channel on Thursday that Hadi was in Aden, closely monitoring the situation as the Houthis advanced toward the capital.

This week the United Nations had "condemned the ongoing unilateral actions taken by the Houthis that were undermining the political transition process and jeopardizing the country’s security and stability.”

“The United Nations continued to be engaged with the parties in a manner that neither gave legitimacy to those who used force to disrupt the political process nor diminished the legitimacy of the president and Government,” said Jamal Benomar, special adviser of the secretary-general on Yemen.

The Security Council also clearly said that it “supported the legitimacy of President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi and called upon all parties and Member States to refrain from taking any actions that undermine the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen, and the legitimacy of the President of Yemen.”

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