Yemenis ridicule million-dollar man Saleh

Yemenis ridicule million-dollar man Saleh
2 min read
11 May, 2015
Analysis: Former president promises $1m to help countrymen stranded abroad. Activists say that is a tiny fraction of the billions he allegedly stole while in office.
Saleh still attracts support from segments of the army [Anadolu]

Speaking outside his bombed-out home in downtown Sanaa, the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh gave a defiant televised speech to the Yemeni nation.

Saleh, under attack from anti-Houthi Yemeni forces and a Saudi-led coalition, promised he would donate $1m for his countrymen stranded abroad.

The response from some Yemenis was ridicule.

"Saleh you've said you will donate $1m to people stuck abroad. What about the other $59.999bn you owe the country and its people?" journalist Samir al-Namry wrote on Facebook.

"Saleh, as you're donating money to Yemenis stranded around the world you should know that 90 percent of them are sick or students," activist Jamil al-Odeni scoffed.

"If you had built them hospitals and universities in their country would they have gone to live in shame in other counties?"

Saleh has amassed a fortune of $60bn during his 33 years in power, almost twice as much as the country's annual GDP of $35bn, according to a UN report in February.

He allegedly made $2bn a year while he was in office until he was forced out of power in February 2012, following a Gulf brokered deal that followed mass protests against the former president.

Hidden wealth

This wealth was hidden in bank accounts in at least 20 countries with the help of business partners, according to the UN report.

The National Body for Recovering Stolen Assets, believes that Saleh's regime smuggled $70bn out of Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world.

A report from the group alleged that Saleh built up his personal wealth through kickbacks for granting oil and gas concessions to businesses, as well as stealing public funds

     Saleh you've said you will donate $1m - what about the other $59.999bn you owe the country?
Samir al-Namry, journalist

It alleged Saleh, his friends, his family and his associates also took money from the country's fuel subsidy programme, which cost 10 per cent of Yemen's GDP each year.

In November 2014, the UN imposed sanctions on Saleh and froze his assets. Saleh was also banned him from traveling.

During the lightning advance of the Zaydi-Shia Houthi militia group, which started last September, Saleh has made a comeback on Yemen's political scene.

Army loyalists have taken territory from the internationally-recognised head Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. 

When these forces were on the outskirts of Aden, a Saudi-led coalition have conducted air raids on Saleh's men and the Houthi fighters, which have killed hundreds of civilians.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.