Yemen’s new president is facing a new challenge to his authority over the military, with the powerful son of his predecessor disobeying orders and elevating a relative to head a security unit to protect his father.
One of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s main goals has been to purge the military of predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh’s loyalists and family members to enable reforms and restore security to a country that has been in turmoil for more than a year.
These steps are seen essential to enable Yemen’s armed forces to confront al-Qaeda-linked militants, who have taken over parts of the south while the country has been distracted by the power struggle in the capital.
A senior military official in the Yemeni defense ministry said on Sunday that Saleh continues to meddle in the country’s affairs.
Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of the former president, commands the powerful Special Forces and Republican Guard, among the country’s best-trained troops. His appointment of a relative, Tarek Mohammed, to head his father’s security unit was direct insubordination to Hadi.
Hadi had already demoted Mohammed from head of the Presidential Guards to head a provincial military unit, an order Mohammed and the younger Saleh refused to obey.
The military official said Hadi has rejected the new appointment. In response, Mohammed refused to hand over his current job during a meeting attended by the UN representative to Yemen.
The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Another relative rejected an order to resign as head of the air force for weeks, finally stepping down last week. That dispute forced a shutdown in Yemen’s commercial airport for a day.
Hadi took over from Ali Abdullah Saleh in February.