Several months ago, I wrote a brief post about Yemen’s then acting president Abd Rabu Mansur Hadi. Tomorrow, as you all know, he is set to remove the “acting” from his title, and take over as president thanks to a one-man election sponsored by the US and Saudi Arabia.
Hadi emerged as the consensus compromise candidate for two main reasons: 1. He was already the vice president and 2. he wasn’t thought strong enough to challenge any of Yemen’s entrenched powers.
But now that the elections are nearly upon us many outside observers are realizing that we actually know very little about the man who will soon hold Yemen’s top office. Tom Finn, writing in the Guardian, helps us out with a brief profile of Hadi today, concluding: “US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks refer to Hadi as a putative reformer, albeit one with little clout among Yemeni powerbrokers.”
He was born in 1945 in the village of Dhakin in the southern governorate of Abyan. He has had a long military career, graduating at 19 from a military school in Aden, before heading to the UK for a year-and-a-half of training, where he also studied English.
Next he trained on tanks in Cairo, returning back to South Yemen in 1970, before a series of largely bureaucratic postings as an administrative officer. Six years later he traveled to the USSR for four years of advanced officer training.
He continued to move up the ranks in the south after his return from the USSR in 1980, occupying several posts until unification a decade later.
When the civil war broke out in 1994, Hadi, despite his southern roots, threw in his lot with Salih and the north being named first minister of defense and then vice president later that same year.
The Mareb Press profile doesn’t provide much beyond the bare bones of a resume, but it does seem to confirm the outside impression of Hadi as a political insider with a keen sense of which way the wind is blowing. Hadi has played politics in Yemen cautiously and carefully, which has allowed him to survive for so long where other, stronger figures failed.
But after tomorrow there will be no more hiding in the shadows, Hadi will have to lead and stay ahead of his more polished opponents, who all seem to believe they can manipulate a man they think will make a weak executive.