Profile: Yemen's new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi
Mr. Hadi is a relative unknown in Yemen, despite serving as former President Saleh's deputy for 17 years.
A relative unknown has taken the helm of Yemen, where citizens are hoping for real change after 33 years under former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the West is seeking improved stability to contain a resurgent Al Qaeda.Skip to next paragraph
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The newly inaugurated Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi joined Mr. Saleh for a farewell ceremony today, marking the departure of the fourth autocrat since the Arab Spring began. Mr. Hadi, who won an uncontested election last week, now stands tasked with holding together a fragile nation further strained by a year of protests.
The Arab world's poorest country, Yemen has long been beset by dire economic challenges, a southern secessionist movement, restive Houthi rebels in the north, powerful tribal rivalries, and the terrorist franchise Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Although Hadi served as Saleh's deputy for 17 years, many Yemenis describe him as a figure who has remained largely in the shadows. That has perhaps given him a small window to gain the support of a country largely fed up with Saleh, but it has also left many uncertain about the future of their nation.
“Over the years he’s been a weak man in terms of personality. We haven’t seen him do anything for the country,” says Osama Shamsan, a student protester in Sanaa. He describes Hadi as a “statue,” always present, but always in the background of Yemeni politics. “But is he going to step up now? What is he going to do?”
Yemeni analysts say that throughout his career, Hadi never had strong political ambitions and happened into his positions, rather than obtaining them through political maneuvering.
“Hadi has a quiet personality,” says Najeeb Ghallab, a political researcher in Sanaa. “He didn’t have plans or ambitions to become the vice president.” Similarly, in a country where regime insiders, defected military leaders, and powerful tribal sheikhs have been seen as jockeying for power in a post-Saleh country, Hadi wasn't seen as angling for the presidency.
A southerner who avoids the spotlight
Hadi started his career in the military, during which time he spent a considerable amount of time training abroad. He received two years of officer training at Britain's Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, obtained a graduate degree from the Nasser Military Academy in Egypt, and trained with the Soviet military.