It took Zen El Abidene Ben Ali 23 years of failed leadership, a young and desperate man burning himself alive, and throngs of Tunisian protests on the streets among whom many were killed and wounded by his security forces to finally understand. In his most popular speech “I finally understand” he said,
O people of Tunisia—both in Tunisia and abroad. I am addressing you all. I admit that the current situation in Tunisia calls for profound and comprehensive change. I finally understand you. I understand you all: the unemployed; the needy; the politician; and those asking for more freedoms. I understand you all.
Similarly, Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak addresses Egyptians out on the streets who managed to inspire him as they did the world,
I am addressing all of you from the heart, as a father to his sons and daughters. I am both grateful and proud of you for being the symbolic generation calling for change to the better, for dreaming for a better future, and making the future.
Even mentally deranged and crude Moamar Al Qaddafi who managed to isolate Libya and Libyans from the world, had some words for the Libyan opposition. His speeches have oscillated between magnifying himself to hyperbolic degrees to abasing Libyans and calling them rodents, drug addicts, international relief beggars, and finally traitors for calling on the international community to impose a no-fly-zone on Libya.
As for Yemen’s Saleh, which ironically in Arabic means among other things ‘adequate’, has been anything but; he has yet to directly address the protesters who are asking for him and his regime to step down. By protesters I mean those out on the streets in 12 cities in Yemen, who don’t belong to any political party. Those who have sacrificed their blood to their cause, and whom Saleh claims are being taken advantage of by parliamentary opposition parties. Those he has on different occasions called drug addicts, murderers, power seekers, civil and tribal warmongers, Al Qaeda loyalists, Islamists, separatists, secessionists, and traitors to external forces such as Israel and the USA. Those on whom he has assumed illegitimate and incompetent leadership for 33 years, only to catalyze their nation’s decline to below every standard measure of development. Whose state coffers he has emptied into his personal bank accounts leaving Yemen today bankrupt, consequently making it the poorest country in the region. What is there left for him to say? There is no doubt that he is suffering, among other things, from a crisis of trust in anything Saleh.
So, he has settled with: 1) speaking about protesters rather than to them; 2) Appearing in edited and televised scenes in which he delivers speeches to his paid loyalists; 3) Expressing disinterest in nominating himself for another term, while simultaneously cautioning that his absence would plunge Yemen into irredeemable chaos [what chaos can possibly compete with his poor legacy in Yemen?]; 4) Spinning conspiracy theories of tribal, secessionist, Al Qaeda and other imaginary conflicts; 5) Revising his plans to step down, times ranging from the end of 2011, beginning of 2012, the elections of 2013, to indefinitely; 5) Hiring thugs and mobilizing security forces to kill protesters on the streets and then declare national days of mourning for victims. Saleh is an obsessive-compulsive liar and only understands the language of the ‘Janbiyyah’ [dagger] hence his tactics in dealing with the current crisis in Yemen. Even if he wanted to address the peaceful protesters otherwise, he in earnest wouldn’t know how.
Saleh has proven that he is an inadequate component for the establishment of a civil society in Yemen. He has literally reached his expiration date as have other dictators in the region. Hence, his new message to the protesters sent as usual through a third party, “I tell those who appear in the media asking others [meaning him and his regime] to leave, to leave [my] Yemen.” Saleh finally understands that he cannot co-exist with the tides of change sweeping over Yemen, asking for freedom, justice and dignity. Simply put, it’s Greek to him.