Is Saleh's return to Yemen imminent?

There are mixed reports about the health of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh -- recovering in Saudi Arabia from an attack on his palace earlier this month -- and whether he's planning on returning home to his embattled country anytime soon.

Reuters quotes a Western diplomat saying, "We believe he was seriously injured.... He is not coming [home] in the coming days, he is not coming [home] anytime soon."

Last week, an aide to Saleh gave CNN a different take, saying the president would return soon, possibly even last Friday. Obviously, that didn't happen, but aides have told other news organizations that his health is improving and "he is receiving guests, giving instructions on day to day affairs in Yemen, including a power cut and fuel shortages."

And Bloomberg News reports that Saleh has shown no signs he is considering handing over power, despite Saudi and U.S. pressure.

Saleh is still signing official documents -- he sent a cable yesterday congratulating Djibouti on its national day -- and hasn't officially appointed his deputy as acting president. There have been no public reports of negotiations on a transition, and Saleh's party officials talk about punishing his attackers rather than ending his rule.

Bloomberg News spoke to advisors who have visited the president at the hospital in Saudi Arabia. They said he suffered burns to his face and underwent plastic surgery last week to repair the damage. He's lost weight and his voice is weak, but he is alert and is in physical therapy. He could return to Sanaa by early July, one Yemeni official said.

Ahmed al-Soufi, another Saleh advisor, told al-Arabiya that the president would make a media appearance within the next two days, his first time since the attack.

So is Saleh truly on the mend and planning his return to Yemen?

Don't count on it, says Bernard Haykel, a Yemen expert at Princeton University.

"Clearly he is in very bad shape or you would have heard him speak by now," Haykel said. "But he has a vested interest in showing he's still active."

And the close advisors that keep promising a Saleh return any day now?

"He has a group of people who depend on him for their own survival," Haykel said. "They have a vested interest as well in maintaining the fiction that everything is fine and he'll come back. I don't think we should take at face value what that machine is saying. They are making calculations about their own survival."


Smear campaign against hero of “Hotel Rwanda”?

Paul Rusesabagina is credited with saving the lives of 1,268 people during the darkest moments of the Rwandan genocide. In April 1994, as an assistant hotel manager at the Sabena Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali, he took in and sheltered desperate Tutsis on the hotel's grounds, as Hutu militias rampaged the city. An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days. Rusesabagina's story was eventually told in the Hollywood film "Hotel Rwanda." He was awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and has become an international celebrity and human rights advocate.

Now, Rwandan authorities are accusing him of having ties to a Hutu rebel group, whose leaders took part in the genocide. Rusesabagina was questioned last week in Belgium -- where he lives -- at the request of Rwandan prosecutors. They accuse him of wiring money to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group that operates out of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo -- where many fugitive Rwandans, as well as hundreds of thousands of refugees, fled after the genocide.

The prosecutors say he sent thousands of dollars to commanders of the group via Western Union late last year, evidence that was supposedly corroborated by former FDLR commanders who have since been arrested.

So why would the hero who risked his life 17 years ago to shelter likely victims of slaughter send money to a group tied to the perpetration of that genocide? Or is this simply a smear campaign by his enemies back home?

In October, when the charges were first leveled against him, Rusesabagina denied them and said they were political payback for his outspoken criticism of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2000. Rusesabagina has said Rwanda could be heading toward another genocide if Tutsi elites, like Kagame, continue to hoard power.

"[The prosecutors are] not only lying, but lying with bad logic.... The government has said that I sent money to people who I met many years ago but have not seen or spoken with since the genocide in 1994," Rusesabagina said back in October. "The last time I sent money to Rwanda was in 2002 or 2003 -- I think 2002 -- to my younger brother for a brain operation."

While celebrated overseas, in Rwanda he has become a controversial figure.

"Back home in Rwanda, Rusesabagina is seen by some as an imposter who took advantage of the information vacuum surrounding what really transpired in Rwanda to claim hero status and rake in millions of dollars," reported one Nigerian newspaper.

Some survivors of the genocide have disputed his version of events, while other critics accuse him of being a publicity hound, the Guardian has reported.

In a statement issued through his charity fund earlier this year, Rusesabagina said Kagame was trying to distract the world's attention from last year's "complete sham" election and his government's heavy-handed tactics in the Congo, where Kagame's government is accused of "war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly even genocide against Hutus in that country."