Helen Lackner https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/11275/all cached version 17/01/2019 11:16:25 en Prospects for Yemen in 2019 and beyond https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/prospects-for-yemen-in-2019-and-beyond <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The fear and terror induced by this situation, combined with unbearable survival conditions are creating a generation of psychologically scarred people, many of whom will never be able to live normal lives.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-40471273.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-40471273.jpg" alt="lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A boy waits for the arrival of UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths at the international airport of Sanaa, Yemen, on Jan. 5, 2019. Mohammed Mohammed/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Less than a month after the signature of the Stockholm Agreement between the Huthi movement and Hadi’s internationally-recognised government, concern for its implementation grows. </p> <p>It was agreed in a rush, under international pressure, for two main reasons: first the humanitarian crisis had reached catastrophic proportions by late 2018, hitting media headlines around the world daily. Images of starving children were made more poignant by knowledge of the scale of the emergency detailed in frightening figures from the World Food Programme and other UN institutions. The issue featured regularly in UN Security Council discussions on Yemen.&nbsp; </p> <p>This extreme urgency combined with the international outrage following the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoqji in his country’s Istanbul consulate. Evidence soon emerged pointing to the direct involvement of Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia’s crown prince.&nbsp; </p> <p>The worldwide public outcry was an incentive for the US administration to put meaningful pressure on the Saudi regime to make some concessions in Yemen. Calling for a ceasefire by the end of November, senior administration officials thus also forced the UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen to accelerate preparations for a new meeting, after the failed attempt in September. After years of prevarication, caused by the influence of the leading coalition partners, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the UK finally submitted a draft UN Security Council Resolution on 19 November. <span class="mag-quote-center">After years of prevarication, caused by the influence of the leading coalition partners, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the UK finally submitted a draft UN Security Council Resolution on 19 November.</span></p> <p>Its passing was delayed thanks to the resistance of the coalition members (who acted via Kuwait which was then on the UNSC), although the draft explicitly stated that the resolution did not challenge UNSC Resolution 2216 on which President Hadi relies for his own position and the Saudis for the legitimacy of their intervention. </p> <p>The new resolution focused on the urgency of addressing the humanitarian crisis, calling for a halt to the coalition’s offensive on Hodeida and facilitating access for supplies to the areas under greatest stress and in greatest need, most of them under Huthi control. This involved both opening roads closed by military action and interrupting administrative constraints put in the way of humanitarian agencies, national and international. Given that lack of cash is a major contributor to the food emergency, the draft also called for international cash injections in the economy. </p> <h2><strong>Stockholm Agreement</strong></h2> <p>As a result of further pressures on the coalition, including discussions between UNSG Guterres and MBS during the Argentine G 20 summit, a meeting sponsored by the UN took place in early December in Sweden between Huthi and Hadi government emissaries. </p> <p>Lasting a week, assisted by the additional pressure of the presence of Guterres himself on the last day of the meeting, the parties signed what is officially called the Stockholm Agreement, consisting of 3 sections: the first a general statement, the second a brief commitment to form a committee to discuss the situation in Taiz and the third concerning the Hodeida governorate and the access to basic necessities for the country via the Red Sea ports. </p> <p>An earlier agreement on an exchange of prisoners advanced to the point where lists of 16,000 individuals were exchanged and mechanisms for its implementation agreed. The meeting failed to agree on two other major issues: the opening of Sana’a airport, a demand of the population throughout the northern part of the country [Huthi and non-Huthi controlled areas alike] and discussion of the UN Special Envoy’s ‘framework for negotiations’.</p> <p>Composed of a ceasefire in the Hodeida governorate, the withdrawal of both parties’ military forces to agreed positions and supervision by the UN of port management, the agreement also includes the payment of port revenues to the Hodeida Branch of the Central Bank of Yemen and their use for the payment of salaries. </p> <p>The vagueness and brevity of the agreement showed that insufficient preparation time simply pushes problems further down the line. The agreement thus contains built-in flaws, leaving plenty of space for multiple interpretations which, unsurprisingly, each side made to its own advantage. A Redeployment Coordination Committee of 6 members (3 from each side) chaired by the UN was set up to oversee ceasefire and redeployment, and a Dutch retired senior military officer was appointed as chair. </p> <p>Following the Stockholm agreement, a very watered down UNSC resolution (2451) was finally passed on 21 December. In addition to endorsing Stockholm, its main contribution was to authorise the Secretary General to deploy a UN team to monitor the implementation of the agreements. Among others, references to accountability for contraventions to International Humanitarian law were removed.</p> <p>Since the ceasefire came into force on 18 December, predictably, there have been multiple breaches, some more serious than others.&nbsp; </p> <p>The Huthis skilfully stage-managed the apparent handover of the port to the Coast Guard, but it was a Huthi-managed entity who took over, a model which is likely to be reproduced in future as both groups have parallel institutions. To what extent either party is able to persuade UN monitors that their apparent implementation of the agreement is genuine will largely depend on two factors: first the monitors’ actual detailed knowledge of the situation on the ground and, second, the persuasive capacity of the members of the committee and other official spokesmen (no women involved, as usual). <span class="mag-quote-center">Regardless of its weaknesses, the Stockholm agreement is a first sign of hope for 29 million Yemenis who are desperately waiting for peace.</span></p> <p>Meanwhile, regardless of its weaknesses, the Stockholm agreement is a first sign of hope for 29 million Yemenis who are desperately waiting for peace and have been surviving war for close to&nbsp; 4 years, and in particular for the 20 million who are facing ‘severe acute food insecurity’ which is UN-speak for starvation.&nbsp; </p> <p>The likelihood of peace in 2019 is extremely low: history has shown on multiple occasions that such talks are the beginning of very long and protracted processes and, at this point, there is no indication that any of the warring parties has come to the conclusion that negotiations and peace are a better option than continuing to fight in anticipation of victory, regardless of the suffering of the population.</p> <h2><strong>What future for Yemen’s children?</strong></h2> <p>However, to put the urgency in perspective, the following is a brief survey of the impact of the war and its continuation for the future of Yemen, and particularly of its children. They face a multiplicity of immediate and long-term challenges. Yemen, prior to the war the country with the highest illiteracy rate in the region, is now creating a new generation of illiterate adults, as more than 2 million children &nbsp;(a quarter of the school age population) who should be in education are not.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> More than 2500 schools are unusable (16% of the total), either because they have been damaged or destroyed by military action (2/3 of cases) or because they have been closed due to lack of staff, are used as shelters for displaced people or have been taken over by the military. <span class="mag-quote-center">Yemen… is now creating a new generation of illiterate adults.</span></p> <p>In a country with limited natural resources, any successful future economic development will depend on highly educated adults able to participate in the modern economy. Better-educated people find higher paid jobs and their likelihood of unemployment is significantly lower, and are therefore less likely to join or support extremist groups. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to the generation of children who remain out of education, those schools which are actually functioning only do so in a minimal level without equipment or other basics and with staff who, in many cases, have not been paid their salaries for well over two years now. Many teachers have stopped work, seeking an income elsewhere, or simply unable to afford the transport costs. Not only is education essential for the country’s future but, even now, while children are at school, they are fa<strong>r</strong> less vulnerable to risks such as recruitment as child soldiers, child labour or, in the case of girls, early marriage.</p> <p>Leaving aside the implications for the future of Yemen of millions of uneducated adults, children are currently suffering from many immediate problems which will affect them in the post-war period. As has been amply demonstrated worldwide, low birth weight children are more vulnerable to diseases and early childhood malnutrition reduces people’s intellectual and physical abilities throughout their lives. </p> <p>As of December 2018, about 1.1 million pregnant or breast-feeding women and 1.8 million children are malnourished. Many are basically starving, as we have seen on our screens in recent months, no more than skin and bones, too weak to cry or move.As UNICEF has pointed out repeatedly throughout 2018, one child dies every 10 minutes from malnutrition. More than 7 million Yemeni children go to bed hungry every night, they are half of the 15 million people suffering severe malnutrition. &nbsp;</p> <p>All the malnourished children who survive will suffer varying levels of physical and intellectual incapacitation throughout their lives, simply because of early age malnutrition due to the war. More than 6, 700 children have been killed or severely wounded, 85, 000 children are estimated to have died of hunger, directly or indirectly. </p> <p>Close to 1.5 million children have been displaced, millions more are suffering from the trauma resulting from proximity to war zones, including the many active fronts, but also fearing attacks by drones, air strikes and other terrifying events which can happen anywhere in the country suddenly out of clear skies, day or night.&nbsp; </p> <p>The fear and terror induced by this situation, combined with increasingly difficult, not to say, unbearable, living (or more accurately, survival) conditions are creating a generation of psychologically scarred people, many of whom will never be able to live normal lives. UNICEF and other organisations are providing training to teachers and others in psycho-social support, but at best it can merely alleviate the problem and help victims cope with their trauma. It cannot solve the deep psychological impact of living for years under war conditions and with complete uncertainty about present and future. </p> <p>We have not even mentioned here the issue of child soldiers; in an environment where there are no jobs, where families are desperate and adults [when ‘employed’] have not been paid, joining a militia or other military organisation features as a positive option for boys from an early age. </p> <p>The official figure of 2700 child soldiers is probably an under-estimate, as for many desperate families their sons’ involvement with the military is the only possible source income in desperate conditions where prices have doubled and incomes disappeared. Not only are child soldiers used by the Yemeni warring factions, but it appears that the coalition is also importing child fighters from Sudan.<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> Notwithstanding this reality, efforts to implement the Action Plan to end use and recruitment of child soldiers by armed forces are important.<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> <span class="mag-quote-center">‘The interests of Yemeni children have hardly been taken into account in any decision-making for decades.’</span></p> <p>The cholera epidemic which was the biggest medical crisis in 2017 thankfully affected fewer people in 2018, but between January and mid-November 2018 more than 280,000 cases occurred, including 32% of them children under 5 years old.<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a> Other diseases have also become prominent, but malnutrition alone weakens children and makes them vulnerable to suffer and die from a wide range of diseases which are insignificant to stronger children. As pointed out by UNICEF’s Geert Cappelaere last month ‘The interests of Yemeni children have hardly been taken into account in any decision-making for decades.’</p> <p>Most importantly, once this pointless and murderous war ends, the future of Yemen will depend on its children. They will inherit a country destroyed by the self-serving leaderships which have brought horrific and unprecedented levels of suffering to Yemenis, showing neither compassion nor commitment to find solutions to Yemen’s fundamental problems. If psychologically and physically scarred for life, how will they be able to re-create a better governed country able to provide adequate living standards for its people?</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Most of the figures in this article have been taken from the statement by Geert Cappelaere,&nbsp; UNICEF&nbsp; Regional Director for the Middle East.&nbsp; https://www.unicef.org/mena/press-releases/yemens-children-15-million-lives-scarred-and-voices-not-heard</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>&nbsp; https://www.vox.com/2018/12/30/18161667/saudi-arabia-outsourcing-yemen-war-child-soldiers</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp; See Tweet by Relano Meritxell on 18 December 2018 about an agreement made with the internationally recognised government of Yemen</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a>&nbsp; World Health Organisation data on 07 12 2018</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/famine-in-yemen-long-announced-now-on-our-screens">Famine in Yemen: long announced, now on our screens </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/why-can-t-united-nations-bring-peace-to-yemen">Why can’t the United Nations bring peace to Yemen?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen International politics Conflict Helen Lackner Mon, 07 Jan 2019 18:57:02 +0000 Helen Lackner 121218 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Famine in Yemen: long announced, now on our screens https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/famine-in-yemen-long-announced-now-on-our-screens <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What are world leaders doing? Where is the ‘international community’ Yemenis so often appeal to?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38730868.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-38730868.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A boy receives treatment at al-Sabaeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 24, 2018. Mohammed Mohammed/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Almost two years after the UN first told the world that the war in Yemen was about to cause famine, we are informed that 14 million are at risk of dying from starvation and that the earlier figure of 8 million was an underestimate.&nbsp; The increase is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/oct/16/enormity-yemen-famine-initially-underestimated">explained by the dramatic collapse</a> of the Yemeni riyal in the last two months. </p> <p>Wasn’t such a currency crisis predictable? The country is still described as being ‘on the brink’ of famine, simply because statistical verification of death rates, which would fit official definitions, is not available. These figures are mind boggling beyond imagination, and represent millions suffering the psychological, physical, agony of watching loved children, parents, siblings and partners, dying before their eyes… Many people are expecting the same fate themselves, some of them probably even looking forward to death, as it would end the pain. So the famine is here, with or without official definition! <span class="mag-quote-center">So the famine is here, with or without official definition!</span></p> <p>Daily, we see images of starving children on our screens as we snack in front of our TVs, smartphones or whatever… Many of us then rush off to send money to our favourite charities or friends and families in Yemen, knowing that this is the only practical thing we can do to help people buy the food whose prices have rocketed due to blockade, collapse of currency, reduced imports, and indeed, drought which means that this year there is hardly any locally-produced food (at the best of times, the country only produces about 15% of its entire grain needs). </p> <p>We consider political action, write to legislators and government, somehow hoping that it will achieve something, although experience has shown that these efforts are largely ineffective. We feel helpless in the face of disaster. What are world leaders doing? Where is the ‘international community’ Yemenis so often appeal to?</p> <h2><strong>The risks of speaking truth to power in Saudi Arabia</strong></h2> <p>We may also wonder why Saudi strong man Mohammed bin Salman (variously known as MBS, Crown prince and Minister of Defence) is not ending this futile war which causes unmentionable suffering for Yemenis and zero achievement for the coalition he leads. After all the Saudi-led war in Yemen has now been going on for a full three and a half years, rather than the couple of weeks or so expected when MBS launched ‘Decisive Storm’ in March 2015. The excuse that this failure is due to considerable Iranian military support for the ill-armed Huthi movement is wearing thin, in the absence of meaningful evidence. Meanwhile, some of us are also exercised at the ‘alleged’ murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoqji in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, something Saudi authorities stopped denying two weeks after his disappearance.<span class="mag-quote-center"> Why is no one ‘telling truth to power’ to MBS? The answer to this question is most obvious in Khashoqji’s fate.</span></p> <p>Why is no one ‘telling truth to power’ to MBS? The answer to this question is most obvious in Khashoqji’s fate: if a highly respectable, conventional and well-connected Saudi national who is mildly critical of the regime and by no means a dissident, can come to such an end, fear must reign in MBS’s palaces. Last August, the Canadian Foreign Minister tweeted criticism of the human rights situation in SA: MBS’s response was to order 8,000 Saudi students in Canada to leave, cut air links and all economic ties, and expel the Canadian ambassador, something of an over-reaction by any standards. </p> <p>Another example of MBS’s sophisticated foreign policy initiatives was the forced resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri last year (withdrawn as soon as Hariri managed to get back home).&nbsp; Within the country dozens of men and women are held without trial, including senior Islamist scholars, for expressing slight criticisms of the regime. This time last year, dozens of senior Saudi investors were imprisoned in a luxury hotel until they paid heavy ransoms for their release. This is an incomplete list, all coming on top of the war in Yemen started only 2 months after MBS became Minister of Defence and the siege, since mid-2017, of Qatar whose leaders had the nerve to have a foreign policy diverging from that of Saudi Arabia.</p> <p>So back to Yemen. In this context it is not so strange that close associates have failed to tell MBS how badly his war is going. Not only has there been little progress on military fronts for nearly three years, but the war is costing his country billions, has considerably damaged Saudi Arabia’s already pretty dismal international reputation, and is now causing the deaths of thousands, possibly soon millions, Yemeni children, adults and older people by starvation. </p> <p>Internationally, civil society and parliamentary moves to take action against Saudi Arabia, and particularly to stop its purchase of lethal weapons, stumble against two obstacles: for all major exporting countries, USA in the lead, UK close behind, these sales play an important political and economic role in maintaining their regimes in power.&nbsp; </p> <p>Trump made the position clear when he pointed out that he would not jeopardise USD 110 billion of arms sales because of the murder of a mere opposition journalist in Istanbul. As all of us l<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/matt-kennard-mark-curtis/britain-s-warfare-state">iving in the UK</a> know, regardless of <a href="https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/policy-institute/publications/uk-saudi-arabia-security.pdf">evidence to the contrary</a>, May’s government is relying on Saudi Arabia and other GCC states to invest and rescue the British economy when the expected major financial problems emerge post-Brexit. So arms sales will continue to cause the majority of directly war-related casualties from air strikes, ‘officially’ still estimated at under 20,000, a laughable figure by any standards.</p> <p>Most people of all ages are dying away from the few record-keeping institutions. They are dying from diseases caused by malnutrition, resulting in weakened resistance to health risks, particularly those caused by polluted water. As the country depends on imports for most of its staples, the Coalition’s effective blockade of Red Sea coast ports bears the main responsibility for the lack of food in the country; as is well-known, scarcity means increased prices, so the famine is worsened by the fact that about 9 million people depend on the salaries of 1.2 million government staff who have remained unpaid for more than two years now.&nbsp; </p> <p>While UN and other humanitarian agencies’ systematic protests at the severe restriction of imports have resulted in some supplies coming in, they are way below needs. The current military offensive on Hodeida is worsening the situation as the coalition siege has closed the main roads used to bring food and other basic supplies from the port to the neighbouring densely populated mountainous highlands under Huthi control. Starvation of the people appears to be a coalition military strategy: the UN and others repeat daily that this is a breach of International Humanitarian Law and can be described as a war crime. The coalition persists, indifferent to the human cost and international law.</p> <h2><strong>Who is benefiting from the suffering and starvation of Yemenis?</strong></h2> <p>Officials everywhere claim loudly that the only solution to the Yemen crisis is political and that the war cannot be won militarily. So why is so little being done to end the fighting? Well, of course, a regular supply of weapons and ammunition and logistical support ensure that believers in a military solution can continue on their path (in the process enriching the arms dealers, small, medium or large, internationally and locally). Alongside the ‘internationally recognised government’ of President Hadi, the Saudi and Emirati coalition leaders are the main believers in the military solution, and their media loudly proclaim progress, regardless of the situation on the ground.&nbsp; </p> <p>There are other individuals and groups who use the war to pursue their partisan and personal interests at the expense of Yemenis who, I repeat again, are suffering beyond belief. First and foremost among those exploiting the war for their own benefit are the actors of the war economy, local powers ‘taxing’ goods, armed men at all levels, from those manning checkpoints to their leaders. While the actions of foot soldiers can be justified by desperation to support families, higher up the chain profiteers use these ill-gotten gains to fill their foreign bank accounts and buy luxury properties in the Gulf and beyond, using money which would otherwise keep ordinary people alive. <span class="mag-quote-center">Higher up the chain profiteers use these ill-gotten gains to fill their foreign bank accounts and buy luxury properties in the Gulf and beyond.</span></p> <p>Other beneficiaries of the war include different elements of the southern separatist movement who, currently aligned with the UAE, follow its lead in exchange for practical and diplomatic support to promote their political ambitions for independence, regardless of the lack of evidence of popular support for their demands. Leaders of the rival Yemeni ‘governments’ complement the list of those benefiting materially from the suffering. The actions of all these groups prevent any political progress by undermining efforts to bring about peace negotiations, whether led by the UN Special Envoy or any other agency trying to do anything to alleviate the suffering of the population. &nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>What is being done to end this disaster?</strong></h2> <p>A few words on the attempts to bring about peace negotiations: the recently appointed British Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General, Martin Griffiths, has now been in position for 8 months. Starting with good will from all sides, his reputation took a serious blow when his proposed Geneva ‘consultations’ between the two main warring parties aborted in early September. While this was apparently due to his and his team’s inability to ensure safe travel for the Huthi delegation, the fact that this issue had not been solved upstream with the coalition raises questions about the quality of preparation for these talks. <span class="mag-quote-center">Why doesn’t Griffiths attempt to have UNSC resolution 2216 updated or replaced? It is widely seen as a war rather than a peace resolution.</span></p> <p>There are many other unanswered questions around the UN’s role: why did the coalition decide to launch its offensive on Hodeida precisely when Griffiths was due to present his new peace plan? Why doesn’t Griffiths attempt to have UNSC resolution 2216 updated or replaced? It is widely seen as a war rather than a peace resolution, as it effectively demands complete Huthi surrender, something which both the coalition and the Hadi ‘government’ want, but can’t be the basis for successful negotiations with a group which is far from being defeated. If he really wanted to achieve peace, Griffiths’ first move should have been to try and get the UNSC to approve a resolution facilitating negotiations and recognising the reality on the ground, something which he has apparently not focused on. Why are others, such as the EU or its member states, or indeed anyone willing to try, being discouraged from attempting to negotiate? In view of the stalemate for the UN, any attempt to end the fighting should be strongly supported, if only to save lives of ordinary Yemenis from starvation.</p> <h2><strong>Immediate prospects</strong></h2> <p>Since the aborted Geneva ‘consultations’ the UN Special Envoy has made statements announcing new talks soon. Meanwhile, the coalition offensive on Hodeida is proceeding with significantly increased airstrikes and ground shelling. In the first two weeks of October, the World Food Programme ‘was unable to access the Red Sea Mills where 51 000 metric tonnes of wheat is stored, enough to feed 3.7 million people for one month.’<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> Overall, the UN last month estimated that the country had only about 2 months’ worth of food supplies left. UN and humanitarian agency officials are daily, and increasingly desperately, calling world politicians to take urgent action to prevent a full-scale famine and millions of deaths, calls which appear to be falling on deaf ears. <span class="mag-quote-center">Overall, the UN last month estimated that the country had only about 2 months’ worth of food supplies left.</span></p> <p>It may be worth noting that internationally recognised president Hadi suddenly replaced his Prime Minister bin Daghr on 15 October, ‘referring’ him to investigation and blaming his government for ‘negligence… failure to alleviate suffering, inability to stop economic deterioration…’ and more, all very accurate accusations, but why did it take him so long to notice? The situation has been deteriorating steadily since April 2016 when bin Daghr took office. </p> <p>While this move may, in the best case scenario, reduce the level of corruption of his government, it is unlikely to provide effective governance in the so-called ‘liberated’ areas, whose people have seen little sign of government presence since their ‘liberation.’Yemenis there have been waiting and hoping for better days for more than three years now. Either way, the new government is unlikely to have any impact on the war, something which is decided in the Saudi and Emirati ruling courts, not the offices of the Yemeni President, even if the latter are in the Saudi capital.&nbsp; </p> <p>Meanwhile, Yemenis continue to suffer and die, mostly out of sight. Can we do more to help save them from the indifference of the ‘international community’? In the absence of political clout, readers are urged to write to politicians, donate to organisations which work effectively in Yemen and anything else they can think of.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> OCHA, Yemen al Hudaydah update, situation report 13, 3-15 October 2018</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/hodeida-prospects-of-humanitarian-catastrophe-brings-yemen-back">Hodeida: prospects of humanitarian catastrophe brings Yemen back into the news</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/helen-lackner/who-apart-from-its-people-wants-peace-in-yemen">Who, apart from its people, wants peace in Yemen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/andrew-smith/even-saudi-arabia-accepts-that-saudi-forces-are-killing-civilians-in-yemen-so-why-is">Saudi forces are killing civilians in Yemen, so why is the UK still arming the regime?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United Arab Emirates </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia UK United States United Arab Emirates Saudi Arabia Yemen Helen Lackner Sat, 20 Oct 2018 19:26:07 +0000 Helen Lackner 120190 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hodeida: prospects of humanitarian catastrophe brings Yemen back into the news https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/hodeida-prospects-of-humanitarian-catastrophe-brings-yemen-back <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Was the decision to carry out the offensive in the summer, when living conditions are the worst for the population, specifically intended to worsen civilian suffering?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37147168.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-37147168.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Displaced Yemenis, who fled their homes in the war-torn port city of Hodeida, rest after arriving in Sanaa as clashes intensify in western coast areas, Yemen, 22 June 2018. Hani Al-Ansi/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Prospects of famine and humanitarian catastrophe seem to be the only way Yemen gets increased international media attention in the west. Hodeida city and its port are now the focus of this concern. Hodeida is Yemen’s main port which receives 70% of Yemen’s imports of basic necessities and has the best access to the densely populated parts of the country. While, prior to the war, the country already depended on imports for 90% of its staple foods, this ratio has certainly increased with reduced agricultural production. </p> <p>In addition to commercial imports, the country now needs very considerable humanitarian imports due to worsening poverty, as the country’s GDP dropped by 47 % in the first three years of this war and millions are lacking any income as most state staff have remained unpaid for close to two years. Although humanitarian shipments have gained importance, commercial imports remain the main source of supplies. </p> <h2><strong>Blockade</strong></h2> <p>The country has been under effective blockade since early in the war, with UN and other humanitarian agencies struggling to persuade the Saudi-led coalition to lift this blockade. In November 2017, after the Huthi movement had successfully launched a missile at the Saudi capital Riyadh, the coalition intensified the blockade by preventing ALL shipments, including medicines (at the time of the world’s worst cholera epidemic) and emergency food from reaching Hodeida and Saleef ports. Even Sana’a airport, closed to civilian traffic since August 2016, was closed to UN and other humanitarian flights. </p> <p>In the following weeks, under increasing pressure from the US, UK, EU member states and UN political and humanitarian agencies, the intensity of the blockade was reduced, allowing shipments to arrive though, since then, only insufficient quantities of food and fuel have been allowed into either port.</p> <h2><strong>‘Alternative’ ports</strong></h2> <p>Having abandoned its planned offensive on Hodeida in 2017 due to lack of practical US support and strong opposition from its other allies, this year is different. The Saudis and UAE, have prepared their offensive in some detail. First the coalition established the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO) in January 2018 to ‘address immediate aid shortfalls while simultaneously building capacity for long term improvements.’ During his visit to the US in April, Saudi Arabia’s effective ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, ceremoniously handed over US $930 million to the UN Secretary General for the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan. &nbsp;</p> <p>Although a third of the total required for the UN’s humanitarian effort, it is peanuts by comparison with the amount spent on the military (equipment and personnel) intervention which is the very cause of this crisis. One of the components of the YCHO is the promotion of completely unrealistic ‘alternative’ ports for the delivery of aid: Aden (hundreds of km south of the areas in greatest need where anti ‘northern’ sentiment is strong,&nbsp; thus putting at risk trucks carrying supplies),&nbsp; Salalah in Oman (more than 1000km from these areas, with dozens of checkpoints staffed by multiple official and official groups along the route, each taxing traffic) and Jizan in Saudi Arabia (much nearer to the main areas but across major fighting zones). </p> <p>In anticipation of western public outrage at the foreseen humanitarian disaster awaiting Yemenis in Hodeida and beyond as a result of the offensive, coalition public relations strategy has focused on two points: first insisting that humanitarian aid will reach those in need better and faster once Hodeida is removed from Huthi control and, second, that the victory can be achieved quickly and without significant civilian casualties. Both these are highly optimistic versions are challenged by the humanitarian community: Huthi ‘taxation’ and ‘customs’ would simply be collected further inland, and most foresee a long and murderous street by street battle.</p> <h2><strong>Swift victory?</strong></h2> <p>Strengthened by feeble US and UK objections to the offensive, and its public relations campaign (promoted by the companies, media and individuals on their payroll), the coalition launched its UAE-led offensive on 12 June, with much fanfare and promises of a swift and decisive victory.&nbsp; </p> <p>Three weeks later, its forces have only achieved limited control of Hodeida’s airport, located south-east of the city and of little strategic importance, whereas the port is north-west of the city. Two temporary halts to the offensive were announced and partially implemented, supposedly to give the UN Special Envoy the opportunity to secure an agreement to avoid massive bloodshed. But it is equally possible that the coalition hoped to use his good offices to free their troops besieged in the airport area. In the first days of July, his&nbsp; desperate attempts at shuttle diplomacy to prevent a full-scale assault on the city appear to be failing in the face of the intransigence of the internationally recognised regime, whose senior officials keep repeating the same uncompromising demands, which can only be interpreted as ‘surrender’ by the Huthi movement. But his shuttles between Sana’a and Aden continue.</p> <p>There is little doubt that, objectively, the military position of the coalition is far more favourable this year than last, as the fighting units involved now include the experienced and skilled force under Tareq Saleh (composed of elite elements allied with the Huthis until last December and now renamed ‘Guards of the Republic.’), the UAE military, thousands of Sudanese troops, the local Tihami resistance which has been trained by the UAE in Eritrea and elsewhere for more than a year and, finally, those most seen on media, the southern Salafi ‘Amaliqa’ (Giants) brigades who, until recently, considered that the ‘liberation’ of parts of Yemen formerly included in the Yemen Arab Republic [1962-1990] was absolutely none of their concerns. </p> <p>The UAE are also now equipped with their own amphibious landing craft, thus enabling them to bring troops directly from the sea. However, it is worth remembering that it took them months to liberate Aden in 2015, a city populated by active anti-Huthi people and even more months in 2017 to work their way up the southern part of the Tihama to take the small town and port of Mokha, which is still under attack from the Huthis. Initially enthusiastic about their successes in heading for Hodeida on open terrain, they boasted that the Huthis had only mined the territory during their retreat, allowing an easy advance. They appear to have forgotten that, in open terrain without mountains or any cover, it was only wise for the Huthi forces to withdraw and wait for their attackers to reach more favourable terrain from their point of view, thus avoiding being massacred by air strikes.</p> <p>The Huthi movement is certainly weaker than it was this time last year. Killing former president Saleh last December was a major mistake, depriving them of Saleh loyalist forces which now fight them as part of the coalition. However, it is far from being defeated: it has developed significant military skills during the 6 wars it fought against the Saleh regime since 2004 and the three years of fighting in alliance with Saleh’s elite forces since 2015. Despite a few positive statements, significant compromise does not appear to be on its leadership’s agenda either. &nbsp;So prospects for the population of Hodeida and elsewhere in the Tihama are grim. The forthcoming battle is likely to compete in death and destruction with the fight for Aleppo in Syria in 2016 and other urban conflicts which have caused immeasurable suffering and death for thousands of civilians.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>House to house fighting <br /></strong></h2> <p>Understanding Hodeida’s social and economic characteristics is essential to assessing the likely impact of a protracted period of house to house fighting.&nbsp; The Tihama coast and Hodeida city have an extremely hot summer climate and for decades had the highest poverty ratios in the country. Both poverty and climate make the stocking of food almost impossible: basics like wheat, flour and sugar can’t be stored due to the humidity and heat. Most people don’t have refrigeration so must buy their supplies on a daily basis, as they can’t afford the private sector electricity which is the only available supply in some areas, while others have none. </p> <p>Most housing is flimsily built and multi-storey buildings are likely to collapse on their inhabitants under shelling and air strikes. Few people have any income as prices have rocketed and thousands have become destitute, depending on occasional day labour and support from their relatives who can send assistance. Even with full awareness of the prospects, they do not have the means to prepare for this disaster which they know is coming. &nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Spare Hodeida!</strong></h2> <p>Of the city’s 600,000 people, many have escaped to less dangerous areas, but thousands, or rather hundreds of thousands more, have nowhere to go. In addition, with a halt to imports resulting from fighting, the millions depending on imports in the highlands further inland, are likely to starve as food no longer arrives, regardless of whether they can afford it or not. In its worst scenario, the UN estimates the assault on Hodeida could lead to the death of more than 250,000 or a quarter of a million people! After the spontaneous response of speechlessness, shock and disbelief at the inhumanity of the decision-makers responsible for this situation, with the prospect of such nightmares ahead, it is only reasonable to ask a few questions.&nbsp; </p> <p>First, why did the coalition launch its offensive to coincide with the long announced presentation of the new UN Special Envoy’s draft ‘peace plan’ and proposals for re-starting peace negotiations? Since his appointment earlier this year, Martin Griffiths stated explicitly and frequently that he would consult widely and make new proposals mid-June. Knowing this, was the offensive deliberately timed to scupper his initiative? His task has been instantly transformed from seeking long-term solutions to simply trying to prevent short-term catastrophe. Not only will it be all the more difficult for him to re-direct attention to long-term solutions, but the offensive itself is likely to encourage both sides in their determination to stick to their positions. In addition the war in Hodeida is likely to be a matter of many months, possibly longer.</p> <p>Second, was the decision to carry out the offensive in the summer, when living conditions are the worst for the population, specifically intended to worsen civilian suffering? </p> <p>Finally, given that the coalition has been operating in Yemen, since March 2015 at the request of president Hadi, why did he find it necessary <a href="http://wam.ae/en/details/1395302694458">to specifically endorse this initiative</a> the day after it started? It is quite possible that those reading or hearing him won’t even notice that he made this statement in Aden where he returned from Riyadh, after a visit to Abu Dhabi and an apparent reconciliation with the UAE rulers, an event which may well be politically significant, given his absence of close to 18 months.</p> <p>As usual I conclude by expressing hope that, unlikely as it may be, reason and compassion will prevail, the assault be cancelled, and Yemenis in Hodeida, the Tihama and the highlands will be spared the disasters which so many are predicting. </p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Civil society Conflict International politics Helen Lackner Wed, 04 Jul 2018 11:56:47 +0000 Helen Lackner 118702 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Wretched third anniversary of international intervention in Yemen: the Saudi-led coalition and humanitarian disaster. Part 2 https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/wretched-third-anniversary-of-international-intervention-in-yem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump’s recent senior appointments suggest an increasingly virulent anti-Iranian strategy which certainly coincides with that of the current Saudi regime. Things could hardly be worse. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35616167.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35616167.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>President Donald Trump holds up a chart of military hardware sales as he meets with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018. SipaUSA/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Whether by design or accident, the third anniversary of the international military intervention in Yemen’s civil war coincides with Mohammed bin Salman’s first official visit to the USA as crown prince of Saudi Arabia. </p> <p>Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) was the brain behind the coalition originally intended to return to power the transitional regime established after the 2011 popular uprisings, a regime which can roughly be described as intended to shift power from one kleptocratic elite in Yemen to another.&nbsp; Regardless of this past<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>, the situation on the third anniversary of the first air strikes on Sana’a city, is causing considerable embarrassment to the regime which MBS effectively leads.&nbsp; </p> <p>Even Trump, a firm supporter since he was given an extravagantly kitsch royal welcome in Riyadh last May, found it necessary to call on the Saudis to lift the blockade<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> on Yemeni ports last December because of its dreadful humanitarian impact. </p> <p>In their meeting of 19 March, their obscene joint focus on acquiring billions of dollars from each other meant that with respect to Yemen, Trump and MBS went no further than agreeing that a political solution to the conflict is necessary. </p> <h2><strong>How are Yemenis dying?</strong></h2> <p>So three years into the war, let’s set a few records straight, starting with the death toll. According to the UN ‘only’ 10,000 people have been killed, a figure which has barely changed since early 2016 despite ongoing ground fighting, air strikes and the world’s worst humanitarian situation.&nbsp; It would be laughable if it were not so sad! </p> <p>Admittedly, this figure only refers to directly war-related deaths as recorded in the 45% of medical facilities which are still operational. What about the 140 men and boys killed at the Great Hall in Sana’a in October 2016, or the hundreds, probably thousands of men, women and children killed in other bombing ‘mistakes’ by the coalition air forces? By Huthi shelling? By the landmines dispersed throughout the country? Or those who have starved to death and are dying from disease? Are they not war casualties? <span class="mag-quote-center">What about… the hundreds, probably thousands of men, women and children killed in other bombing ‘mistakes’ by the coalition air forces? By Huthi shelling?</span></p> <p>One thing is clear: the blockade and economic warfare have killed many more people than direct military action.&nbsp; Thousands have died from disease, malnutrition and associated side-effects. Of the 8 million ‘on the verge of famine’ many thousands are certainly already dead, though we don’t have any figures, as most Yemenis are too ashamed to admit that their loved ones have died because they could not afford to buy food. So these deaths remain unpublicised.</p> <h2><strong>The humanitarian catastrophe</strong></h2> <p>Yemen has the dubious honour of holding two world records at the moment: first that of the worst humanitarian crisis with more than 22 of its 29 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, in plain English unable to have basic acceptable living standards: <span class="mag-quote-center">18 million are food insecure, ie hungry. Why? </span></p> <p>In what passes for ‘normal’ conditions prior to the war, the bulk of basic food staples were imported [rice, tea, sugar 100%, wheat 90%]. The blockade has dramatically reduced commercial imports which address 90% of needs.&nbsp; Prices of available food have risen because of the higher shipping costs [delays due to the inspection mechanism, additional delays added by further coalition constraints on docking, higher insurance fees for ships heading for Yemen], higher costs of fuel [affected by the same constraints]. &nbsp;</p> <p>The August 2016 transfer of the Central Bank from Sana’a to Aden further worsened the situation, preventing most importers from obtaining the letters of credit needed for international trade.&nbsp; Finally the collapse of the riyal, connected to all these factors is just one more problem.&nbsp; So people are faced with less food at much higher cost while their incomes have disappeared. 18 million are food insecure, ie hungry. Why?</p> <p>Water is essential for life, clean water is a basic human requirement, without it consequences are dire.&nbsp; Yemen’s second world record of the worst cholera epidemic is because cholera, a highly infectious water-borne disease, has spread throughout the country as people have been compelled to drink polluted water.&nbsp; </p> <p>Most people cannot afford either to buy ‘purified’ drinking water or to boil water whether it comes from taps, tankers, wells or springs. In the towns and cities the deterioration of the already limited sanitation structures has increased the pollution level of water. Although cholera is easily treated, the rapid spread of the epidemic is less of a surprise when one remembers the disastrous shape of medical services with more than half facilities out of action. By now 1.1 million cases of cholera have been reported and more than 2,200 people have died, while in recent weeks a diphtheria epidemic has started. All these disasters could have been avoided with a minimum of compassion from the country’s politicians.</p> <h2><strong>So how are Yemenis surviving?</strong></h2> <p>As is the case in many other countries, millions of Yemenis depend on government jobs. Throughout the country, most salaries have not been paid for 18 months, and only a few have received minimal portions of their dues. The country has 1.25 million government staff, so the number of people dependent on this income is in the region of 10 million or more than a third of the country’s population. The private sector has declined by about 50%, thus leaving further millions without any income.&nbsp; </p> <p>People might ask why, in a country where 70% of the population are rural, families are not living from their crops and livestock? Even before the war, the main income for the majority of rural families was from the casual urban jobs of male household members and agriculture was only a complement. This is due to a combination of factors, among them the shrinking size of holdings as population increased, the unpredictability of rains, the cost of irrigation water. Here again the war and the blockade have worsened the situation: higher fuel and input prices have made marketing and distribution more difficult while production dropped.&nbsp; The country’s GDP has declined by 47%&nbsp; in the last three years.</p> <p>In this context what is surprising is how many people are coping. Most are ‘managing’ by reducing the number of meals they eat and the quality of their food, so they gradually become weaker and more likely to succumb to illness. A few have jobs with humanitarian organisations or in the remaining foreign-funded emergency projects such as those of the Social Fund for Development and the Public Works Project.&nbsp; </p> <p>Others receive remittances from their relatives abroad, mostly in Saudi Arabia (where there are still about 2 million Yemenis despite the current campaign of expulsions of non-Saudi workers which affects thousands of Yemenis) and beyond. But many others, particularly young men, even boys<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>, are joining the military on one side or the other, the one form of employment where salaries are actually paid. Meanwhile, most Yemenis have become destitute and desperate.</p> <h2><strong>The international community and the humanitarian crisis</strong></h2> <p>The UN has operated a Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) in Yemen for years, with increased annual requirements as the crisis worsened. In 2017 it received 72% of the requested funds and this year it is appealing for $2.96 billion. A pledging conference is to be held in early April in Geneva and the amounts pledged will give an indication of how much is likely to materialise.&nbsp; </p> <p>However, these annual jamborees are often little more than public relations exercises for states to promise much and later deliver less; in the past 5 years, average HRP funding has been 60% of requirement. HRP funding is shared between the various UN agencies (WFP, UNICEF, WHO etc.).&nbsp; Much of it also goes to a wide range of more or less efficient and reputable International Non-Government Organisations (INGOs) which themselves both implement projects directly and subcontract to local NGOs, taking significant overheads along the way. </p> <p>Under attack for indiscriminate bombing and killing of innocent victims in the poorest Arab country, two months after the beginning of Decisive Storm in March 2015, the Saudi regime established the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre which claims to address the entire world.&nbsp; However, in practice its main focus is Yemen: of the USD 1.044 billion spent between its establishment and end February 2018, USD 900 million was in Yemen<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>. Despite this public relations exercise intended to improve its image, humanitarian organisations have expressed serious concerns about its complex and restrictive procedures which raise questions about its respect for the neutrality principles of humanitarian action. </p> <p>By this third anniversary, the US Congress, the British Parliament and European state institutions are all criticising the Saudi-led coalition, mostly focusing on the deteriorating catastrophic humanitarian situation, arms sales and technical military support to the main coalition partners, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In response, in January this year, the Saudi-led coalition set up the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO)<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a> through which it ‘commits billions of dollars in aid and support for the humanitarian response to the conflict in Yemen.’ The limited information available suggests it has two real objectives: the first is to maximise control over the UN’s HRP to which it pledged just under USD 1 billion to be paid by end of March. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35406727.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35406727.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>March 7, 2018. Saudi Arabia's crown prince Mohammad bin Salman is greeted by Prime Minister Theresa May at 10 Downing Street on the first day of his three-day visit to the UK. Victoria Jones/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The second objective is to control delivery routes and further reduce the role of the Huthi-controlled Hodeida port where, under normal conditions, 80% of Yemen’s imports arrive and which has best access to the bulk of the country’s population. <span class="mag-quote-center">Under the excuse that Iran is smuggling weapons and other goods to the Huthis via Hodeida, the coalition has very considerably reduced the operations of the port.</span></p> <p>Having been pressured into allowing the installation of the 4 US-financed cranes, after having disabled the existing cranes through highly accurate targeting in August 2015, the Saudis had prevented their replacement. Under the excuse that Iran is smuggling weapons and other goods to the Huthis via Hodeida, the coalition has very considerably reduced the operations of the port. Most concerned decision-makers know that the smuggling routes into Yemen are along the Arabian Sea coast, as Hodeida port is controlled first by the UN Verification Mechanism and second by direct coalition interdictions. The YCHO is proposing alternative routes for Yemeni imports, all of them far from both Huthi control and the areas of high population density and need. Are they intentionally worsening the suffering of millions of Yemenis? </p> <h2><strong>Three years of war:&nbsp; what has been achieved?</strong></h2> <p>Three years after the Yemen crisis became internationalised, where are we? Three UN attempts to reach a negotiated settlement have failed, the most recent as long ago as mid-August 2016, the humanitarian crisis is a nightmare, the Huthis have exclusive control of the northern highlands, the ‘liberated’ areas are a government-free zone where a wide range of local entities impose different levels of administration, Yemen is fragmented, southern separatism is on the rise, the jihadi organisations move around to avoid attacks from UAE-supported Salafi<a href="#_ftn6">[6]</a> security forces and US drone and air strikes; and this month has seen the US/UK&nbsp; agreeing billions of dollars of additional arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Trump’s recent senior appointments suggest an increasingly virulent anti-Iranian strategy which certainly coincides with that of the current Saudi regime. Things could hardly be worse. <span class="mag-quote-center">This month has seen the US/UK agreeing billions of dollars of additional arms sales to Saudi Arabia.</span></p> <p>However, there is a glimmer of hope. At the UN Security Council, some members are working towards a new Resolution which could enable the renewal of negotiations currently paralysed by the constraints of UNSC 2216.&nbsp; </p> <p>The new UN Special Envoy is free of the negative associations of his predecessor and has a record of success elsewhere. The European Union and some European states are showing strong commitment to finding a solution demonstrated by the high level delegation to Sana’a in the week of 19 March.&nbsp; Despite its failure, the US Congress attempt to end US active involvement in support of the Saudi-led coalition shows the increasing unpopularity of this war in the US. </p> <p>Few Yemenis will share the Huthi celebratory mood on this third anniversary, but millions are longing for an end to this senseless war. Let us hope that this time next year they will have reason to celebrate.&nbsp; </p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Plenty more on these can be found in my book <em>Yemen in Crisis: autocracy, neo-liberalism and the disintegration of a state</em>&nbsp; (Saqi 2017) and earlier Open Democracy pieces.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>&nbsp; https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/06/world/middleeast/trump-yemen-saudi-blockade.html</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a> This includes people who are enrolled by force, as well as those who join simply to be able to finance some of their family’s needs.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a> KSAid website accessed 21 03 18 https://www.ksrelief.org/English/DataAndResult/Pages/StatisticsProjects.aspx</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> https://www.saudiembassy.net/news/yemen-comprehensive-humanitarian-operations-ycho-new-humanitarian-operation-commits-over-35</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref6">[6]</a> Just in case this is not clear, salafis are Islamic fundamentalists whose extremism covers a broad spectrum</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/on-wretched-third-anniversary-of-international-intervention-in-">On a wretched third anniversary of the international intervention in Yemen, is the rise of the Huthis irresistible? Part 1</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Iran </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Iran UK United States Saudi Arabia Yemen Helen Lackner Sat, 24 Mar 2018 11:24:03 +0000 Helen Lackner 116857 at https://www.opendemocracy.net On a wretched third anniversary of the international intervention in Yemen, is the rise of the Huthis irresistible? Part 1 https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/on-wretched-third-anniversary-of-international-intervention-in- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Only the Huthis would ‘celebrate’ three years of war with a theatrical performance including singing, dancing and poetry against a background of war films.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35420018.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-35420018.jpg" alt="lead lead lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yemeni men inspect a destroyed house allegedly targeted by Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen, 08 March 2018. Hani Al-Ansi/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>The Yemeni people have now coped with a full-scale war for three full years! While this anniversary marks the beginning of the air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, the war has many other features.&nbsp; Ground fighting between what was then the Saleh-Huthi alliance and those of the Hadi regime started a few weeks before the internationalisation of the war, and it was the threat of a complete takeover of Hadi’s interim capital, Aden, which prompted the coalition intervention.&nbsp; </p> <p>So where are we now? What is the impact of this war on the 29 million Yemenis? What are the prospects for the coming year? This two–part article addresses first the apparently irresistible rise of the Huthi movement and its prospects. Part two will look at the humanitarian situation, people’s survival strategies, and current prospects for a solution.</p> <h2><strong>The failure of Saleh’s plans</strong></h2> <p>In Sana’a the Saleh-Huthi alliance is terminated, with extreme prejudice for Saleh himself whom the Huthis killed on 4 December 2017. An <em>alliance contre nature</em> at the best of times, the struggle for supremacy between the two groups defined their relationship since its start: tensions increased and deepened over time as the Huthi movement grew in strength at the expense of Saleh’s military. </p><p>This was partly due to Saleh’s early tactical error to instruct his military units and political supporters to work with the Huthis. Presumably, his plan was to let the Huthis take the blame for everything that went wrong while his own forces stayed in the background ready to respond to his orders when the time came. However, this allowed the Huthis to gradually take over most leading positions in the military leading to their becoming the stronger element, while they imposed their ‘supervisors’ throughout the civil administration system, who controlled the activities of the institutions. </p><p>The Huthis fronting the alliance certainly achieved the objective of their being blamed for all failings including the worsening of economic and living conditions, but it also enabled them to oust Saleh’s supporters and weaken the administrative structures.&nbsp; Clearly these moves contributed to his downfall.</p> <p>Saleh’s popularity remained high throughout the period; this was demonstrated as recently as August 2017 when thousands of Yemenis came out in Sana’a to show their support on the 35th anniversary of the creation of his political organisation, the General People’s Congress (GPC). </p> <p>Indeed, awareness of his popularity may have induced the Huthis to increase pressure on Saleh in the following months. Although many people, particularly among the intellectual middle classes and the politically aware population rightly blamed Saleh for running an extremely corrupt and kleptocratic regime, he remained popular among many ordinary Yemenis particularly in rural areas where 70% of the population still live. </p> <p>This support persisted despite impoverishment of the majority, partly because some benefits ‘trickled down’ through the patronage system, most notably during Saleh’s visits around the country when he distributed both cash and other benefits. Saleh and many Yemenis also considered that Yemeni unification was a major achievement of his regime.</p> <h2><strong>Huthi rule and its implications</strong></h2> <p>Now fully and exclusively in control of Yemen’s northern highlands, the Huthi movement has come a long way from its early origins as a small Zaydi revivalist movement in the far north and the insurrection of 2004, when they were almost defeated by Saleh’s forces.&nbsp; </p> <p>During the 6 wars which followed between 2004 and 2010, their military strength and competence increased. Some people now say that all they know about is fighting. </p> <p>The comparatively peaceful period between 2011 and 2014 was an opportunity to consolidate and establish administrative structures in their area of origin. Most importantly, it allowed them to gradually but quietly expand control into surrounding areas, moves which went largely unnoticed by the Yemeni political class, itself busy with the transition and the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) which included the Huthis. Their increasing power culminated in their [initially secret] alliance with Saleh as both opposed the main outcomes of the NDC.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> </p> <p>By 2014, among many Yemenis, the Huthis had developed a good reputation as a movement committed to social justice, opposing corruption and the neo-liberal agenda of the transitional regime. Huthi anti-corruption propaganda and opposition to President Hadi’s weak and notoriously corrupt Islah-dominated transitional regime gave them considerable popularity and enabled them to hold very large demonstrations in Sana’a in August 2014 against the IMF-inspired fuel price rises. </p> <p>With the passive support of Saleh’s military and security forces, they took over the capital in September 2014 while president Hadi himself made no attempt to react, as he wrongly believed this would help him bring Islah to heel. By early 2015, they had evicted Hadi and his new government from Sana’a itself and shortly thereafter from the ‘temporary’ capital Aden. </p> <h2><strong>A brief bombing campaign?</strong></h2> <p>Faced with the complete collapse of the transitional regime installed under the official patronage of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), King Salman’s new<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> Saudi regime took military action through the coalition of 9 states which launched air strikes against the Huthi/Saleh regime on 26 March 2015. While the current Crown Prince in Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman [MbS], who was then Minister of Defence expected that a brief bombing campaign would both rapidly put an end to the Huthi problem while increasing his popularity at home, three years later it is clear that things have not gone according to plan.&nbsp; </p> <p>Not only is the aerial bombing campaign perceived by its victims as foreign aggression and has thus embittered the population against Saudi Arabia, but by now the Saudi-led coalition is also facing an international public relations fiasco. The limited media coverage of the war constantly emphasises its disastrous consequences for Yemen and Yemenis: the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the world’s worst cholera epidemic, millions starving and no political solution in sight, in addition to the thousands of dead and the destruction of most of the country’s infrastructure, let alone the social and political fragmentation of the country.</p> <p>Over time, Huthi rule has become increasingly oppressive and disliked by the millions suffering it. It is characterised by administrative mismanagement, and financial exactions which worsen already abysmal living conditions. Prices of all basic commodities have risen dramatically through inflation, the collapse of the riyal, and the multiplicity of taxes imposed by the Huthis throughout the distribution chains at a time when people have no income. &nbsp;</p> <p>Government staff have not been paid since October 2016, the private sector has shrunk by half, while agriculture suffers the increased cost of inputs, lack of fuel for transport and irrigation, as well as a whole range of problems in the markets, including the risk of bombing. </p> <p>When 79% of the population are living below the poverty line, the accurate word is destitution, rather than poverty. Huthi blatant corruption and exactions have ended their earlier positive reputation. To cap all this, they inspire fear by arresting, disappearing and imprisoning suspected opponents, often without any justification or evidence. Given all this, it is unsurprising that, by early 2018, they have become extremely unpopular. Their control is that of a police state, inspired by fear, not allegiance.</p> <p>Ideologically the Huthis have two main characteristics which affect popular perception and contribute to defining their sources of support. First they believe that <em>sada</em> [people claiming descent from the Prophet] have an innate right to rule. This explains why they appoint <em>sada</em> to most senior positions, whether civilian or military. This explains the presence of some pro-Huthi populated enclaves throughout the country, but not all <em>sada</em> support them. Second they share all the characteristics of retrograde Islamist movements, focusing on a narrow interpretation of Islam and imposing restrictive norms of behaviour on the population and particularly on women.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Prospects for negotiations </strong></h2> <p>However distasteful, the Huthi movement is a major political force which must be addressed in any attempts to solve the Yemeni crisis. However there are difficulties: first the movement’s record of implementation agreements is unimpressive. For example they even failed to implement the 2014 Peace and National Partnership Agreement, probably because they anticipated further successes. </p> <p>From their point of view the Huthis are on a winning streak: in 2004 they were a tiny movement in a small remote area in the far north of Yemen. Today they control the capital and the most populated parts of the country, have major military strength, have defeated and killed the man who ruled the country for 33 years. Moreover they have held the Saudi-led coalition at bay, and even carry out incursions deep into Saudi Arabia, all this largely on their own, though it is likely that Iranian assistance has helped them in their failed long-distance missile strikes into Saudi Arabia. </p> <p>Despite Saudi and US claims of deep Iranian involvement, evidence only demonstrates minimal Iranian support, primarily propaganda and far more marginal material assistance. In addition some Huthis are getting very rich through the war economy. Huthi leaders are also aware of the weakness of the Hadi government and the divergent strategies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia within the coalition. In such a context, it is easy to understand their confidence and unwillingness to compromise regardless of the widespread hatred they inspire. Only the Huthis would ‘celebrate’ three years of war with a theatrical performance including singing, dancing and poetry against a background of war films.</p> <h2><strong>Clouds on the Huthi horizon</strong></h2> <p>However, this situation is most likely temporary and there are definite clouds on the Huthi horizon. It is becoming clear that killing Saleh and ending their alliance with the GPC was not a wise move. Militarily, the immediate impact was limited, with only the loss of a few locations in the Tihama and an enclave in Shabwa, as well as much of Taiz, while the situation in al Baidha remains confused; elsewhere, there have not been significant changes. </p> <p>But, with UAE support, Tareq Mohammed Saleh is rebuilding a military force bringing together men who stayed loyal to his uncle and left their positions after his killing with others who had remained inactive in recent fighting, and any other opponents of the Huthis. </p> <p>Politically, while the Huthis are still in control of a rump of GPC leaders, the main elements of that party are regrouping and likely to become, once again, the largest political force in the country, particularly in the Huthi-controlled area. A new GPC should bring together many who are currently involved with the Hadi government, others who have remained neutral and yet others who have emigrated and benefit from the remaining widespread popular support for Saleh in the country.</p> <p>These developments suggest it would be wise for the Huthi movement to strive for peace now while they are strong. </p> <p>The presence of their leading negotiator in Oman for the past two months is significant: he has held talks with a range of regional parties involved, probably including Saudis, indicating that the Huthi leadership is willing to take up this opportunity.&nbsp; </p> <p>The visit to Sana’a of senior European diplomats this week demonstrates the international community’s commitment to addressing Huthi concerns and finding a negotiated solution to the war.&nbsp; Coinciding with the appointment of a new UN Special Envoy, these moves are promising indicators for the renewal of serious peace negotiations.&nbsp; </p> <p>Plenty can still go wrong: many significant political groups are still out of the loop, and their issues also need to be addressed. President Hadi can be expected to try to undermine any efforts towards peace which would give him and his internationally recognised government a position concomitant with their actual power and control in Yemen. </p> <p>Huthi leaders themselves may let their successes go to their heads and miss the opportunity.&nbsp; Meanwhile, millions of desperate Yemenis are longing for peace and leaders on all sides should take this seriously.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a>&nbsp; Details of this period can be found in earlier OD pieces, as well as in my book <em>Yemen in Crisis: autocracy, neo-liberalism and the disintegration of a state,</em> (Saqi, 2017)</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>&nbsp; crowned in January of that year after the death of his half-brother Abdullah</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/wretched-third-anniversary-of-international-intervention-in-yem">Wretched third anniversary of international intervention in Yemen: the Saudi-led coalition and humanitarian disaster. Part 2</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Conflict International politics Helen Lackner Fri, 23 Mar 2018 21:50:40 +0000 Helen Lackner 116850 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why can’t the United Nations bring peace to Yemen? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/why-can-t-united-nations-bring-peace-to-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By 2011 the international community had concluded that the Saleh regime needed to be replaced by one which would both implement the neo-liberal economic agenda and focus on counter terrorism.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33817628.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33817628.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hundreds of children rally in front of a UN office in Sanaa on the World Children's Day, demanding help to end the war and lift the blockade imposed on Yemen. Mohammed Mohammed/ Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Yemenis, speaking to journalists and other camera-bearing strangers, like many others facing disaster and the collapse of the world around them from war or environmental catastrophes, often ask ‘where is the International Community? Why isn’t the world helping us?’ While it is difficult to completely grasp what people in extreme distress mean by the phrase, for many the ‘international community’ is embodied in the United Nations and its institutions, ranging from political entities, primarily the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to its more independent development and humanitarian assistance organisations such as the World Food Programme, UNICEF, WHO etc….&nbsp; But the UN has lost considerable credibility in recent years and its reputation has suffered as a result of many failures. Yemen is a case in point.</p> <h2><strong>The roots of UN involvement: 2011-14</strong></h2> <p>In Yemen, unlike other countries of what was optimistically called the Arab Spring, the UN’s political institutions have been actively involved since 2011. The popular movement opposing the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh had its own specificities: unlike the situation in Tunisia where the army was weak and in Egypt where it supported ending Mubarak’s rule, in Yemen the military effectively split. With fairly evenly matched forces on either side, clashes in 2011 left the country on the verge of a civil war.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a></p> <p>From early 2010, with the creation of the Friends of Yemen, including all the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, the main western States, the EU and the UN, a group of resident ambassadors &nbsp;met regularly in Sana’a to monitor and influence developments and in April 2011 the UN Secretary General appointed a Special Advisor on Yemen. This coincided with a fundamental change in the momentum of the popular uprisings, when military confrontations started. The international community, represented by these ambassadors, concluded that the Saleh regime was no longer viable and needed to be replaced by a regime which would both implement the neo-liberal economic agenda and focus on counter terrorism. <span class="mag-quote-center">Despite its claim of supporting a Yemeni-led process, UNSC Resolution 2014 gave little attention to the economic and social issues which were far more important for Yemenis.</span></p> <p>As the crisis deepened and Saleh refused to quit, the UNSC adopted resolution 2014 in October 2011 calling for ‘an inclusive, orderly, and Yemeni-led process of political transition’<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> while still giving&nbsp; much attention to the issues of ‘the increased threat from Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.’<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> Despite its claim of supporting a Yemeni-led process, UNSC Resolution 2014 gave little attention to the economic and social issues which were far more important for Yemenis. Alongside other pressures, Saleh finally signed what became known as the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement on 23 November in Riyadh.&nbsp; Its ‘Implementation Mechanism’, signed by all parties on the same date, includes the provision that ‘the Secretary General of the United Nations is called upon to provide continuous assistance, in cooperation with other agencies, for the implementation of this Agreement.’<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>&nbsp; This justified the UN’s direct involvement in internal Yemeni politics. </p> <p>The transition initiated by the GCC Agreement was due to last two years, starting with the election of Vice President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi to the post of President on 21 February 2012. The UN Special Adviser, as well as the group of ambassadors, were active participants in the process in the following years, thus sharing responsibility for the outcomes of security sector reform, the government of national unity and the National Dialogue Conference. As the transition has been <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/yemen%E2%80%99s-transition-model-to-be-followed">discussed in some detail</a> elsewhere, here I will simply remind readers that the Special Envoy maintained a high profile throughout the period; most Yemenis considered him to be partisan and promoting his own policies.</p> <h2><strong>The transition and the war</strong></h2> <p>Hadi was elected president for the period of the transition; in early 2014 as its tasks remained far from complete, the Special Envoy extended his term until an unspecified future date when elections might take place, an action which has raised legal issues about the ‘legitimacy’ of Hadi’s regime since that time. With the unravelling of the transition in early 2015, Hadi and his government ended up in exile in Riyadh after having called for military intervention from the GCC to re-instate him to power in Sana’a and on 26 March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition launched ‘Decisive Storm’. </p> <p>Readers should be reminded of the most disastrous features of this war: by early 2018 Yemen has the world’s worst cholera epidemic with more than1 million cases, and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with more than 8 million people on the brink of famine, thousands of whom may well have died already. <span class="mag-quote-center">In rhetoric at least, this war has been reduced to being no more than one element of the US-Israeli-Saudi anti-Iranian campaign.</span></p> <p>While Hadi may still be interested in being re-instated, the attention of his international supporters is now focused elsewhere. In rhetoric at least, this war has been reduced to being no more than one element of the US-Israeli-Saudi anti-Iranian campaign. The Huthi are described as mere pawns of the Iranian regime, ignoring both their internal political dynamics and the (up to now) very limited involvement of Iran in their support. Yemeni concerns are neglected in pursuit of geopolitical policies which are of limited, if any, concern to them. But they suffer the consequences: bombing, shelling and a deadly blockade causing disease and starvation.&nbsp; </p> <p>So how has the UN addressed the Yemeni war? On 14 April 2015, three weeks after the start of Decisive Storm, UNSC resolution 2216 was approved by 14 of its members (Russia abstained). Ten days later, a new Special Envoy was named, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, in the hope that a new face would facilitate the UN’s work, given that his predecessor had, by that time, lost credibility among all Yemeni parties. </p> <h2><strong>Constraints imposed by UNSC Resolution 2216 </strong></h2> <p>Resolution 2216 determines UN actions in Yemen to this day, despite the fact that, more than 1000 days into the war, the UN has been unable to achieve any progress. Hence the need to understand both the constraints imposed by the resolution and the environment in which the UN operates. What does 2216 say? </p> <p>It recognises the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition in support of the Hadi regime and ‘reaffirming its support for the legitimacy of the President of Yemen, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’ (p 1) it demands that the Huthis “withdraw their forces from all areas they have seized, including the capital Sana’a” and “relinquish all additional arms seized from military and security institutions, including missile systems”. It calls for a return to the GCC Agreement and the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and requests further intervention from the UN Secretary General. </p> <p>Most importantly and relevant to what has been happening in the past 1000+ days, it decrees an arms embargo against the Houthi-Saleh alliance which includes the requirement that states “inspect, in accordance with their national authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, in particular the law of the sea and relevant international civil aviation agreements, all cargo to Yemen, in their territory, including seaports and airports” (p 5). This is the justification used by the Saudi-led coalition for its blockade of Yemeni ports and for preventing the flow of essential commodities to the country. Finally it imposed sanctions on Abdul Malik al Huthi and Ahmed Ali Saleh. <span class="mag-quote-center">UN Res. 2216 is the justification used by the Saudi-led coalition for its blockade of Yemeni ports and for preventing the flow of essential commodities to the country.</span></p> <p>A rapid analysis of this resolution demonstrates why it can’t be the basis for a solution. The Huthis believe they are on a winning streak: first, they have transformed themselves from a small marginal group in 2004 to an organisation which now controls two-thirds of the country’s population and the capital. They have sent the transitional government into exile and, most recently, they have killed ex-President Saleh, their original main enemy and, more recently, ally; for good measure they have even managed to fire ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia. Given this record, they are unlikely to accept conditions which amount to surrender, namely the withdrawal of all their military forces and a return of their armoury to a regime which is in exile. </p> <p>By insisting on the return of Hadi as President in Sana’a, Resolution 2216 ignores some basic facts:&nbsp; first, since being ousted, Hadi has hardly set foot in Yemen despite his temporary capital Aden and much of the country’s area, if not population, having been ‘liberated’ since the end of July 2015. In 2017 he even failed to turn up in Aden for the 50th anniversary of southern independence. Of the 883 days between the liberation of Aden and end 2017, he spent a total of 167 days in Yemen! </p> <p>Second, as discussed above, his ‘legitimacy’ is open to debate and third, his government simply does not govern as most of the ‘liberated’ areas are under the control of a wide range of community-based local authorities, including jihadis in some cases. When ministers visit, they rarely venture beyond their enclave in Aden. <span class="mag-quote-center">The UN is further constrained by the fact that it deals with governments which are the embodiment of the states they represent.</span></p> <h2><strong>What the UN and the international community could do better</strong></h2> <p>The Special Envoy’s task is to achieve a negotiated settlement. But the constraints under which the UN has to operate are a guarantee of failure. First, UNSC 2216 only recognises two parties to the conflict (the Huthis and Hadi’s internationally recognised government) while in reality there are a multiplicity of relevant political entities throughout the country including tribal and other social groups, the General People’s Congress (likely to restructure and become an important political party after Saleh’s death), youth, civil society and women, southern separatists and others. </p> <p>For any negotiations to be successful, all Yemeni forces must participate and their concerns be addressed. Second, as discussed above, currently neither of the two officially recognised parties is willing to compromise. Hadi’s insistence on the ‘three references’<a href="#_ftn6">[5]</a> is a formula to prevent negotiations from even starting, while the Huthis are not facing defeat. Third, the UK is the ‘pen holder’ for Yemen at the UNSC and is very responsive to Saudi positions, thus giving Saudi Arabia undue influence in this forum. The UK has not put forward any draft resolution in the past year despite increasing public pressure; Saudi Arabia fears that a more neutral resolution might question its role in Yemen. Fourth, Hadi, whose sole remaining claim to his position is that he is named as the ‘legitimate’ president of Yemen in UNSC 2216 is obviously fully determined to prevent any change which would most likely end his presidency. <span class="mag-quote-center">The UK is the ‘pen holder’ for Yemen at the UNSC and is very responsive to Saudi positions, thus giving Saudi Arabia undue influence in this forum.</span></p> <p>The UN is further constrained by the fact that it deals with governments which are the embodiment of the states they represent. In Yemen, international recognition of the Hadi government, prevents it from taking initiatives which challenge his position. This has confirmed the Huthis’ belief that the Special Envoy is biased against them. The last months of 2017 have seen increasing pressure from different states, civil society and within the UN for a new UNSC resolution which &nbsp;would be more balanced, recognising realities on the ground and thus enable the UN to help bring an end to what its own humanitarian coordinator has described as ‘this absurd war that has only resulted in the destruction of the country and the incommensurate suffering of its people, who are being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides.’<a href="#_ftn7">[6]</a>&nbsp; </p> <p>Coming weeks present two opportunities for a new approach: the UK could submit a new draft resolution to the Security Council which addresses Yemeni reality and present options which would allow for dialogue between all the forces present on the ground. The forthcoming completion of the Special Envoy’s term of office is an opportunity for the new UN Secretary General to appoint an experienced envoy with a record of success in solving difficult problems. Between them, these two actions would offer some hope to the millions of suffering Yemenis. Success would also help restore the UN’s badly damaged reputation in the world.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Details on this period and other aspects of Yemen’s political economy are discussed in my <em>Yemen in Crisis: autocracy, neo-liberalism and the disintegration of a state</em> published&nbsp; by Saqi books in October 2017</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>&nbsp; UNSC Resolution 2014 (2011), 21 October 2011 p 3</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp; UNSC Resolution 2014 (2011), 21 October 2011 p 2</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a>&nbsp; <em>Agreement on the Implementation Mechanism for the Transition Process in Yemen in accordance with the Initiative of the Gulf Cooperation council</em> issued on 23 November2011, para 29</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a> The three references are UNSC 2216,&nbsp; the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and the GCC agreement. </p><p><a href="#_ftnref7">[6]</a>&nbsp; UN News,&nbsp; 28 December 2017<em>Statement on behalf of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yuemen, Jamie McGoldrick, on mounting Civilian Casualtie</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/introduction-to-yemen%27s-emergency">An introduction to Yemen&#039;s emergency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/international-community-and-crisis-in-yemen">The international community and the crisis in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/war-in-yemen">The war in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/war-in-yemen-two-years-old-and-maturing">The war in Yemen: two years old and maturing?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/stephen-mccloskey/western-complicity-yemen-humanitarian-crisis-famine-saudi-arabia-UK-France-USA">Western complicity is fuelling Yemen’s humanitarian crisis</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia uk Helen Lackner Sat, 06 Jan 2018 12:12:11 +0000 Helen Lackner 115521 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Famine in Yemen finally reaches western headlines https://www.opendemocracy.net/North-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/famine-in-yemen-finally-reaches-western-headlines <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While it is worth discussing whether the missile in the November 4 attack came from Iran in the first place, the outcome is unarguable. It has dramatically worsened an already abysmal situation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33675343.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33675343.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>People gather in the site of an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, on November 11, 2017. The Saudi-led coalition has been bombing northern Yemen for several days. Mohammed Mohammed/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Yemen is finally making the headlines of mainstream media in UK. Why now? Since early this year, UN and other humanitarian agencies working in Yemen warned the world that the country is about to suffer an unprecedented famine. Earlier this was discussed alongside the expected famines in Africa.&nbsp; In recent months little has been heard about any of them while the situation continued to deteriorate.&nbsp; </p> <p>At the outset, readers need to remember that the UN’s 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan only intends to reach 7 million people with its emergency assistance, although it estimates that 21 million are in need: it is only hoping to reach one third of people needing help. This is partly due to the lack of funds: as of mid-November, 1.5 months before the end of the year, it had received only 57% of the funds required to reach this small percentage of desperate Yemenis. </p> <p>When looking at UN and other humanitarian achievements, it is important to remember how many of the millions of Yemenis are not even targeted by assistance from the international community as a whole, which means us as Northern taxpayers, among others.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Military failure leads to humanitarian war</strong></h2> <p>With the exception of coalition forces taking control of Mokha port in the southern part of the Red Sea earlier this year, military stalemate prevails since September 2015. Throughout the period there has been limited ground fighting between&nbsp; the Saleh-Huthi ‘rebels’ and the Saudi-led coalition whose ground forces include the Yemeni official army, various Salafi, Islahi and other militias variously supported by Sudanese and Emirati troops. Daily air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition get occasional publicity and have destroyed much infrastructure, including thousands of schools and medical facilities. They also regularly wound and kill civilians in ‘mistakes’ despite the targeting assistance the coalition gets from the US and UK as well as US in-air re-fuelling of its fighter aircrafts, an intervention without which it would be unable to carry out the majority of airstrikes.&nbsp; </p> <p>Other less discussed military interventions are the frequent incursions of the Saleh-Huthi forces in the Saudi provinces of Najran, Jizan and Aseer which have killed and wounded hundreds of Saudi Arabian soldiers in the 32 months since the war started. More spoken about are the occasional modified Scud missiles they launch against various Saudi locations, a few of which reach their destination. The latest of these, on 4 November, was brought down over Riyadh’s international airport. It took place, most probably coincidentally, on the day Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MbS) implemented the latest stage in his takeover of all power (some might call it a slow coup) in Saudi Arabia. </p> <p>The missile gave the Saudi regime another excuse to blame Iran as the real enemy in Yemen. While in reality this war is first and foremost one between Yemeni factions for political control, Saudi discourse has shifted from the early days in 2015 when the objective was expressly stated to be the re-instatement of President Hadi to power in Sana’a. Nowadays, Saudi discourse focuses on the claim that the war aim is to prevent an Iranian take-over of Yemen, describing the Huthi movement as nothing more than an Iranian proxy, denying its nature as an autonomous movement. This distortion of the real nature of the conflict only serves to extend the war and worsen suffering.&nbsp; </p> <p>Faced with a military stalemate, the Saudi-led coalition has adopted alternative strategies. Expansion of the air strikes on a Syrian model is not an option, largely thanks to pressure from its western allies, mainly the US and UK, which are under pressure in their legislatures and public opinions about their contributing role to the disastrous situation in Yemen. </p> <p>So the tactic it has chosen is one which has failed everywhere it has been tried, namely to make living conditions for the population as unbearable as possible, in the hope that this would turn people against their rulers. In Yemen this has taken the form of the blockade preventing basic necessities from reaching the people</p> <h2><strong>The blockade prevents basic supplies from reaching the people</strong></h2> <p>Since early 2015, the Saudi-led coalition has enforced a blockade on Yemen’s main ports under the control of the Huthi-Saleh alliance, Hodeida and Saleef. They supply the areas where 71% of the people in need live and 82% of cholera cases are found. Despite being a rural and agricultural nation, under ‘normal’ conditions, Yemen imports about 80% of its staples, most of which arrive through Hodeida port which was equipped with the necessary infrastructure [cranes to unload the ships, and storage facilities] and is closest to the areas of highest population density. The third main port, &nbsp;Aden, under the control of the Saudi-led coalition, has serious logistical problems of storage and additional transport costs, let alone the political hostility of southern separatists to anything which might help those whom they regard, at best, as ‘northern foreigners’ and at worst ‘northern invaders/occupiers’.&nbsp; </p> <p>Official justification for the blockade comes in UNSC resolution 2216 which includes an arms embargo against the Huthi-Saleh faction. In practice this has been an excuse to prevent the delivery of essential necessities (food and fuel).With the establishment of a UN verification mechanism (UNVIM) in early 2016, despite delays and clear obstructionism, some ships were allowed to unload.&nbsp; However, operational capacity in Hodeida port has been considerably restricted by the precision bombing of its cranes and other facilities in August 2015, limiting the number and types of ships it can receive. Although the US financed replacement cranes, the coalition has prevented their installation. </p> <p>A further blow to the humanitarian situation took place in September 2016 when the Hadi regime unilaterally decided to transfer the Central Bank of Yemen from Sana’a to Aden; since then neither of the two rival banks has functioned effectively. In particular this has prevented the majority of commercial food imports (who supply 80% of the country’s needs) as traders have been unable to obtain the letters of credit needed for purchases on the world market. While there is no doubt that some food reaches Yemen through the smuggling networks operated in collusion by the leaders of the various factions, these quantities are insignificant by comparison with requirements. The retail prices on local markets have risen so much that few can afford to buy at a time when the economy has basically collapsed. Most civil servants (about 1.2 million people supporting about 1/3 of the country’s population) have not received their salaries for over a year.</p> <p>So by early 2017, the people of Yemen were facing hunger and, for the poorer, starvation, which explains why the UN then said 7 million of them were on the brink of famine. By the middle of this year, Yemen has achieved two tragic world records: the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and the world’s worst recorded cholera outbreak. As senior UN officials keep repeating, this is a ‘man made’ disaster, and it is primarily due to the blockade. Just as food has been prevented from arriving, medical supplies are also affected. Despite their lack of salaries many medical staff continue to work and do their very best in the desperate conditions of the remaining 45% medical facilities which operate to whatever limited extent they are able in the absence of fuel for generators, public electricity, medical supplies and medicines. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33706963.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-33706963.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yemenis protest calling for an end to the Saudi-led blockade on Yemen, in Sanaa, Yemen, 13 November 2017. Hani Al-Ansi/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p><span class="mag-quote-center">By the middle of this year, Yemen has achieved two tragic world records: the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and the world’s worst recorded cholera outbreak.</span></p> <p>While both the Huthi-Saleh alliance and the Saudi-led coalition share responsibility for this catastrophe, the latter has a far greater responsibility given that both the constraints on commercial imports [due to the CBY moves] and the blockade of the main ports, are of its doing. Despite having achieved these stunning and shocking records, the coalition has failed in its stated aim, and President Hadi is ensconced in Riyadh while the Huthis rule in Sana’a. </p> <h2><strong>Casualties</strong></h2> <p>The UN’s figures for war-related casualties have remained static for well over a year, clearly not reflecting reality: its Human Rights office only recorded 13,504 civilian casualties between March 2015and June 2017 (4,971 dead, 8,533 injured). In addition to the thousands not recorded by the UN, many others have died from war-related causes, primarily hunger and disease. If the UNICEF estimate of a child dying every ten minutes is correct, that means 4 300 children are dying monthly, or 52,000 in the last year. Adults are also dying of hunger, cholera and other diseases; most recently a diphtheria outbreak has started.</p> <h2><strong>Latest developments and the forthcoming famine</strong></h2> <p>The 4 November missile strike, other than its contribution to the Saudi anti-Iranian discourse, has had an extremely negative impact on humanitarian conditions in Yemen. Predictably it brought about a violent and dramatic response by the Saudi regime. In addition to increasing air strikes throughout Yemen and particularly in Sana’a (where close to a hundred people were killed in a few days), preventing Iran from transferring more missiles to Yemen was asserted on 5 November as the justification for Saudi Arabia’s closure of all Yemeni ports and airports, including those theoretically under the control of the government it supports!&nbsp; </p> <p>While it is worth discussing whether the missile came from Iran in the first place, given the large stocks of Scuds bought by the Saleh regime over decades, the outcome of this decision is unarguable. It has dramatically worsened an already abysmal situation and, since then, senior UN officials have been raising the alarm on a daily basis: no UN flights travel, leaving humanitarian personnel and material stranded, ships in transit accumulate demurrage costs while their medical or food cargoes deteriorate, increasing the risk of their becoming unfit for use. Among others, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was prevented from delivering 250 tons of basic medical supplies. </p> <p>The international outcry in response to the Saudi decision to close all ports and airports in Yemen led its decision makers to formally partly back down. On 12 November they announced that the facilities in the areas controlled by the Internationally Recognised Government would be re-opened, but that Hodeida and Saleef, the main ports under the control of the Saleh-Huthi alliance, would remain closed until the UN provide ‘a more robust verification and inspection mechanism aimed at facilitating the flow of humanitarian and commercial shipments while preventing the smuggling of weapons, ammunition, missile parts and cash that are regularly being supplied by Iran and Iranian accomplices.’<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> Maybe it is worth pointing out that there has been no evidence of any of these items being smuggled into Hodeida or Saleef ports since the conflict started or any claims that the UNVIM has not been effective. </p> <h2><strong>Appeals to basic humanity</strong></h2> <p>Saudi Arabia’s proposed alternatives to Hodeida and Saleef are unrealistic and merely demonstrate its determination to restrict the delivery of necessities to the Yemeni people. As put by the UN “transporting humanitarian aid on a large scale from Aden, Jizan, and Salalah ports to areas with the highest number of people in need, would entail crossing conflict areas and frontlines, and can present delays, clearance restrictions, security-related complications, high transportation costs and disruption of supplies.”<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> &nbsp;Jizan, in Saudi Arabia, is in an area frequently attacked by the Huthis, while Salalah in Oman is 1,900 km from Sana’a along the route currently practicable for trucks; they would need to negotiate about 100 checkpoints on the way, manned by a wide range of mutually hostile groups, many of which ‘tax’ traffic, particularly traffic carrying goods.</p> <p>As for Sana’a airport, it has been closed since August 2016 to all except UN and some humanitarian organisation flights, preventing the departure of people desperate for medical treatment abroad or needing to travel for other reasons. In response to outrage from the international community and renewed demands for its re-opening, the Saudi-led coalition found a highly effective mechanism to address these appeals to the basic humanity of its leadership: on Tuesday 14 November its air raids destroyed Sana’a airport’s radio navigation station putting it out of action,<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> ensuring that no UN or other flight can land for some time to come. <span class="mag-quote-center">On Tuesday 14 November its air raids destroyed Sana’a airport’s radio navigation station putting it out of action, ensuring that no UN or other flight can land for some time to come. </span></p> <p>So the only conclusion that can be reached is that, in its proxy war against Iran, Saudi authorities have decided to accelerate the death of millions of Yemenis. Not content with having blockaded the country and helping it to achieve two horrific world records, it is now trying to ensure that Yemen achieves a third: the highest death toll from famine.&nbsp; </p> <p>May one hope that someone, somewhere among the decision makers retains enough compassion to reverse these decisions and re-open all sea and air ports to civilian travel, food and fuel imports, medical supplies and other necessities, whether by commercial or humanitarian agencies, and enable the Yemeni population to lead as normal a life as is possible under war conditions. The vast, not to say overwhelming, majority of Yemenis just want to live and would be only too happy to be rid of all the so-called leaders who have shown so little consideration for their lives, let alone welfare, in recent years.&nbsp; </p>&nbsp; <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Letter from the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations, New York, 12 November 2017</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> UNOCHA statement on 13 November 2017&nbsp; <em>ensuring Yemen’s lifeline: the criticality of all Yemeni ports.</em></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp; Reuters, 14 November 2017 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-airport/saudi-led-coalition-air-raid-puts-yemens-sanaa-airport-out-of-service-agency-idUSKBN1DE27Y</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Helen Lackner is speaking&nbsp; on November 27 at 6.30-8 pm at King’s College London Middle East and North Africa Forum&nbsp; S-3.20, on floor -3 of the Strand Building on Strand Campus. For tickets <a href="https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/yemen-a-forgotten-war-tickets-39087877895?utm_source=eb_email&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=order_confirmation_email&amp;utm_term=eventname&amp;ref=eemailordconf">see here.</a></p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Conflict International politics Helen Lackner Thu, 16 Nov 2017 23:51:40 +0000 Helen Lackner 114715 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The war in Yemen: two years old and maturing? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/war-in-yemen-two-years-old-and-maturing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The United Nations has stated that, of the four famines predicted for 2017, Yemen is the worst, with seven million people close to starvation and a further ten million in urgent need.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30686033.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30686033.jpg" alt="lead " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Looking at the ruins of a building destroyed in airstrikes in Sanaa, capital of Yemen, a day before the second anniversary of the military intervention in Yemen, on March 25, 2017.Xinhua/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p><p>Two years ago, on 26 March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition started aerial attacks on Yemen, transforming a civil war into an international conflict with the predictable result: humanitarian disaster, intensification of the fighting, a far higher casualty toll, no exit strategy, much nonsense in international political circles and the media.</p> <p>Officially there are now some 40,000 human casualties, including more than 2,500 children and 1,900 women killed directly by the strikes. In addition thousands of women and children have died from lack of access to medical facilities and treatment. UNICEF estimates that a child dies every ten minutes from disease or hunger. Men also die, and not just in the fighting.</p> <p>A summary for those whose attention may be distracted by other disasters.<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> The 2011 uprisings led to the formal departure of Saleh from the presidency he had held for 33 years, and restricted him to his role as head of the General People’s Congress, his political party. He was replaced by his former Vice President Hadi to head a 2-year transition through the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Agreement mechanism and with the support of the United Nations. Between 2012 and 2014 while the formal transition moves were taking place (a failed security sector reform, National Dialogue Conference, constitutional committee, government of national unity), the Huthi movement, based in the far north of the country allied with its former enemy Saleh and took control of areas beyond its own stronghold.&nbsp; When the transition unravelled in 2014, this alliance moved further south, took over the capital and eventually ousted the transitional regime. Hadi, after a brief stop-over in the newly appointed temporary capital of Aden, took refuge in Saudi Arabia when the air strikes started and the war was internationalised.</p> <h2><strong>Making a poor country destitute</strong></h2> <p>Already the poorest country in the region, Yemen has now suffered from massive destruction of its limited infrastructure: some towns and villages have been reduced to rubble, most bridges and major mountain passes will need millions to repair. And while the international community, led by the GCC, organises luxurious pledging conferences for reconstruction, anyone with previous experience of such pledges knows that they are little more than fantasy. </p> <p>At a time of low oil prices, when Saudi Arabia is actually borrowing to cover its budget deficit, and other GCC states are also retrenching, there is little likelihood of their actually paying for reconstruction of Yemen. With a few notable exceptions, mainly in Scandinavia, the northern/western states, also cutting into public expenditure on aid and for services at home to finance increased military spending can be expected to find more and better excuses than those they used in the past decade to renege on their pledges. </p> <h2><strong>The coming famine</strong></h2> <p>You may have read or heard about the famine which is threatening Yemen and countries in Africa. In some areas of Yemen people are already dying from starvation. First people can’t afford to buy food, even if prices had not risen as they have. Government staff are not paid, private sector employment is almost non-existent, and foreign funded development projects reduced to a bare skeleton of their pre-war situation. <span class="mag-quote-center">In some areas of Yemen people are already dying from starvation.</span></p> <p>Second, as Yemen imports 90% of its staples, the blockade is an effective weapon: although intended to enforce the arms embargo on the Huthi-Saleh alliance, it is used to prevent basic supplies entering the country. A UN Verification Inspection Mechanism was finally agreed in 2016, but failed to seriously accelerate the arrival of essentials. Destruction of the cranes at Hodeida port further slows unloading. Constraints to delivery continue as truck drivers have to pay ‘taxes’ at endless checkpoints. Economic warfare also includes the transfer of the Central Bank, which in any case had run out of money. Therefore importers can no longer get the letters of credit needed to purchase grains on the international market: as 90% of imports are commercial, simply put, within weeks, the result will be no food to buy at any price.</p> <p>The United Nations has stated that, of the four famines predicted for 2017, Yemen is the worst, with seven million people close to starvation and a further ten million in urgent need. It appeals for USD 2.1 billion for humanitarian work in Yemen this year. At a time of reduced international funding, this amount is unlikely to materialise. Last year’s appeal received 60% of the USD 1.6 billion requested.&nbsp; Translated into plain English this means people of all ages, including thousands of children, will be left to starve or die of disease, without water or having to walk miles to collect dirty water from wells or springs. The 2 million or more displaced families have nothing, no shelter, no food, no sanitation, nothing.</p> <p>Meanwhile in the UK, the DEC Yemen appeal launched last December, has collected more than 20 million pounds, but is now superseded by the new appeal for East Africa. Readers are urged to contribute anything they can to MSF, UNICEF, DEC or whichever is their favoured organisation operating in Yemen.</p> <h2><strong>Meanwhile, on the military front…</strong></h2><p><strong><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30553313_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30553313_0.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A woman paints graffiti on a wall during a campaign in Sanaa, Yemen, on March 15, 2017. Xinhua/Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></strong></p><p>The Saudi-led coalition air forces have carried out over 90,000 sorties over Yemen, and there is no prospect of them ending. Many sorties involve aircraft each dropping two 2000lb bombs. Precision targeting, assisted by US and British advisers in Saudi operations rooms has had mixed results: four Medecins Sans Frontières and another 270 medical facilities have been bombed, close to 750 schools, more than 500 markets and shops damaged or destroyed, let alone the damage to the country’s cultural heritage, with historic mosques, archaeological sites and museums attacked. There are plenty more figures, including the destruction of more than 400,000 homes: just think what this means for the families who lived there! <span class="mag-quote-center">Precision targeting, assisted by US and British advisers in Saudi operations rooms has had mixed results.</span></p> <p>Two years on, the short air-borne war which the newly appointed Saudi Minister of Defence probably hoped would seal his position as future king, has reached quagmire: most fronts have been more or less static for 18 months or more. The widely broadcast success of the current offensive along the Red Sea coast is proving more limited and more expensive than claimed. It is also accompanied by the usual ‘mistakes’, for example on 17 March a helicopter and sea attack killed more than 40 Somali refugees on their way to Sudan with UNHCR assistance. The coalition tactic of blaming the enemy fell flat, as the Saleh Huthi alliance has not one single aircraft of any description able to fly.</p> <p>Temporary capital Aden, the north-east area round Mareb, and most of the southern governorates (area of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) were liberated from Saleh-Huthi control in the summer of 2015. These areas have not experienced re-establishment of effective administration by the Hadi administration. For the first year, most ministers made occasional brief forays into Aden and even briefer stop-overs elsewhere. </p> <p>Even military control is debatable, given that current security and military units are largely unconnected and unrelated groups of armed men, mostly under the titles of ‘Security Belt’ or ‘Elite Forces’ trained, paid and supervised directly by the main coalition partner in that area, the United Arab Emirates.While Al Qaeda has evacuated urban areas, they re-appear frequently. Many interventions publicised as being against al Qaeda are actually targeted at the Yemeni Muslim Brothers (known as Islah), because for the UAE, Islah is the prime enemy. What governance exists is local.&nbsp; </p> <p>The one positive feature in the southern rural areas is that coalition airstrikes are rare. Instead, until January 2017, the people there had to expect US drone attacks against al Qaeda at any time. With the Trump Presidency, they have found that drone strikes are far more frequent and, in addition, US air strikes have become a regular feature. The now notorious Yakla ground attack in al Baidha governorate may be a foretaste of what is to come. Al Baidha deserves special mention as it is a front with ground fighting, coalition air strikes and US direct strikes. It is still largely controlled by the Huthi-Saleh alliance; resistance against Saleh’s forces is an alliance of local tribes with jihadis, so the people of that governorate get the worst of all worlds! Taiz city is another complex situation where all factions are present, but air strikes are rare.</p> <h2><strong>A political solution?&nbsp; Negotiations?&nbsp; Saving the lives of ordinary Yemenis?</strong></h2> <p>Every political statement from the UN, coalition members, even the opposing Yemeni factions, states that the only solution to the problem is political. Meanwhile arms are delivered, the UN Special envoy travels from one fruitless meeting to the next contributing to carbon emissions, Hadi and his ministers repeat <em>ad nauseam </em>their totally uncompromising demands, the Saleh-Huthi team claim willingness to negotiate, and the fighting and killing go on and on.&nbsp; </p> <p>The coalition boasts advances on the ground, while their demands can be summarised as complete surrender by their opponents. The Huthi-Saleh alliance remains militarily strong and don’t appear to be running out of weapons or ammunition. Their evident shortage of cash is alleviated by a taxation system which levies cash from citizens anywhere and everywhere as many times as possible along the routes of food supplies and anything else. <span class="mag-quote-center">This success of the Saudi public relations machinery is a rare achievement for the millions of dollars spent with western PR firms. </span></p> <p>Internationally, the war is mostly described as a proxy one between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This success of the Saudi public relations machinery is a rare achievement for the millions of dollars spent with western PR firms. Although the Obama administration provided uncritical support, only slightly tempered by public protests at civilian deaths, Saudi Arabia is expecting and finding even more uncritical support now. </p> <p>While Trump decides whether Al Qaeda, Daesh or Iran is its prime target, whichever it chooses leaves Yemen in the firing line: although Daesh is barely present, propaganda about deep Iranian involvement has trumped the reality of little more than propaganda support, while the presence of famous Al Qaeda leaders in remote locations provide great targets. History analyses longer than tweets are probably of little interest to a US president whose concern is limited for the lives of human beings who are not Christian fundamentalists. It would be ridiculous to expect his administration to devote funds and time on famine relief, wider humanitarian needs or good governance at the expense of good relations with GCC millionaire monarchs.</p> <p>Making America Great again includes increased military budget and more arms sales. Since the conflict began, the US and UK have together transferred more than US$5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, more than 10 times the US$450 million that the US State Department and the UK’s Department for International Development have spent or budgeted for aid to Yemen.<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a></p> <h2><strong>Where does the UK come into this?</strong></h2> <p>While boasting of being one of the largest&nbsp; aid and relief ‘donors’ to Yemen, with just over Sterling 130 million last year, that same year Britain agreed weapons sales worth USD 3.3 billion to Saudi Arabia. It has been demonstrated that some of the cluster bombs dropped in civilian areas were of British manufacture. Under pressure, the Saudis stopped using British cluster bombs and promptly replaced them with Brazilian ones, rather than giving up weapons which are known to kill and maim civilians and children decades after being dropped (see Laos, Cambodia for example).</p> <p>Opposition to British arms sales has led to a judicial review of their legality, whose findings are awaited. In addition there has been increasing discomfort in Parliament and beyond. While these are likely to lead to somewhat greater public attention and possibly to ensuring that more than half the British population know about the war, the May government is unlikely to stop weapons sales to allies expected to save the British economy from Brexit-related recession. <span class="mag-quote-center">Yemenis are actively being starved first by their own warmonger leaders, and second by the foreign states which feed this war with weapons and ammunition and allow the blockade of food and fuel.&nbsp; </span></p> <p>In conclusion, as we enter the third year of this awful war, the only new feature is the impending faminewhich is likely to kill thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands. Yemenis are not starving, they are actively being starved first by their own warmonger leaders, and second by the foreign states which feed this war with weapons and ammunition and allow the blockade of food and fuel.&nbsp; Prospects for peace are nowhere in sight. No serious pressure is being put on the internationally recognised government and its coalition partners to compromise while the other side has enough military capacity to continue indefinitely. Local smugglers of weapons, food and fuel are laughing all the way to their cash stores while international arms dealers are counting their profits. The Yemeni people have justifiably lost what little confidence they ever had in their leaders who, yet again, prove daily that they haven’t got an ounce of humanity in their souls. Eventually one can only hope that ordinary Yemeni men, women and children, will succeed in imposing their voices and views, and overcome the nightmarish obstacles in their path to peace and reasonable living conditions.&nbsp; Meanwhile let us all try and bring this day forward.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a>&nbsp; For details see my earlier pieces in openDemocracy.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> &nbsp;See Amnesty International (23 March 2017) <em>Yemen: Multibillion-dollar arms sales by USA and UK reveal shameful contradiction with aid efforts. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/in-yemen-war-goes-on-and-on-and-on">In Yemen, the war goes on and on and on...</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/helen-lackner/who-apart-from-its-people-wants-peace-in-yemen">Who, apart from its people, wants peace in Yemen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/can-saudi-led-coalition-win-war-in-yemen">Can the Saudi-led coalition win the war in Yemen?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Helen Lackner Sun, 26 Mar 2017 16:47:09 +0000 Helen Lackner 109686 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Yemen, the war goes on and on and on... https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/in-yemen-war-goes-on-and-on-and-on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As people in Europe get ready for their end of year celebrations, more than 20 million Yemenis are getting ready to face the next disaster coming their way: mass starvation. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-29084844.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hani Mohammed/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549460/PA-29084844.jpeg" alt="Hani Mohammed/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." title="Hani Mohammed/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Yemeni girl who suffers from chronic malnutrition, is fed by her mother at a hospital in Saada province, northwest of Sanaa, Yemen. October 2016. Hani Mohammed/AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>As people in Europe get ready for their end of year celebrations, including much over-eating and partying, more than 20 million Yemenis are getting ready to face the next disaster coming their way: mass starvation.&nbsp; </p> <p>The acute shortage of basic staples, wheat and rice, as well as other basics of Yemeni diet, such as cooking oil, tea and sugar is about to get much worse. Other than some locally produced wheat (less than 10 percent of actual consumption) and other staples like sorghum and maize, the population, rural and urban alike, depends on imports for their very survival. </p> <p>It has been demonstrated internationally that most famines are not due to actual shortage of food but to poverty, otherwise known as lack of cash, to purchase it. However, in this case, absolute shortage is the prospect.</p> <h2><strong>Why is an absolute food shortage on its way?</strong></h2> <p>To answer this question, we need to examine a decision taken by the internationally recognised regime of <span>Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi</span>. </p><p>Until earlier this year, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) was the one institution that functioned with the tacit approval of both sides of the conflict. Given the almost total lack of income from the usual main sources (oil exports and foreign assistance), its reserves shrunk to less than one billion USD by the summer, as it continued to pay the basic salaries of civil servants and military/security staff on <strong>both</strong> sides in the current war.&nbsp; </p> <p>Against the advice of most of his international supporters (IMF and World Bank in particular), on September 19, Hadi announced the transfer of CBY headquarters from Sana’a to his regime’s ‘temporary capital’, Aden. The CBY has no funds, its Aden office lacks competent trained staff (who are still in Sana’a or have been dismissed), and prospects of filling its coffers are seriously in doubt given that the move was not approved by funders.&nbsp; </p> <p>For the people, this has two implications: first the main source of income for over a third of the population has dried up as state salaries have not been paid, despite frequent assertions that distribution of cash will start within days. Staff demonstrate everywhere on a daily basis to demand payment as they simply no longer have money to buy food.&nbsp; </p><p><span class="mag-quote-right">the coalition is ensuring profits for the smugglers at the expense of legitimate commercial companies.</span></p> <p>The second and most frightening aspect is that the CBY is now unable to provide the letters of credit or guarantees commercial importers need to purchase food on the international market. Hence, the two to three months food purchase cycle is currently interrupted.&nbsp; </p> <p>By end January 2017 the food crisis will worsen dramatically. It is likely that, by that time, only food smuggled in from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere will reach the areas under the control of the Saleh/Huthi faction.&nbsp; </p> <p>The irony of this should not be lost: on the one hand, the Saudi-led coalition is bombing the country AND keeping a tight control (some call it a siege or a blockade) over ships bringing in essential supplies, after having disabled cranes and destroyed other essential communication infrastructure, including bridges and roads. </p> <p>On the other hand, at the moment, much (and soon most) of the food and fuel supplies arriving in the Huthi/Saleh controlled areas are smuggled mainly from Saudi Arabia and other states involved in the coalition. Some might say that the coalition is ensuring profits for the smugglers at the expense of legitimate commercial companies.&nbsp; </p><h2><strong>Military progress?</strong></h2> <p>Assuming that not all smugglers are Hadi’s friends and officials, why then did he decide to move the CBY? Hadi can’t possibly have been unaware of the impact this would have on the Yemeni people for whose welfare and safety he claims to be fighting.&nbsp; </p> <p>Like all Yemeni leaders before him, he talks about ‘the great Yemeni people’ while his actions clearly contradict the respect implied by this assertion. The military stalemate may explain his actions: in the 21 months since the war became internationalised, the Saudi-led coalition supporting his regime made significant progress in the first six months, basically regaining control of Aden, most of the southern governorates (formerly the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) as well as the central northern area around Mareb.&nbsp; </p> <p>However, since around September 2015, they have made no further progress. There are a number of static fronts, where movement is reminiscent of the trench warfare during the first world war, although, thankfully with a far lesser death toll. These include the border area on the Red Sea coast (Midi, Haradh), most of the Taiz governorate and particularly the city of Taiz itself, al Baidha governorate, and Nehm, about 50 km east of Sana’a.&nbsp; </p><p>Even in the Mareb governorate, the only part of the former Yemen Arab Republic under its control, there are districts still controlled by the Saleh/Houthi faction. In plain English, there is a military stalemate.</p> <h2><strong>Diplomatic efforts</strong></h2> <p>Efforts to solve the crisis and end the war have systematically failed. The Kuwait negotiations mediated by the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould al Sheikh Ahmed lasted from 21 April to 6 August 2016, achieving nothing. </p> <p>On 25 August, the US took a leading role with a meeting in Riyadh where US Secretary of State Kerry met with senior officials from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the UK, thus indicating clearly who the main players are: no Yemenis were involved. </p> <p>This group now officially known as the quartet, or gang of four, has led attempts at negotiations and is managed in the field by the unfortunate Ismail. Success has been equally elusive, despite serious efforts by Kerry in coordination with Oman, the only GCC state out of the coalition, and seen by most as a welcome neutral force. </p> <p>Kerry announced a ceasefire to start on 17 November. But this simply failed to materialise. The next one, declared unilaterally by the coalition forces, to last 48 hours starting on 19 November remained completely unnoticeable on the ground, where air strikes continued as before, during and after this non-event. If any negotiations are currently taking place, it is certainly a well-kept secret.&nbsp; </p> <p>There is no doubt that Ismail is trying to do something, but the extent of his influence is demonstrated by the simple fact that after the end of the Kuwait talks, the Saleh/Huthi delegation remained stuck in Oman for two months.&nbsp; </p> <p>The UN was unable to fulfil its elementary responsibility of returning the delegation home, as it could not get clearance for a plane to fly to Sana’a, whose airspace is under the control of the Saudi Arabian regime. The Saudis are still keeping Sana’a airport closed. </p> <p>The likelihood of a solution in the final days of the Obama administration is minimal, regardless of Kerry’s concerns. As for prospects of US policies and involvement under Trump, readers are advised to read<strong> </strong><a href="http://sanaacenter.org/blog/item/61-trump-and-the-yemen-war.html"><em>"Trump and the Yemen war"</em></a> by Adam Baron and Peter Salisbury. </p> <h2><strong>Demands of the Yemeni warring parties</strong></h2> <p>On the internationally recognised side, other than the move of the CBY discussed above, the main recent development has been the extraordinary ‘official visit’ of President Hadi to his temporary capital in Aden. This must be a first in history: a president making an official visit to his own capital.&nbsp; </p> <p>He arrived on 26 November and, to widespread surprise, is still there on 12 December, having been on a three-day trip to the UAE in between. He had been out of Yemen for well over a year, living in luxury in a Riyadh palace. </p><p>His reluctance to engage seriously in any negotiations is partly due to the fact that all proposed solutions include his handing over power to a vice president agreed to by both sides, and himself remaining a mere figure head, i.e. the same formula which was used to oust Saleh through the GCC sponsored 2011 agreement.&nbsp; </p> <p>However, he could take heart by simply noting that Saleh is not only still alive and well, but also now one of the most important political players in the country’s struggle. Hadi’s determination to stay president is in clear contradiction with his statement when he was elected in 2012 that he would not stay president one single day beyond the two-year term for which he was elected.&nbsp; </p><p>So what happened? Has he followed the example of so many other and became addicted to power and the rewards of corruption? Has he forgotten everything he said about bringing a democratic regime?</p> <p>On the other side, shortly before the collapse of the Kuwait talks, the Saleh/Huthi alliance announced the formation of a Supreme Political Council (SPC) to replace the Revolutionary Committee set up by the Huthis on 6 February 2015 when they suspended the constitution. Although Saleh supporters formed half the negotiation delegations, and indeed the most experienced, in Sana’a all authority previously rested with the Huthis. </p> <p>The 10-person SPC allocates half the positions to Saleh supporters, thus formally strengthening his position <em>vis à vis</em> the Huthis in the difficult alliance between the two groups. Given that the SPC has been unable to evict the members of Huthi Revolutionary Committees<a name="_ftnref2"></a><a href="#_ftn2">[1]</a> from state institutions, the balance of power between the two groups remains unclear. </p> <p>When it was formed, the SPC stated that it would shortly form a government of national salvation. This was delayed again and again and was finally announced on 28 November. The delay was attributed to differences between the two factions on the distribution of portfolios, and/or reluctance to make a move which would further alienate the international community and complicate peace negotiations. </p> <p>This gives most important ministries to Saleh allies (PM, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Planning, Finance), while the Ministry of Defence has been given to a leading member of the Republican Guards who is formally a Huthi, but the Republican Guards are known to be aligned to Saleh.&nbsp; </p> <p>Given their ideological objectives, the Huthis insisted on controlling the education ministries, something really important to transmit their ideology in the long-term, but pretty irrelevant in the short-term. This indicates that they believe they will be around for a while and are not about to be defeated.</p> <h2><strong>Future prospects</strong></h2> <p>With military and political stalemates, Yemen’s internal situation is paralysed. Can the international forces involved make a positive difference? The EU is actively involved in political discussions and also in development and humanitarian work. The UN has demonstrated its weakness. The end of the US administration term is unlikely to achieve much.&nbsp; </p> <p>The UK is the ‘pen holder’ at the UN Security Council; it has recently systematically failed to submit a new resolution though drafts have circulated. A helpful move would be a resolution able to break the deadlock created by UNSC 2016. This explicitly calls for the restoration of Hadi to power, thus ignoring the reality of a divided country, the real balance of power or, indeed, his discredit. </p><p class="mag-quote-left">Britain appears to be more focused on pandering to the GCC states to ensure their continuing contribution to the British economy and finances post-Brexit.</p><p>It should be replaced by a more even-handed resolution, making realistic demands: the exclusion of the major players on both sides from Yemeni politics, including mechanisms for the restoration of peace, and the establishment of a regime that gives a role to all Yemenis.&nbsp; </p> <p>Instead of concentrating work on its possibly positive role at the UNSC, Britain appears to be more focused on pandering to the GCC states to ensure their continuing contribution to the British economy and finances post-Brexit. This strategy means that exporting arms to the GCC states, particularly Saudi Arabia takes priority over helping to bring peace and a viable state for millions of poor Yemenis. </p><p>The judicial review of British <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/who-apart-from-its-people-wants-peace-in-yemen">arms sales</a> to Saudi Arabia, due in January, may help increase popular awareness. It is unlikely to prevent further arms deals, worth BPD 3.3 billion, officially ‘compensated’ in the government’s view by the increase of humanitarian aid to BPD 100 million, an impressive one percent of the value of the arms sales!</p> <p>Meanwhile the people continue to be <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38229955">killed and maimed</a> by the bombs. More than 10 000 have been killed this way.&nbsp; In addition, people are dying from starvation: more than seven million are severely undernourished, i.e. starving, while another seven million or more are just undernourished, i.e. hungry.&nbsp; </p> <p>Food will stop arriving in the country within weeks. So readers are welcome to support the current appeal of Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), finance MSF which is doing an excellent job providing medical care, or help in other ways they can, or at the very least informing others of the situation.&nbsp; </p> <p>Keep Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq and others in your thoughts at least while you are celebrating! </p> <hr size="1" /><p> <a name="_ftn2"></a></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[1]</a>&nbsp; Local revolutionary committees are composed largely of uninformed and uninterested youth who ‘supervise’ the work of civil servants and other officials in all state institutions in Sana’a, under the guise of controlling corruption and upholding the revolution. In practice they merely impede work and can bring to a standstill the already limited functionality of administrations. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/helen-lackner/who-apart-from-its-people-wants-peace-in-yemen">Who, apart from its people, wants peace in Yemen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/can-saudi-led-coalition-win-war-in-yemen">Can the Saudi-led coalition win the war in Yemen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/andrew-smith/even-saudi-arabia-accepts-that-saudi-forces-are-killing-civilians-in-yemen-so-why-is">Saudi forces are killing civilians in Yemen, so why is the UK still arming the regime?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/can-yemenis-escape"> Can Yemenis escape?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/mansour-rageh-amal-nasser-farea-al-muslimi/yemen-without-functioning-central-bank-los">Yemen without a functioning central bank: the loss of basic economic stabilization and accelerating famine</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics middle east human rights abuses Helen Lackner Violent transitions Geopolitics Wed, 14 Dec 2016 20:19:59 +0000 Helen Lackner 107688 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Starving Yemen https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/starving-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is the forgotten war turning into a forgotten famine? What answers will we give when the next generation ask how we could watch these tragedies and do nothing?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/yemen 5.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/yemen 5.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Still from the film documentary,'Starving Yemen'2016. BBC Arabic/BBC Our World. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Most of us are glued to our visual media watching the nightmare unfolding in Aleppo and the systematic bombing and killing of a besieged population in the city while the world’s politicians are debating allocation of responsibility in New York between meals at expensive restaurants.&nbsp; Meanwhile, as we are watching Syria, other tragedies are unfolding in the region, Libya and Iraq…. But I will focus on Yemen. For a year, the UN has been predicting famine in the war-torn country.&nbsp; Some of us have pointed out that Yemenis, unlike people elsewhere, don’t go out and starve to death in public.&nbsp; They have a different culture and do it at home and in private.&nbsp; </p> <p>These horrors are caused by war, they are not climate change ‘natural’ disasters. They happen because politicians (is that the right word?) pursue their narrow interests and objectives at the expense of the welfare and lives of millions of their people. Are these men (at the moment few women are involved here) completely deprived of any sense of humanity? </p> <p>Many of us wonder what answers we will give the next generation when they ask how we could sit and watch these tragedies and do nothing, just as we asked our parents how they allowed the Nazi holocaust to happen. And this time, there is no way we can answer that we don’t know. Why are we so helpless? Is there really nothing we can do?&nbsp; Just write, read, watch, turn up at demos in front of embassies and be ignored? Is that the best ‘democracy’ can offer?&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Visible suffering in hospitals</strong></h2> <p>While many die at home some Yemenis, particularly children, do die in hospitals and their suffering is visible. Two journalists have just reminded us of this. On channel 4’s <em><a href="http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/on-demand/63201-009">Unreported World, Yemen: Britain’s unseen war</a>,</em> Krishnan Guru-Murthy shows us harrowing scenes from hospitals in Sana’a and camps in the northern Tihama coastal plain near one of the war’s fronts. Nawal al Maghafi’s film <em><a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07xplk3">Starving Yemen </a></em>&nbsp;was&nbsp; filmed in Hodeida itself and in Beit al Faqih, 60 km south on a major asphalted straight road in the flat Tihama plain.&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center"> The UN tell us that 14 million Yemenis are ‘food insecure’ and 7 million of them ‘severely food insecure’, in other words malnourished or starving.</span></p> <p>Both films were made about two months ago, and in areas relatively easy to reach. Since then the situation has only worsened. In both films, we see children dying of starvation and the diseases associated with malnutrition; they also explain the role of war-worsened poverty in the suffering. The children we see here have some access to medical facilities, despite the constraints on supplies and power, but they are still starving and dying. Both these films clearly demonstrate that famine is no longer a remote possibility for the future, but is happening now. Yemenis are dying of starvation now. </p> <p>What of all the children further afield? What about the adults? What about the millions who live in remote mountain villages and less remote towns in the hinterland, many days’ drive on collapsed tracks and across destroyed bridges, how do they get food? Highland staple is bread, and 90% of Yemen’s wheat is imported. Although the rains have been good this year and the sorghum, millet and maize crops should be good, they are by no means sufficient. Highland rural families at best satisfy 20 to 30% of their food needs from their own production, urban ones are totally dependent on purchased food. The UN tell us that 14 million Yemenis are ‘food insecure’ and 7 million of them ‘severely food insecure’, in other words malnourished or starving.</p> <h2><strong>Food </strong></h2> <p>Why is neither food aid from the WFP nor commercial food reaching them? Some blame the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade. This is supposedly no longer a problem as the coalition and the internationally-recognised regime have given the UN authorisation to implement a Verification and Inspection Mechanism to speed up the docking of ships at Red Sea ports under the control of the Huthi-Saleh faction. It has approved the landing of almost one million tons of food, and 923,000 tons of fuel since May this year and checked 149 ships. However, the earlier Saudi-led coalition planes’ extremely precise and efficient targeting of the cranes in Hodeida port disabled them, thus slowing down all unloading, and extending ships’ waiting time to dock.&nbsp; </p> <p>This explains the shocking image in Murthy’s film of a warehouse full of 45,000 tons of decaying wheat flour which was unsuitable for human consumption by the time it was unloaded; it could have fed 45,000 people for a month. A further question: how come crucial crane cabins were so precisely and efficiently targeted when apparently incompetent targeting resulted in strikes on 5 MSF facilities, 4 of which are hospitals?</p> <h2><strong>Disease</strong></h2> <p>Malnourished people are more vulnerable to all diseases. So the overall worsening of medical services is a further contributor to a death toll which, up to now, has been systematically under-estimated by the UN. Recently raised to over 10,000, as Dr Ashwak Muharram, the doctor in <em>Starving Yemen</em> says, “they only count those killed directly and ignore those who are killed for lack of medication, electricity in hospitals, or starvation.&nbsp;Do you have to be killed by an airstrike to count?&nbsp;What about the rest?”&nbsp;<span class="mag-quote-center">“Do you have to be killed by an airstrike to count?&nbsp;What about the rest?”</span>&nbsp;Estimates of total deaths to those directly associated with military action vary widely, but the lowest figure is that as many people die of indirect causes.&nbsp; This would mean that the current death toll in Yemen would be over 20,000.&nbsp; Many observers, particularly those with experience of the medical situation, think this is a considerable under-estimate.</p> <p>There is little doubt that the medical services are unable to cope with the situation. First they are starved of supplies, whether medication, consumables, or equipment. Second most of them lack electricity as most public electricity networks are not functioning, many generators are destroyed, and fuel is expensive and hard to come by.&nbsp; Thirdly, damage and destruction of medical facilities has had a major impact. According to a <a href="http://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/health-services-decline-conflict-yemen-continues">World Health Organisation survey</a>, published end of September, 274 health facilities have been physically damaged by the war, and as many as 1900 out of 3507 are either not functioning or only partially functioning. In 267 districts<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> surveyed there is not a single doctor. In those hospitals which are functioning, the first services to reduce operations under stress are operating theatres and intensive care units: this almost certainly ensures that those with most acute and urgent problems will die. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Yemen 1_0.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Yemen 1_0.JPG" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>'Starving Yemen', 2016. BBC Arabic/BBC Our World. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2><strong>Paralysed Central Bank</strong></h2> <p>Importers of essential commodities have faced considerable difficulties on the international markets&nbsp; in recent months due to increasing constraints in the banking system and restrictions on letters of credit essential for large consignments. This situation is about to worsen dramatically because of the decision by the coalition-supported, internationally-recognised government to effectively paralyse the Central Bank (CBY). This was the only remaining and operating joint national institution in a country in practice divided between the area under the control of the Huthi-Saleh alliance and the areas surrounding them, which Hadi’s internationally recognised government claims to control. The CBY had remained neutral and been as well managed as it could be in the circumstances. Its reserves have melted in recent months due to a lack of income while it continued paying salaries. The Hadi government decided to ‘move’ the bank to its temporary capital Aden, and disavow the Bank’s governing body based in Sana’a, thus ending the truce prevailing on its functioning. This is the precursor to greater disaster for the people of Yemen. </p> <p>Taken with the approval of the new ‘Gang of four’, a group established on 25 August in Riyadh and composed of the US, Saudi Arabia, UAE and the UK, this decision will certainly cause much more suffering for the Yemeni people everywhere. Although the Gulf Cooperation Council states leading the coalition promise to support the new CBY based in Aden with substantial funds, observers are allowed to wonder whether and how promptly these promises will be kept; salaries of most military/security personnel in some parts of the ‘liberated’ areas are paid with very considerable delay. Both military and civil personnel on government payrolls are demonstrating daily demanding their salaries throughout Yemen, in areas controlled by both sides. The effective paralysing of the Central Bank will only worsen the humanitarian crisis, as it will make imports of food and medical supplies all the more difficult. It may even prevent remittances from reaching the thousands of families who are only kept above extreme poverty and starvation by the support they get from relatives out of Yemen.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Meanwhile, war and the arms trade</strong></h2> <p>Meanwhile the war goes on. The usual fronts have seen more violent fighting since the breakdown of the peace negotiations in early August. The Saudi-led coalition air strikes have intensified. The military stalemate has certainly been a factor in the decision to end the truce on the Central Bank, a decision guaranteed to worsen suffering.&nbsp; The death toll mounts, from strikes, from malnutrition and starvation.&nbsp; The decision makers, whether Yemeni on both sides, or their supporters now focused on the new Gang of four, continue to show total contempt for Yemeni citizens’ lives and welfare. <span class="mag-quote-center">The Saudi-led coalition air strikes have intensified.</span></p> <p>At long last there seems to be some public momentum to put pressure on the British and US states to stop their sales of weapons and ammunition to the leading state in the coalition, Saudi Arabia.&nbsp; Opposition is growing. Both the British Parliament and the US Congress are witnessing moves to stop the arms sales; they have been unsuccessful up to now but at least they are showing concern. It is unlikely that our governments will prioritise the lives and welfare of millions of Yemenis over short-term profits for the arms trade from sales to Gulf Cooperation Council states, and the ‘jobs’ they provide. High tech jobs which could be re-cycled into more peaceful and useful sectors. Britain will see a Judicial Review of the government’s arms sales policy next January.&nbsp; </p> <p>Can we achieve more? Readers are urged to write to any officials of their choosing, demanding an end to the arms sales, demanding that their government call for a more even handed resolution at the United Nations Security Council which might make peace negotiations more likely to succeed, calling for an end to this pointless war. You can also help by informing as many people as you can of the situation, so Yemen stops being the ‘forgotten’ war. Donations to Medecins Sans Frontières or an alternative NGO of your choice active in Yemen will certainly be used to alleviate the suffering of a few people at least. Each of these small actions has a minimal impact, but if enough of us do enough of them, who knows? We may be able to answer our children that we put an end to some of the horrors of the second decade of this century.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> Yemen has a total of 333 districts.</p><p><em>Thanks go to Nawal al Maghafi and BBC for permission to use the two stills from her film. </em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/helen-lackner/who-apart-from-its-people-wants-peace-in-yemen">Who, apart from its people, wants peace in Yemen?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/andrew-smith/even-saudi-arabia-accepts-that-saudi-forces-are-killing-civilians-in-yemen-so-why-is">Saudi forces are killing civilians in Yemen, so why is the UK still arming the regime?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/radhya-al-mutawakel/covert-drone-war-in-yemen">The covert drone war in Yemen</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Conflict Economics International politics Helen Lackner Tue, 04 Oct 2016 11:36:39 +0000 Helen Lackner 105743 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who, apart from its people, wants peace in Yemen? https://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/who-apart-from-its-people-wants-peace-in-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Diplomatic activity has increased. But how serious are their efforts? Will they achieve anything?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28424981_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-28424981_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="260" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis march in support of a new combined governing council immediately rejected by government based in Aden and UN. Sanaa, August 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed). All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Following the collapse on August 6 of the Kuwait negotiations between Hadi’s internationally recognised government in exile on the one hand and the Huthi-Saleh alliance on the other, diplomatic activity to bring the war to an end has notably increased, particularly on the part of the external actors.&nbsp; How serious are their efforts? Will they achieve anything? Meanwhile the living conditions for Yemenis continue to deteriorate.</p> <h2><strong>Increased international attention</strong></h2> <p>The main changes are at the international level where, as a result of increasing pressure from human rights organisations, US, UK and French arms sales to Saudi Arabia have been challenged in response to the indiscriminate killing of civilians throughout Yemen. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Given that US and UK military personnel were widely described as helping to ensure accurate targeting, their competence and the quality of their advice are now questionable after the destruction of four MSF-supported hospitals…</span></p> <p>It is, however, sad to note that the situation has finally come to public attention not due to concern for Yemen or Yemenis, but rather as a means to attack western states for their relations with the repressive Saudi Arabian regime. This pressure has not prevented more sales and the US announced last month the sale of 153 tanks including ‘twenty battle damage replacements for their existing fleet’.&nbsp; <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/uk/andrew-smith/even-saudi-arabia-accepts-that-saudi-forces-are-killing-civilians-in-yemen-so-why-is">Outcries about weapons sales </a>have led to the Netherlands and EU decisions to stop them. In the UK the Campaign Against the Arms Trade has achieved a judicial review against the Government’s decision to continue arms exports to Saudi Arabia which is likely to take place early next year<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>. </p> <p>This was partly thanks to the considerable evidence that many of the civilians killed and wounded in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes have been hit by British manufactured weapons and ammunition in violation of international humanitarian law. Similar pressure has come from some US Congress representatives in Washington, which <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-usa-saudiarabia-idUSKCN10U1TL">may explain</a> the withdrawal of the majority [40 out of 45] of US personnel from the ‘Joint Combined Planning Cell’<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> established at the beginning of the Saudi-led offensive.&nbsp; </p> <p>Given that US and UK military personnel were widely described as helping to ensure accurate targeting, their competence and the quality of their advice are now questionable after the destruction of four MSF-supported hospitals, hundreds of other medical facilities and schools, as well as food processing factories and food storage belonging to private companies, the public sector or, indeed, humanitarian organisations. The UN have just upped their death toll to over 10,000 but this, again, only includes recorded deaths in medical facilities, ignoring those elsewhere, let alone all those dying from lack of medication or treatment for chronic disease due to the shortage of medicines resulting from the blockade.</p> <h2><strong>View from Sana’a</strong></h2> <p>Back to recent developments: the <a href="https://www.insightonconflict.org/blog/2016/08/portrait-war-returning-home-yemen/">widely predicted collapse of the talks</a> demonstrated the unwillingness of the parties to compromise, continuing to prioritise their personal, political and financial interests over those of the Yemeni people at large. “These people are not even thinking of leaving. Where will they go? They have begun to assemble simple solar systems, which most people now depend on.<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a>”&nbsp; </p> <p>One recent returnee wrote a moving piece well worth reading, about how people are surviving and helping each other regardless of the war: “most people neither know nor care about the war and its politics. They care about their lives. It was dark at home. There has been no electricity since the war started. Everything was covered in thick dust, and the windows and doors were broken because of the shockwaves from air strikes… Next morning, I realised that many of my neighbours were still there, refusing to leave. Local figures and charities were working together, reopening old wells in the city. They started to put small public water tanks in the different neighbourhoods for people to drink and use. These people are not even thinking of leaving. Where will they go? They have begun to assemble <a href="https://www.insightonconflict.org/blog/2016/08/portrait-war-returning-home-">simple solar systems</a>, which most people now depend on.<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>”&nbsp; </p> <p>Shortly before the end of the Kuwait talks, Sana’a witnessed an important and worrying development.&nbsp; The Higher Revolutionary Committee set up by the Huthi as the top ruling institution in the country in early 2015 was formally replaced by a Supreme Political Council composed of 5 senior Huthi and General People’s Congress Saleh supporters each.<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a> In theory, the establishment of this council ends formal Huthi control and replaces it with an institution jointly loyal to the Huthi leadership and Saleh. &nbsp;This indicates a weakening of the Huthis within the alliance. In plain English, as the GPC members of this council are 100% loyal to him, Saleh is now explicitly back in the driving seat and controls at least half of the decision-making body in the area controlled by their joint forces, an area which may represent no more than 25% or so of Yemen’s surface, but well over 60% of its population.&nbsp; </p> <p>However implementation of this change is faltering, and the Revolutionary Council is still functioning, demonstrating Huthi resistance to Saleh’s pressure and continuing uncertainty about the balance of power in this unholy alliance. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">Air strikes killed at least three people on the margins of this truly vast demonstration, only comparable to the largest demonstrations of the 2011 popular uprisings.</span></p> <p>Despite this, war weariness and opposition to the Saudi-led coalition bombing have ensured popular support, as shown by a mass demonstration on 20 August in Sana’a, when well over 100 000 people came out despite coalition aircraft threatening overflights; air strikes killed at least three people on the margins of this truly vast demonstration, only comparable to the largest demonstrations of the 2011 popular uprisings. While some certainly turned up under pressure from Saleh and the Huthi leadership, there is no way that this could explain such a turnout.</p> <h2><strong>Liberated areas</strong></h2> <p>The internationally recognised ‘legitimate’ government of president Hadi is officially in control of all the area of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, and some parts of north-east Yemen including Mareb, where many troops are based. A few ministers operate from the officially designated temporary capital of Aden, while the majority are in Riyadh or on various international jaunts.&nbsp; The Prime Minister has spent only 45 days in Aden since his appointment in early April, while President Hadi himself has spent all of 87 days in Aden since its liberation at the end July last year, and has not set foot there since mid-February this year.</p> <p>Moreover, the legitimate authority’s control of the areas it claims is debatable: with respect to Aden, there is little doubt that ministers’ absence is largely a self-preservation measure, given that suicide attacks are a daily occurrence in the city, the latest major one on August 29 killed over 70 young men signing up for recruitment to join the forces protecting the Saudi borders from Huthi-Saleh incursions.&nbsp; Attempts and actual assassinations of political and military leaders are frequent, electricity and water supplies are irregular and are dependent on emergency equipment brought and financed by the United Arab Emirates forces. </p> <p>Much of the rest of the southern governorates is run by local community leaders, whether tribal or other, extremely few of whom claim any allegiance to Hadi or his government. They are either waiting for a credible government or they support southern separatism, which Hadi firmly rejects. While claims that jihadis [whether Al Qaeda or Daesh] control much of this part of the country are largely incorrect as they have been driven out of most villages and towns where they used to dominate the political/military scene, they do have a presence.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Old and new war tactics</strong></h2> <p>Unsurprisingly, the end of the Kuwait negotiations have resulted in a substantial increase of Saudi-led coalition air forces airstrikes throughout Yemen, both in number and targets, with over 100 airstrikes on some days. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Plenty more examples can be given. But basically the military stalemate and pointless killing continue.</span></p> <p>Sana’anis who had lived for a full 5 months without strikes are now being bombed daily, with the same sites hit again and again: if any weapons are still stored in those mountains, they are obviously out of reach. Ta’izz city and governorate continue to be torn apart by ground fighting and airstrikes. The same situation prevails on the usual fronts [Nehm about 60km east of Sana’a, the Saudi border.&nbsp; A new development has been direct strikes on southern areas said to shelter Al Qaeda or Daesh militants, where previously only US drones were active in those areas. Targeting is as efficient as ever, with the fourth MSF hospital destroyed on 15 August in Abs, on the plain of Hajja Governorate suffering the highest death toll of such strikes, (19 dead and 24 injured), only two days after a school had been hit in that governorate, killing at least 10 children. Plenty more examples can be given. But basically the military stalemate and pointless killing continue.</p> <p>The Hadi government in exile is trying alternative tactics to bring the Saleh-Huthi opposition to heel.&nbsp; These come in two forms: the widely denounced blockade which prevents basic fuel, food and medical supplies from reaching the population, has resulted in the current situation with over half the population ‘food insecure’, and 7 million suffering severe food insecurity, ie close to starvation. Remember that Yemen imports 90% of its wheat and 100% of other staples such as rice, tea and sugar.&nbsp; Hence the blockade which is widely denied, but actually enforced, plays a major role in worsening the humanitarian catastrophe.&nbsp; In Yemen, as in so many other wars, basic human needs are used as weapons by the warring factions. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">In the current situation… over half the population [is] ‘food insecure’, and 7 million suffering severe food insecurity, ie close to starvation.</span></p> <p>Another aspect of the blockade is the control of Yemeni airspace by the Saudi regime: no flights in or out of Yemen can take place without prior clearance from the Saudi military and most have a stopover in Bisha where Saudi forces check on all passengers and cargo; so while there are flights in and out of Aden, Mukalla and Seiyun in the south, Sana’a airport has been closed for weeks. </p> <p>Even UN flights were forbidden for a whole week when the Huthi-Saleh alliance re-called Parliament to approve their new Political Council. Preventing members from returning to Sana’a was intended to ensure the meeting would be inquorate, but this tactic failed. Although UN flights and other humanitarian flights travel on a case by case basis, members of the Sana’a delegation to Kuwait have now been stranded in Muscat for almost a month, as the UN has been unable to guarantee their safe return to Sana’a, something which does little to improve confidence in the UN’s mediation role or its credibility. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">A third form the war is taking now is the attempt by the ‘legitimate’ government to prevent the Central Bank from functioning.</span></p> <p>A third form the war is taking now is the attempt by the ‘legitimate’ government to prevent the Central Bank from functioning. Having successfully remained neutral, the Central Bank of Yemen somehow managed to continue paying salaries to civil servants and military personnel on all sides throughout the war, despite its reserves having collapsed from USD 5 billion to less than USD 1 billion in the last 12 months.&nbsp; Without addressing the issue of where these funds came from, this has been quite an achievement.&nbsp; </p> <p>The Hadi government has recently been trying to relocate the bank to Aden and replace its senior officials. Even the regime’s international supporters such as the US and UK have expressed concern at this move and, to date, the IMF and other financial institutions have ignored it. If implemented, its main consequence would clearly be a dramatic worsening of the food and fuel situation within the country, in other words, more hunger, starvation and death, given that importers are already facing extreme difficulties in obtaining the letters of credit they need to import basic commodities and emigrants also face many hurdles in sending remittances to help their families. </p> <p>In conclusion, the meeting on 25 August in Jeddah bringing together US Secretary of State Kerry, UK’s Ellwood, UN envoy Ismail with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the GCC, was intended to re-launch talks. While rumours of a new initiative have circulated, it would seem that they expressed hope rather than fact. The Hadi side continues to insist that the Huthi-Saleh forces must first withdraw their forces from the cities and hand over their heavy weapons to an undefined and unknown neutral ‘third party’, something which the Huthi-Saleh side consider equivalent to surrender and which fails to recognise their actual control of much of the country’s area and most of its population.&nbsp; </p> <p>They demand that a consensus government be formed prior to any military withdrawal. While Kerry’s statement hinted that the two might happen simultaneously, this issue has not been addressed adequately. The UN SC meeting on August 31 also failed to produce anything meaningful and the UN special envoy is back on his travels, which may help the Huthi-Saleh delegation to get home.&nbsp; Meanwhile bombing and fighting continue, more people are killed and wounded, more are hungry and suffer from preventable diseases and lack treatment, and there are increasingly critical articles in various international media….</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a>&nbsp; See &nbsp;&nbsp;https://opendemocracy.net/uk/andrew-smith/even-saudi-arabia-accepts-that-saudi-forces-are-killing-civilians-in-yemen-so-why-is ‘Even Saudi Arabia accepts that Saudi forces are killing civilians in Yemen, so why is the UK still arming the regime?’ 01 09 16&nbsp; Andrew Smith<strong></strong></p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a> http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-usa-saudiarabia-idUSKCN10U1TL</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp; https://www.insightonconflict.org/blog/2016/08/portrait-war-returning-home-yemen/</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a>&nbsp; https://www.insightonconflict.org/blog/2016/08/portrait-war-returning-home-</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]</a>&nbsp; Just in case this had escaped your attention, Saleh was the autocratic leader forced to quit in early 2012 as a result of the mass demonstrations throughout 2011 which brought about the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement in November 2011.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/andrew-smith/even-saudi-arabia-accepts-that-saudi-forces-are-killing-civilians-in-yemen-so-why-is">Saudi forces are killing civilians in Yemen, so why is the UK still arming the regime?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> <div class="field-item even"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> UK United States Saudi Arabia Yemen Conflict International politics Why Yemen matters United Nations Helen Lackner Tue, 06 Sep 2016 07:13:49 +0000 Helen Lackner 105134 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Peace talks in Kuwait: will they solve Yemen’s crisis? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/peace-talks-in-kuwait-will-they-solve-yemen-s-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is no doubt that the military stalemate is a major reason leading to the Kuwait negotiations. After 14 months of full-scale war, the military situation is largely unchanged.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25154868.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-25154868.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, center, walks with officials as he tours in the port of Aden, Yemen, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.Wael Qubady /Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>Thirteen months into the full scale war which has encompassed the country, negotiations started in Kuwait on 21 April between the Saleh-Huthi alliance who control the Yemeni northern highlands and the capital Sana’a and the internationally recognised government of president Hadi who was elected in 2012, and has been in exile in Riyadh for most of the last year.&nbsp; </p> <p>A month into the talks, their main achievement is that they have not definitively broken down. Insofar as any negotiations are taking place, it is thanks to the systematic interventions from the Shaikh of Kuwait or other senior figures from different countries to bring one or the other side back to the table after their routine almost daily walk outs. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN special adviser and his team do their best and this time, at least, have real support from the international community. </p> <p>While naïve observers might think that the ongoing and worsening suffering of 25 million Yemenis might have brought the warring parties to their senses to seek a solution without imposing further starvation, thirst, destitution and death, it would seem they consider this irrelevant.&nbsp; </p> <p>Ensconced in their luxury hotels in Riyadh or their protected environments in Sana’a, living conditions of the population appear to be the least of their concerns. Instead, their petty rivalries, long-standing feuds and greed for power and control determine their tactics. Any planning they may be doing for the future may well focus more on how they will appropriate future external humanitarian and development funding.</p> <p>So, why are these negotiations taking place? Answering this question may also help to understand their likely outcome. In addition to the military stalemate, and the collapsed economy, the role of external actors is as relevant today as it was to reach the Gulf Cooperation Council Agreement of 2011 and the transitional regime which followed it. </p> <h2><strong>Saudi Arabia’s changed policies</strong></h2> <p>First Saudi Arabia: to many people’s surprise, the regime installed in January 2015 under king Salman, is behaving differently from its predecessors, in Yemen and beyond. Although only Deputy Crown prince, young Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s favourite son, has taken a leading role and clearly wants to demonstrate his capacity as an effective ruler, anticipating his own rise to the highest position. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Saudi Arabia has been less than happy about western media coverage of the destruction and killings caused by its coalition air strikes, let alone votes in the European and Dutch parliaments opposing continued arms sales.&nbsp; </span></p> <p>Initially, in the face of the takeover of Yemen by a Zaydi group allied with former president Saleh which could, with some exaggeration, be described as a Shi’a faction aligned with Iran, he most probably thought that a short military intervention would do the trick, with an unarguable victory. So he rapidly put together the coalition<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> which started aerial bombing of Yemen on 26 March 2015. By now, 14 months later, the quick win he had anticipated is further than ever, despite spending millions, sending ground troops, arousing considerable anti-Saudi public opinion throughout the world, not to mention the killing and destruction in Yemen and some in Saudi Arabia itself.&nbsp; </p> <p>He wants to move on: financial constraints, pressure from the US and others, disagreements with Saudi Arabia’s main ally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on the solution, and the loss of popularity of the war at home are incentives to end the adventure. &nbsp;</p> <p>Saudi Arabia has been less than happy about the western media coverage of the destruction and killings of civilians caused by its coalition air strikes, let alone the votes in the European and Dutch parliaments opposing continued arms sales.&nbsp; From a public relations point of view, regardless of international humanitarian law, bombing Médecins sans Frontières hospitals was not a great move.</p> <p>The regime needs success at home to mute opposition to Mohammed bin Salman’s innovative policies within the ruling clique. His priority are younger Saudis and domestic policy: this month he issued Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, a strategy straight off the books of a US PR company, more reminiscent of Dubai than of conservative Saudi Arabia.&nbsp; </p> <p>So for Saudi Arabia, a solution to the Yemeni problem which must look like a victory is now a priority. Recent direct talks and negotiations with the Huthis have led to agreements which suggest a possible solution between these two elements of the complex political picture.</p> <h2><strong>Other external pressures</strong></h2> <p>The UAE is the other main GCC player in the coalition and its divergence from Saudi Arabia’s strategy relates to the role of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islah party in Yemen has a strong Muslim Brotherhood component including Ali Mohsen al Ahmar, recently appointed Vice President in Hadi’s government, who is considered to subscribe to its extremist wing. While Saudi Arabia has restored cooperation with Islah, anything remotely associated with Muslim Brothers is totally unacceptable for the UAE who probably consider that organisation a far bigger threat than Iran. Oman, which has been active for the past year in trying to bring about a solution, continues its efforts through an active presence in Kuwait.</p> <p>The USA make regular statements in support of a solution. Torn between wanting to keep Saudi Arabia as happy as possible given disagreement over the Iran nuclear deal and its belief that Al Qaeda and Daesh are expanding their control and influence in Yemen, it is supporting the UN’s role in the talks. Britain’s active involvement in supporting the negotiations also prioritises the same counter-terrorism agenda. Other ambassadors support the talks, with the EU Delegate leading as she has the longest sustained connection and knowledge of the individuals involved in the talks. The United Nations Security Council Permanent Five states are still united about Yemen.</p> <h2><strong>The situation on the ground</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26382344.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-26382344.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Shiite Houthi tribesmen show support for the Houthi movement in Sanaa, Yemen, May 19, 2016, after Yemeni Foreign Minister announces another suspension of Kuwait peace talks. Hani Mohammed /Press Association. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>There is no doubt that the military stalemate is a major reason leading to the Kuwait negotiations.&nbsp; After 14 months of full-scale war on the ground and massive aerial bombings, the military situation is largely unchanged. Without going into details, overall, the northern Zaydi highlands are under the control of the Saleh Huthi alliance, bordered by a number of hot fronts, Nehm about 60km east of Sana’a, Jawf and Mareb beyond it, on the Red Sea coast along the Saudi border, south in Taiz governorate, extending to the Bab al Mandab strait, south east around al Baidha, with intermittent fighting in various other locations. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">Aden is, since that time, a city whose daily routine includes assassinations, kidnappings, suicide attacks, demonstrations of government employees demanding payment, demonstrations by southern separatists with occasional electricity and water supplies.</span></p> <p>For the past 9 months, the people remaining in Taiz city are suffering more than any others, as parts of the city are controlled by each side and it is besieged by Huthi-Saleh forces who maintain a firm blockade of all goods along its main access roads; there are only very occasional air drops of supplies, food and medical supplies to the zones under resistance control. Its situation can be compared with Aleppo in Syria. What are officially described as ‘pro-Hadi’ forces are really ‘anti-Saleh-Huthi’ ones. While some may be fighting to retain Yemen as a unified state under an improved regime (this can mean a more Islamist one or a more democratic regime focused on addressing the socio-economic needs of the population). Either way none of them can be said to be supporting Hadi’s presidency.&nbsp; </p> <p>Aden was named the temporary capital when Hadi spent a few weeks there between escaping from Sana’a and its occupation by Saleh Huthi forces driving him out to Riyadh. Four months of fighting ensued. This combined ground fighting between the efficient and organised Saleh Huthi military forces of the Republican Guards on the one hand, and on the other, coalition airstrikes supporting resistance forces of local separatists without a jihadist agenda, popular committee members from neighbouring governorates, and jihadists from al Qaeda and other Salafis.&nbsp; </p> <p>It was only the intervention of coalition ground forces, under Emirati command, which finally ‘liberated’ Aden in late July. I use quotation marks because Aden is, since that time, a city whose daily routine includes assassinations, kidnappings, suicide attacks, demonstrations of government employees demanding payment, demonstrations by southern separatists with occasional electricity and water supplies. Aden airport has been open and operating for a few days throughout that period but is most of the time closed due to the threat of missiles or artillery. Since its ‘liberation’, President Hadi and his government have only spent a few weeks there, each time driven out by an attack.</p> <p>Further east, namely in the other governorates of the former PDRY, local authorities manage some areas. Dhala’ and Lahej are southern separatist strongholds while others places have been described as being under the control of al Qaeda. In recent weeks, the coalition has focused military action on the latter, coastal Hadramaut and its capital Mukalla and the smaller towns on the coast of Abyan governorate. Although these successes have been trumpeted as major victories, with fanciful figures of the number of AQAP killed, reality is somewhat different: AQAP’s control was over-stated, there is evidence to suggest that its forces were allowed to leave with heavy weapons, presumably dispersing elsewhere. Their departure from towns in Abyan and Shabwa was negotiated by local leaders who wanted to avoid coalition strikes. Finally AQAP is a wide umbrella which includes genuine aggressive armed fundamentalists but also men who work directly or indirectly to orders from Saleh and other senior politicians.</p> <h2><strong>How about the people?</strong></h2> <p>The cease fire which started on 10 April initially considerably reduced air strikes, with some days when none occurred, but these, as well as fighting on the ground have returned to their earlier level as the Kuwait talks stalled. When talks show some signs of progress, however small, air strikes and fighting reduce: they increase as the talks are interrupted. Reduced fighting has allowed for some improvements in the delivery of basic foodstuffs and aid, despite the fact that the amounts landing in the ports have been way below requirements. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The UN’s humanitarian appeal is “only asking for the minimum that is required to keep people alive in these awful circumstances," and only targets 65% of those in need, but has only received 16% of the funds required.</span></p> <p>Fourteen months of intensive air strikes failed to destroy the military capacity of the Saleh-Huthi factions, but successfully killed thousands [air strikes are responsible for over half of the 6,400 dead], destroyed and damaged most of the country’s road and other infrastructure, more than 27,000 homes and other buildings, 600 medical facilities, and 1170 schools by mid-April this year. Of the 700,000 people needing emergency livelihoods assistance, ie unable to earn an income, UN organisations were able to assist 108,000 in April, while it helped none of the half million needing ‘livelihoods restoration assistance’. The situation of the country’s finances is subject to debate but, according to <a href="http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/05/yemen-central-bank-foreign-reserves-war-economy.html#ixzz48tdstxhr">PM bin Daghr</a>, ‘the CBY’s foreign reserves reached an all-time low last month of $1.3 billion, which is 28% of the prewar level of reserves of $4.6 billion.’ The exchange rate of the US dollar has reached unprecedented heights, and traders are no longer selling basic staples, in anticipation of shortages, purchase price rises and Ramadan. An indicator of Sana’a rulers’ desperation, is the creation of an emergency economic committee on 18 May. </p> <p>The disastrous humanitarian situation continues to worsen. More than 21 million Yemenis [out of 26] need basic assistance and 2.8 million are displaced.&nbsp; In April, the World Food Programme reached 3.6 million of the 7.6 million people on the verge of starvation. The blockade preventing the arrival of foodstuffs and fuel continues, despite an agreement for inspection with the UN. Unlike people in many countries most Yemenis, faced with the shame of being unable to feed their families, are more likely to lock the doors of their houses and wait to die inside with their families, rather than beg and travel in search of help.&nbsp; How many have already done this?&nbsp; No one knows. In the words of the senior UN humanitarian official, its <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-aid-un-idUSKCN0Y82JI">humanitarian appeal</a> is “only asking for the minimum that is required to keep people alive in these awful circumstances," and only targets 65% of those in need, but has only received 16% of the funds required. </p> <h2><strong>What next?</strong></h2> <p>Faced with two stubborn and self-serving negotiating teams, can the Kuwait talks bring about peace, stability and development to Yemen’s 26 million people? Based on nothing other than a debatable legitimacy, the internationally recognised government is totally dependent on external forces: without coalition air strikes and ground troops, it would have become irrelevant long ago. It depends on the GCC states for everything. The Saleh-Huthi alliance is ‘<em>contre nature’</em>: open disagreements and clashes have become increasingly frequent in recent months, certainly something the coalition encourages. Recent border agreements between the Huthis and Saudi Arabia, excluding Saleh and his allies, are an indication of future trends. However exclusion of Saleh and his forces depends on a decisive shift in favour of the Huthis in the military balance within this alliance, something which is not yet clear. Though militarily weakened, they still control the central and northern highlands, which represent about 25% of the country’s surface but closer to 50% of its population. Other than military pressure, their main constraint is financial, something which is becoming more serious by the day. Increasing unpopularity is not a decisive factor for either side. </p> <p>It is clear to all that the military stalemate is unlikely to be broken and therefore some kind of political solution is essential. Both teams are sticking to untenable positions in the talks and refusing to compromise. However, given the external pressures from Saudi Arabia, other GCC states, the US, UK, EU and indeed everyone else, it is likely that some kind of deal will eventually be made. What this might be is difficult to imagine. It may well exclude both Saleh and Hadi. It will most likely include the Huthi and Islah, as well as some sections of the General People’s Congress [currently split between Saleh and Hadi supporters] as well as some of the smaller parties. Its form is likely to involve returning to most of what the transition achieved by 2014, and here it might be <a href="http://www.idea.int/publications/yemens-peaceful-transition-from-autocracy/index.cfm">helpful to revisit</a> its lessons<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> to avoid some of the mistakes made earlier.</p> <p>Unfortunately, whatever agreement is reached in Kuwait is unlikely to transform Yemen into a stable well-governed state in full control of the country and focused on the welfare of its people. The kleptocratic elites are too powerful to be excluded, and such measures are not on the agenda of the international community. Fragmentation and bitterness have increased exponentially in the past year, not only in the southern governorates, but throughout the country.&nbsp; There is no doubt that an end to air strikes and to full-scale war on the ground would be a major improvement.&nbsp; </p> <p>Much more needs to be done to establish a politically viable system but, more than anything, to restore the population’s basic living standards to their pre-war status, which would leave them as the poorest in the Arab world by a long stretch. Regardless of politics, financial and economic support for development, particularly in rural areas will be essential for the coming decades. Of all the country’s fundamental problems, this article has not even mentioned the main long term one, namely the absolute shortage of water.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> In addition to the GCC states (except Oman)&nbsp; the coalition includes Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, and Sénégal,&nbsp; all of whom have little choice unless willing to forego the considerable financial support they get from the GCC.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>&nbsp; See my <a href="http://www.idea.int/publications/yemens-peaceful-transition-from-autocracy/index.cfm">detailed analysis</a> of the transition process and its outcomes published earlier this year by International IDEA:<strong> Yemen's 'Peaceful' Transition from Autocracy: Could it have succeeded?<br /> <br /> </strong></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/can-yemenis-escape"> Can Yemenis escape?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Helen Lackner Sun, 22 May 2016 09:44:14 +0000 Helen Lackner 102301 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can the Saudi-led coalition win the war in Yemen? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/can-saudi-led-coalition-win-war-in-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Those deciding for war in March 2015 gave little thought to Yemeni realities, military, logistic, topographic, social or political, human cost, or an exit strategy. But questions are being raised.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/600px-Mohammed_Bin_Salman_al-Saud2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/600px-Mohammed_Bin_Salman_al-Saud2.jpg" alt="Defence Minister Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, April 2014. " title="" width="460" height="690" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Defence Minister Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, April 2014. Wikicommons/Mazen AlDarrab. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In 1934 the newly established Kingdom of Saudi Arabia went to war against Imamate Yemen, resulting in the Saudis taking control of the provinces of Aseer, Jizan and Najran. &nbsp;King Abdul Aziz withdrew his forces as soon as he had achieved his basic goal.&nbsp; </p> <p>When challenged about his prompt withdrawal at a time when his forces were clearly in the ascendant, his reply was “You know nothing about Yemen; it is mountainous and tribal. No one can control it. Throughout history all those who tried to control it, failed. The Ottoman state was the last of the failed invaders. I don’t want to embroil myself or my people in Yemen.”&nbsp; </p> <p>Ten months into the current Saudi-led war in Yemen, it is clear that this advice has not penetrated the consciousness of Mohammed bin Salman, current Defence Minister, Deputy Crown Prince and grandson of Abdul Aziz or of his father, the current King.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>A bit of background</strong></h2> <p>Among the many questions which deserve to be examined is the rationale for Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the current Yemeni conflict. The 2011 uprisings resulted in the election of a new President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, chosen in February 2012 to replace Ali Abdullah Saleh who had ruled the country since 1978. The Agreement<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the international community included a 2 year transition during which a National Dialogue Conference and military restructuring would lead to a new regime which many hoped would reflect the aspirations of the hundreds of thousand Yemeni men and women who had determinedly and peacefully demonstrated throughout 2011 and beyond. &nbsp;</p> <p>This did not happen. The internal situation in Yemen deteriorated rapidly after the completion of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) in January 2014 as it failed to solve the main political issues of the time, including the number and borders of the regions in the proposed federal state and the distribution of power between the contending political forces, most of which participated in the NDC: Saleh and his General People’s Congress, the Huthi’s Ansar Allah, the part-Islamist Islah and the multiple Southern separatist factions.The democratic youth movement and women were marginalised.</p> <p>As a result, 2014 was marked by the gradual takeover by the Huthis of the northern parts of the country including Sana’a, culminating in the resignation of the ‘legitimate’ transitional government in January 2015, promptly followed by a military move southwards by what is now usually described as the Huthi/Saleh alliance.&nbsp; </p> <p>As usual, it is worth reminding readers that none of the factional leaders have, for a single moment, given any thought or consideration to the impact of their actions on ordinary Yemenis or the worsening living conditions brought about by their self-serving pursuits. Thus, in early 2015, Saudi Arabia and other GCC members and their western allies were faced with the prospect of complete defeat of the transitional mechanism they had put in place, and the consequent victory of an alliance between the Zaydi revivalist Huthi movement [Zaydis are a branch of Shi’a Islam, rather close to Sunnis] and the ousted previous ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former ally who had by then become enemy number one.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>A new regime in Riyadh</strong></h2> <p>This, at a time when yet another elderly king had just inherited the throne in Riyadh. </p> <p>Unlike his cautious predecessors, Salman promptly overturned the previously agreed order of succession and installed his favourite young son [about 30 years old] as Minister of Defence and Deputy Crown Prince. He even dumped the crown prince selected by his deceased brother in favour of the son of another member of the ‘Sudairy seven’. </p> <p>To sustain this new order of succession and, indeed, possibly to enable his own son to become crown prince, new assertive international policies seemed like a good idea, creating popular support at home by demonstrating military capability and independence from the US and other western allies. It would also address increased Saudi concern at what they saw as US dereliction of duty. For decades, the unwritten agreement was that Saudi Arabia would say little or nothing about Israel, provided the US supported its dominance elsewhere in the Arab world. In 2015, not only was the US failing to support the Islamist Syrian opposition factions favoured by the Saudis, but it was about to reach agreement with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main rival, not to say enemy, in the region.&nbsp; </p> <p>These, unlike internal economic policy, are issues on which the views of the regime and the people coincide. Careless or deliberately provocative statements by some factions in Iran strengthened widespread fear and concern throughout the Peninsula: one such was the Iranian claim to control four Arab capitals, once the Huthis had taken over Sana’a in September 2014.</p> <p>So the new Saudi leadership decided on a show of force, and Yemen seemed the perfect opportunity to achieve all these objectives with apparently minimal risk. The regime it supported was about to be ousted by what could be described as an alliance between a Shi’a faction and an ex-president who had been internationally sanctioned by the UN. They challenged an agreement sponsored by the GCC, the United Nations and the major powers. Although the latest United Nations Security Council Resolution [2216] did not formally condone military intervention, it did not forbid it.&nbsp; </p> <p>A coalition was promptly put together and air strikes were launched on 26 March 2015, with the stated intention of restoring the legitimate authority to power and ousting the rebels. It is likely that those who took that decision gave little thought to Yemeni realities, whether military, logistic, topographic, social or political, let alone the human cost of their actions.</p> <h2><strong>The war</strong></h2> <p>Ten months later, air strikes are continuing on a daily basis throughout the country. There are ground troops in Yemen from many of the coalition states: a few Saudis, Emiratis [including Colombian and other South American special forces, led by an Australian who may or may not be on site], Sudanese, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, supported by Moroccan and Senegalese troops on the Saudi side of the border and Egyptian naval forces. The overall military situation has reached stalemate. The official death toll had risen to 6000 by end 2015 with over 28,000 wounded. The humanitarian situation is at UN emergency level, with 21.2 million of the 26 million population in need and only 8.8 million reached in 2015 with the UN humanitarian appeal having been funded at 56% for the year. </p> <p>Since the liberation of Aden in August 2015, the city has remained completely unsafe with daily attack by a range of factions: different southern separatist groups, Aggressive Armed Islamists under a variety of names, including Al Qaeda, Daesh, and other Salafi groups, as well as simple ordinary thieves and bandits attacking banks, institutional payrolls, security and other officers; they managed to kill the Governor less than two months after his appointment. Aden was named temporary capital in March 2015, and President Hadi who returned there in November 2015 lives in his mountain stronghold palace and only ventures out on short helicopter sorties. On 25 January 2016, Vice President and Prime Minister Baha arrived for the third time since its liberation, claiming that this is his definitive return; his previous visits were short-lived. Many ministers are still based in Sana’a.</p> <h2><strong>Stalemate</strong></h2> <p>The military stalemate shows no immediate sign of ending. Claims of liberation of various areas are challenged by regular ongoing airstrikes in the same areas: Midi and Haradh on the Red Sea coast near the Saudi border, around Mareb east of Sana’a, and in Shabwa, al Baidha and Dhala’ governorates. For the past 6 months, the main and most intense fighting has taken place in and around Taiz, the country’s third city where the balance of land forces is fairly even and where the most obnoxious tactics are being used.&nbsp; </p> <p>Taiz city has now been under siege for months, with the Huthi/Saleh forces controlling the main roads and preventing the arrival of any supplies, water, food, medical equipment and consumables and all basic necessities. The city itself is divided between the majority who are just trying to keep alive and the forces loyal to one or the other side. &nbsp;</p> <p>Half or more of the population have left when they could, and current estimates of the remaining population range from 200,000 to 600,000. Those remaining have to search for water and food while under fire from the Saleh/Huthi group on the one hand and the aerial bombardment from the Saudi led coalition on the other.&nbsp; </p> <p>The lack of progress of either side in Taiz does raise questions: the main military force in support of the legitimate authority is led by an Islahi commander, hence assumed to be a Muslim Brother. Given the hostility of the UAE towards this organisation (though Saudi Arabia has reconciled itself with the Islah), is the coalition failing to support his forces adequately? Why have the main Islahi military leaders been in Aden for over a month? Why have the coalition forces air dropped so little military material to their allies, let alone food and medical supplies for all? Is there a strategy to exhaust the Saleh/Huthi forces by a long struggle in an area where they have less popular support than in the Sana’ani highlands? </p> <h2><strong>Peace negotiations</strong></h2> <p>The negotiations which took place in Geneva in December fulfilled everyone’s expectation of achieving nothing. Since then the UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould al Shaikh has been trying to get some basic agreements for a second round of talks, which were due to start mid-January. These have been indefinitely postponed. Only the least significant of the agreed so-called ‘confidence-building measures’ have taken place: the three senior prisoners kept by the Huthis/Saleh have not been released and there are considerable doubts about a fourth, Islah leader Mohammed Qahtan, who may well have been killed. Internationally, it is clear that the efforts to resolve the Syrian situation have relegated the Yemen crisis far down the list of priorities.&nbsp; </p> <p>Alongside the competing disasters in Syria and elsewhere, the lack of spectacular events on the ground has limited media coverage. The only ‘positive’ development has been the increasing concern emerging about British and US advisors providing technical support to the coalition’s targeting of air strikes, as well as the continued supply of weapons and ammunition to their forces.&nbsp; </p> <p>At long last, these are being questioned in the legislature, by legal experts<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> and in civil society, focusing on respect for humanitarian law, as well as the Arms Trade Treaty which has come into force in Britain in 2014, though the US has only signed and not ratified it.&nbsp; </p> <p>As for the quality of British and US technical targeting, observers are left to wonder about their competence or real influence given that four Médecins Sans Frontières medical facilities have been bombed in recent months, in addition to over 60 other medical facilities seriously damaged or destroyed, let alone other cases of ‘friendly fire’.&nbsp; </p> <p>The latest report from the UN Sanctions Committee blames the coalition for violating international humanitarian law by ‘targeting civilians and civilian objects… including buses, civilian residential areas, medical facilities, schools, mosques, markets, factories and food storage warehouses and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> </p> <p>This has raised the profile of the issue significantly, with the Labour Party demanding an independent inquiry in UK’s arms exports policy to Saudi Arabia and the ‘advisory’ role of British personnel.&nbsp;&nbsp; The same day Downing street reported a telephone conversation between Cameron and King Salman during which, with respect to the situation in Yemen “the Prime Minister and King agreed on both the need for a political solution and for international humanitarian law to be respected at all times.”</p> <h2><strong>What next?</strong></h2> <p>So with stalemate on the ground, no military victory in sight, and the absence of any noticeable progress in negotiations, what are the prospects for the Saudi-led coalition? Most of its members do as little as they can without jeopardising the financial support they get from the GCC states, Saudi Arabia in particular.&nbsp; </p> <p>There are political differences between &nbsp;the United Arab Emirates who consider anything remotely resembling a Muslim Brother as little more than the devil incarnate, and Saudi Arabia which supported the Muslim Brothers for a long time, had a temporary falling out around the Arab spring period and, in the case of Yemen at least, are now reconciled to working with Islah, its local incarnation. The dramatic drop in oil prices has forced the Saudi regime into deficit budgeting for the first time in decades. The USD 200 million a month it spends on the war is a significant contributory factor. </p> <p>The easy and decisive military victory anticipated last March is further away than ever, thus affecting both the new Saudi leaders and their plans for domestic dominance as well as increasing the likelihood of challenges not only within the Saud family but beyond, among the many Saudis whose living conditions are affected by the reduced subsidies and new taxation.&nbsp; </p><p> Whoever has read recent history will notice what happened to the thousands of Egyptians sent to support the republican regime in the 1960s, a major reason why Egypt has been reluctant to send its own troops.</p> <p>Mohammed bin Salman and his colleagues would be well advised to recall the advice of his grandfather and seek a way out, ideally one which would establish a just and equitable regime in Sana’a. Meanwhile they should show some respect for international humanitarian law and put an end to the airstrikes which are killing and maiming civilian men, women and children, as well as destroying medical and other civilian facilities throughout the country. Their allies and supporters in the UK and the US should demonstrate that they are not simple tools and agents of the Saudi regime.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a> See earlier OD pieces on the NDC, the transition and other aspects of the situation</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>http://www.saferworld.org.uk/resources/view-resource/1023-the-lawfulness-of-the-authorisation-by-the-united-kingdom-of-weapons-and-related-items-for-export-to-saudi-arabia-in-the-context-of-saudi-arabias-military-intervention-in-yemen</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp; The Guardian, 27 January 2016</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia UK Saudi Arabia Yemen Conflict International politics Why Yemen matters Helen Lackner Thu, 28 Jan 2016 23:21:01 +0000 Helen Lackner 99436 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can Yemenis escape? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/can-yemenis-escape <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>So what are Yemenis to do? Close the doors of their houses and slowly die of starvation and thirst?&nbsp; Or move <em>en masse</em>, the way Syrians are now heading for Europe?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-thumbnail-1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/512px-thumbnail-1.jpg" alt="Factories, jobs destroyed by war.Yemen,November 2015. " title="" width="460" height="260" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Factories, jobs destroyed by war.Yemen,November 2015. Wikicommons/ Almigdad Mojalli ( VOA). Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Is the coalition air and land war against Yemenis about to end? A second round of ‘peace talks’ is scheduled to start in Geneva on 15 December. Getting to a date and a meeting which ‘both’ sides agree to attend has taken almost 6 months of efforts for Ismail Ould al Sheikh Ahmed, the new Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General. In addition to having had to cope with undermining by his predecessor and underwhelming support by the Permanent 5 of the UNSC, his nomination was accepted by the GCC largely because they considered him weak and ineffective.&nbsp; </p> <p>He has operated in less than ideal conditions: merely achieving agreement on a meeting is a significant achievement, given the reluctance of the warring parties and the international environment.&nbsp; However, I have not met a single person who expects these talks to achieve very much, if anything.&nbsp;&nbsp; Hope is free and anyone with friends and family in Yemen has to continue to have some hope, what else can we do?</p> <h2><strong>The coalition</strong></h2> <p>Yemen has become the focus of not only a violent and murderous civil war between factions loosely aligned with the so-called ‘legitimate’ government on the one hand and former ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh and his Huthi allies on the other. While this unfortunate development was predicted by many in recent years, it was dramatically worsened by the open foreign intervention and emergence of a ‘proxy’ war between the Arab Gulf states led by a new, young and warmongering leadership in Saudi Arabia which insists that Yemen is the site of a life or death struggle against its rival Iran for domination of the politics in the Arabian Peninsula. </p> <p>Iranian involvement is blown up as a major threat regardless of reality, which includes limited material support but mostly boasts of responsibility for events Iran neither sponsored nor, in many cases, even supported; some experts describe these claims as demonstrating the immaturity of some of Iran’s leadership. The coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates includes all GCC states except Oman, and a variety of other Arab and African states whose motivation for joining is probably closely related to expectations of financial support from the GCC states.&nbsp; </p> <p>Having upset the GCC states with its nuclear deal with Iran, the US and other western states are supinely assisting the GCC and abdicating any critical faculties, let alone respect for their own commitments through the Arms Control Treaty and other aspects of international humanitarian law. &nbsp;This to the extent of continuing to supply the coalition with arms and ammunition including cluster bombs, which they know are used against civilians. Their immorality goes so far as feeble verbal protests at attacks by coalition air strikes or Huthi/Saleh shelling on humanitarian facilities, including the destruction of two hospitals run by a universally respected humanitarian organisation, Medecins sans Frontières, in addition to a total of 69 other medical facilities since March.</p> <h2><strong>War-related suffering</strong></h2> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">By 2011, the country’s economy had already largely collapsed, </span>By 2011, the country’s economy had already largely collapsed, with over 54% of the population officially considered poor, water resources running out, drought destroying the limited agriculture, extremely high unemployment, continued rapid population growth and other ills. The popular uprisings of 2011 demonstrated that hope could triumph over realistic expectation, but these hopes were soon dashed when the struggle became dominated by the various elite factions supported by an international community which sought a change in leadership but not a change in social, political or economic policies, let alone a transformation of the military/security structures.</p> <p>Just to bring the record up to date.&nbsp; In August this year, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross pointed out that, after 5 months of war, the situation in Yemen was as bad as that in Syria after 4 years of war, something which came as a real shock to those of us who follow the situation closely and thought that it would take at least two years to get that bad.&nbsp; </p> <p>By December, according to the World Health Organisation, over 15 million Yemenis (over 58% of the population of 26 million) lack access to medical services, 20 million (77%) “lack access to safe water and sanitation, and conditions are ripe for a major disease outbreak”. While the officially recorded death toll since March has reached over 5,700, this only accounts for those who died in functioning health facilities where records are kept.&nbsp; This toll ignores all premature deaths due to lack of access to medical treatment for chronic [diabetes,&nbsp; kidney failure etc..] or acute conditions.&nbsp; Similarly, the 27,000 recorded injuries only include those who reached medical treatment.The majority of medical facilities do not operate, lacking water, electricity, medical supplies and salaries for their staff. Taking into consideration the fact that all sides in the struggle are preventing basic food, medical and other supplies from reaching those living in areas under the control of their opponents, living conditions for the vast majority of the population have reached levels of desperation. The ‘blockade’ preventing the delivery of food and fuel primarily affects the ordinary citizens. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The ‘blockade’ preventing the delivery of food and fuel primarily affects the ordinary citizens. </span>The militias and other military factions get priority access to anything that does get through, either through ‘taxation’ or by simple force of arms, thus ensuring that attempts at weakening the enemy have the primary effect of worsening hunger and disease for the populations.</p> <p>While the United Nations and its humanitarian institutions are trying to help, it is worth noting first that they are only targeting 11.6 million people when their own data states that 21.2 million are in need. Second their appeal for USD 1.6 billion for this year had been only 49% funded by the end of November. Moreover much of this funding comes from the GCC states which actively ‘politically’ target their aid to prevent it from reaching the ‘rebel’ controlled areas. Saudi Arabia, the largest funder, immediately pledged to finance the full USD 274 million requested by the UN for humanitarian work in April; that was the easy bit and good public relations. Then it proceeded to set up the King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian Aid in May to manage the disbursement of these funds. It then decided that each of the nine main UN organisations would have to sign one or more separate Memoranda of Understanding (MOU), thus ensuring further delay: the largest one was with the World Food Programme for USD 143 million agreed in September. These slow procedures have obviously delayed the delivery of assistance, regardless of the complex conditions imposed and the deep gratitude which the heads of each of these institutions expresses grandiloquently on receiving each cheque. </p> <p>In the absence of any legitimate means of earning income to survive, Yemenis are more dependent than ever on their friends and relatives abroad. Such support is almost impossible to send because the international banking system is, occasionally at least, refusing to make transfers to Yemen.&nbsp; Meanwhile prices of all basic foods are rocketing: since March prices have risen on average by 57% for wheat, 74% for onions, 325% for cooking gas, 287% for diesel and 274% for petrol. These are average, things are far worse in the frontline areas [Taiz, al Baidha, Mareb and Jawf] and the areas which are furthest away from the ports. This is partly due to the unavailability of these basic products because of reduced imports (thanks to damage of the port infrastructures and preventing many commercial ships from entering) and the cost of in-country transport due to fuel shortages. In this context the suggestion that famine is just round the corner hardly comes as a surprise. Water shortage is possibly even greater than that of food, as diesel is essential for much of the pumping necessary to extract the little available water. Costs rise throughout the system as checkpoints by any one of the many armed groups collect their share of goods going past them. <span class="print-no mag-quote-left">This week, the newly appointed Governor of Aden and his escort were assassinated by a car bomb. He was widely respected by the city’s population for actually trying to help.</span></p> <p>Meanwhile the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate: this week, the newly appointed Governor of Aden and his escort were assassinated by a car bomb. He was widely respected by the city’s population for actually trying to help improve security and governance in the city and was having an impact on the situation. In the past three years many, if not all, middle ranking officials, whether military or civilian, who demonstrated commitment to their responsibilities and tried to improve the abysmal living conditions of the population, have been threatened and many have been killed. Who is behind these assassinations? Whose interests do they serve?&nbsp;Clearly those who want to see the country sink even further into lawlessness, havoc and turmoil. And these include not only the usually blamed and suspected Al Qaeda or Daesh but also Saleh whose policy since having to give up the presidency in 2012 has been <em>après moi le deluge</em> and has, unfortunately most successfully, done his best to demonstrate that without him in the driving seat, the country would collapse. After decades of suspicion by all except his international political supporters, his close relationship with some of the previously mentioned elements has been explicitly mentioned in a recent report by the United Nations Sanctions Committee.</p> <p>With all this, did Yemenis really also need the damage caused by two historically unprecedented cyclones hitting different parts in November? Just one of the many signs of the kind of events likely to become more frequent with the worsening of climate change.</p> <h2><strong>Can Yemenis escape?</strong></h2> <p>Escaping to neighbouring countries is barely an option. Travel to Saudi Arabia has been severely restricted since 1990, with a fence/wall being built along much of the border between the two countries, and since the war started a few border posts have been opened where some Yemenis are allowed in, mostly those from the south, and under restrictions. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Who is behind these assassinations? Whose interests do they serve?</span></p> <p>New regulations have enabled many illegal Yemeni migrants in Saudi Arabia to regularise their situation, but these changes are more a security measure to control Yemenis than a humanitarian one to relieve suffering. The UN says that 30 000 Yemenis have entered Saudi Arabia between March and end of November. The border with Oman has been controlled by a fence constructed in the1970s to prevent the infiltration of weapons and support to the People’s Front for the Liberation of Oman who were defeated in 1975: but the fence has&nbsp; remained ever since. As a result only 500 Yemenis have been allowed in to Oman, by contrast with 50, 500 third party nationals! Travel by sea has been of little attraction in recent years when Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans were taking refuge in Yemen to get away from their own civil wars, climate induced droughts, and starvation. The crossing is exceedingly dangerous. The overwhelming majority of nearly 30, 000 who have gone to Somalia are Somalis, but over 3,000 are Yemenis who are so desperate that they have headed that way, while Djibouti has received over 16, 000 Yemenis. Overall the total number who left Yemen is close to 170, 000, but only 52, 000 of these are Yemenis.</p> <p>Travel to western states has been exceedingly difficult for many years even, in some cases, decades as a result of general constraints on the movement of poor people around the world, in this case worsened by the ‘threat’ posed by less than a handful of aggressive armed Islamists. Why or how an insignificant number of failed attempts at causing explosions on aircraft can or should be used to demonise and punish the entire population of a country is a question rarely asked of our immigration services or political rulers. But the result is that most Yemenis don’t even attempt to come to Europe or the USA and the latest suggestion by Donald Trump that ‘all Muslims should be prevented from coming to the USA’ is just another racist slur which unfortunately colours the debate, worsens perceptions and increases hostility.</p> <p>Until recently, Yemenis could travel without visas to Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Malaysia. It can safely be assumed that few would chose to go to Syria where the war is as bad or worse than in Yemen.&nbsp; Egypt, where there are already many Yemenis, does not provide a friendly and conducive atmosphere and has recently restricted visa-free entry to Yemenis over 45 or under 13 years of age. In the latest discouraging development, Jordanian authorities have cancelled their hospitable approach and demand visas; where is the Jordanian embassy in Yemen? Does it have a functioning visa service accessible to people?&nbsp; Only Malaysia remains, but for how much longer?</p> <p>So what are Yemenis to do? Close the doors of their houses and slowly die of starvation and thirst?&nbsp; Try to get into boats and cross into Africa? Or face the minefields on the borders of Saudi Arabia and move <em>en masse</em>, the way Syrians are now heading for Europe? Is there any sense of humanity and solidarity left in the world?</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> <div class="field-item even"> Saudi Arabia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Saudi Arabia Yemen Why Yemen matters Helen Lackner Fri, 11 Dec 2015 23:34:16 +0000 Helen Lackner 98470 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Humanitarian pauses in Yemen? https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/humanitarian-pauses-in-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To re-emphasise, it is now estimated that 80% of the country’s population, over 21 million people, are in need of assistance, 1.3 million officially displaced.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On 25 July, the ‘legitimate’ Yemeni Government [currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia] announced the third humanitarian pause in the war due to start the next day. Earlier a 7 day pause had been announced by the United Nations to start on 10 July. The previous one, for 5 days, started on 12 May. </p> <p>This will be seen as an interesting new form of fiction by the people in Yemen who have seen no reduction of either coalition air strikes (in support of the legitimate government) or shelling and ground fighting between the resistance and the joint forces of former president Saleh and the Huthis.&nbsp; At no time did the fighting cease completely, making a complete mockery of the concept of a humanitarian pause. Over 4000 people have been killed and 20,000 injured since 26 March, not to mention the material damage to infrastructure and the country’s unique cultural heritage.</p> <p>In the past 126 days since the coalition bombing started and a little longer since the ground war has been in full force, three ‘humanitarian pauses’ have been announced. None of them had any significant impact on the ground, though the first saw a reduction in fighting allowing for more humanitarian aid convoys to travel in the country.&nbsp; </p> <p>While control and checking of ships trying to bring basic supplies of food, medicines and fuel has been relaxed in recent weeks, ships landing are far fewer than needed, and are queuing in the Red Sea or waiting in Djibouti. But as recently as this week, the UN reminded the world that it had long ago proposed ‘a light, UN-led inspections mechanism enabling the flow of commercial imports to increase’ and was still waiting for this to be approved.&nbsp; </p> <p>Until last week, Aden port, the main one in the country, was completely inaccessible due to Saleh/Huthi forces preventing its use, while Hodeida could only function at a fraction of its capacity due to shortages of fuel and electricity as well as insecurity which prevented staff from going to work and meant that all unloading had to be done manually. Onward movement inland also suffers from insecurity, occasional attacks on trucks as well as shortages of fuel.&nbsp; The re-opening of Aden port now that the city is under the control of the legitimate authority will hopefully significantly ease relief efforts, for this city and its neighbouring areas at least.</p> <h2><strong>Running out of disaster vocabulary</strong></h2> <p>Meanwhile on 1 July, the UN system declared a ‘level 3 emergency response’ something it only does in extreme circumstances, reflecting the desperation of the situation, which is indeed shocking.&nbsp; Senior UN officials are exhausting the diplomatic vocabulary for disastrous situations, trying to find words which might on the one hand influence the fighting groups to respect international humanitarian law, and on the other persuade the international community to finance urgently needed basic assistance.&nbsp; </p> <p>As the Under-Secretary for Humanitarian affairs Stephen O’Brien put it, the situation in Yemen is deteriorating and ‘the impact on civilians is indeed catastrophic.’&nbsp; His speech includes the words dire, catastrophic, staggering, starvation, harrowing, dangerous and more. With respect to the financing humanitarian assistance, he stated that it is ‘woefully under-resourced’, pointing out that only 15% of the required USD 1.6 billion have been received and that much has been advanced ‘in expectation of the original Saudi pledge of USD 274 million’ whose delivery is presumably still awaited. Readers are urged to contribute to the various appeals for funds for humanitarian support for Yemen and, in particular can do so through Medecins Sans Frontieres who are very active.</p> <p>To re-emphasise the points, it is now estimated that 80% of the country’s population, ie over 21 million people are in need of assistance. Despite this frightening fact, the UN is only targeting just over half that number [under 12 million]; there are officially close to 1.3 million displaced people, but the real figure is likely to be much higher. For example, in al Baidha governorate, according to the UN there are 7, 700 displaced people - but I personally know of over 70 in just two households in one village coming from 3 different governorates! Without wanting to denigrate the heroic efforts of those on the ground who are delivering aid often under fire, it must be noted that, given shortage of funding and other factors, it has only been able to deliver water and sanitation assistance to 3.3 million of the 20.4 million in need, food to 1.9 or the 13 million in need, health services to 880 000 of the 15 million in need! </p> <p>Taking the most basic needs: Yemen normally imports about 80% of its basic food supplies, particularly its main staples, wheat [90%] rice [100%] sugar [100%] tea [100%].&nbsp; In the first 3 months of the war, the country imported only 25% of its food needs, while local production suffered from the massive fuel shortages which prevented transport of locally produced food to the areas where it is most needed as well as irrigation for vegetable cultivation. A journalist who stayed in Aden for a month reported not eating any vegetables during the whole period. Imports of fuel ranged from 1% of needs in April to 44% of needs in June. Fuel availability also affects that of water for drinking and domestic use, with over 20 million people now not having access to clean water.&nbsp; </p> <p>What fuel is available has increased in price by about 400% rising to 800% in some places. To address this situation, the Huthi ‘regime’ in Sana’a decreed the de-regulation of fuel prices on 27 July&nbsp; [decree 36 of 2015] with details which will be sobering to anyone who came out in support of the Huthis just under a year ago when the Hadi regime increased prices in conformity with the requirements of the IMF. The new regulation allows the private sector to import fuel and changes taxation by replacing contributions to the road maintenance and the Agriculture &amp; Fisheries promotion funds with contributions to the construction of an oil port in Salif [where there already is one] and of a power station in an unknown location. The absence of an official price for petrol and diesel will presumably simply mean that the black market prices are now legitimate.</p> <p>As always in crises and emergencies, the poor are suffering most. While electricity bills are no longer a major item of expenditure for most households due to the disappearance of electricity altogether, cooking gas prices have doubled where it is available; most people now use what little firewood and charcoal they can get hold of. Water is either collected by hand from local wells and springs or from tankers delivering it to neighbourhoods and then collected by 20litre jerrycans, as the quantities previously available for washing and laundry, in towns at least, cannot be found.&nbsp; </p> <p>Water is now distributed in neighbourhoods as a charity by NGOs when they have fuel to get hold of it. &nbsp;Food prices have increased on average by 25% since February this year but had gone up by 45% in April alone. Sources of income have dried up:&nbsp; casual employment in construction, markets and anywhere still exists on a much reduced scale in the cities where relative peace prevails, such as Sana’a, Hodeida and Mukalla, but people only go out and take the risk of being caught in crossfire in Taiz and, until very recently in Aden. Hence one of the attractions of joining a militia, at least that means being paid and having money to acquire at least some basic necessities for one’s family. </p> <h2><strong>Head of Central Bank tries to leave the country</strong></h2> <p>Government salaries are still being paid, but this is unlikely to last much longer as the Ministry of Finance is close to running out of funds; in late June the deficit reached 23% at over YR 500 billion.&nbsp; The Central Bank has not issued any reports since January, but the balance of foreign reserves has decreased by about 26% in the first five months of 2015, and the Head of the Central Bank has just been arrested by the Huthi/Saleh alliance as he was trying to leave the country. With some sense of realism, the Ministry of Planning is projecting a 13% decrease in GDP this year, but reliable observers expect this to be an underestimate due to the destruction of much of the country’s basic infrastructure through ground conflict, coalition airstrikes as well as worsening unemployment resulting for the interruption of most private and international business activities as well as agriculture and local industry.</p> <p>Daily life, when not dodging the bullets, shells and bombs, is made up of attempts at carrying out basic tasks of obtaining water, food and fuel, as well as facing a broader than ever range of bureaucratic hurdles, whether to try and earn an income or to obtain funds from a bank or other institution or indeed anything else. Each outing into the streets puts younger men at risk of being forcibly enrolled in a militia or suspected of being an opponent of one kind or another. Displaced people are living mostly with relatives and friends, putting pressure on already overcrowded and underserviced homes.</p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/16842882470_c4c4e63c86_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/16842882470_c4c4e63c86_z.jpg" alt="Hands off Yemen protest, April 2015." title="" width="460" height="460" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hands off Yemen protest, April 2015. Flickr/See Li. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Politics goes on</strong></h2> <p>Now a few words about politics: Having announced a peace conference in Geneva to start on 28 May, the UN had to cancel this as no one agreed to attend and the announcement had been premature, to say the least. It was then postponed to mid-June when meetings which can fairly be described as a shambles took place, given that instead of the proposed two delegations of 7 members each, there were a number of delegations with many more members and meetings were held in separate rooms.&nbsp; The southerners who were part of the ‘official’ delegation refused to sit with their delegation while the Huthi delegation included a number of senior General People’s Congress Saleh supporters. In addition to some farcical travel delays for the Sana’a mission, the meetings produced no notable outcome which could have been the subject of a press release. While the UN new Special Envoy is certainly doing his best to try and bring the various factions to further talks, his and the UN’s reputation were not enhanced either by these meetings or by the fiasco of the pre-Ramadan humanitarian pause.</p> <p>While many initially wondered why the pause did not take effect since Hadi and the Saudis had agreed to it, the answer became evident on 13 July when the military stalemate was broken with the launch of the Golden Arrow offensive by combined naval Emirati forces with Yemeni landed troops and the continuation of Saudi strikes on Aden. Again one was left speculating about the relationship between events in Yemen and the Iranian nuclear talks as this breakthrough took place just the day after the signature of the Geneva agreement. While fighting in Aden continued for well over a week and, at the time of writing there are still Huthi/Saleh snipers in action, the airport was re-opened and by July 22, planes with military and humanitarian assistance started landing, despite the occasional Huthi/Saleh shelling from about&nbsp; 20km away. Some ministers have returned to Aden and the UN has sent many senior officials who returned with harrowing reports about the abysmal conditions and very heavy death toll prevailing in the ruins of what was once Yemen’s second city and an earlier capital.</p> <p>While all this is going on there are some very slight hints of hope, mostly around a series of secret meetings taking place very quietly in a number of locations including Muscat, Cairo, Amman and Moscow. These have variously included senior Huthis, senior GPC members close to Saleh, representatives of Hadi, with Iranians, Americans and other diplomats. There have even been rumours [promptly denied] of meetings between Saleh representatives and US and UK diplomats. Certainly these are a long way from achieving results and in the case of the Huthis’ meetings in Muscat happened without Saleh’s say-so,&nbsp; something which he complained about publicly in interviews,&nbsp; and is yet another hint of the stresses in that alliance.&nbsp; </p> <p>However it is far too early to hope for its breakdown as both sides need each other and share one common objective, preventing the establishment of a federal state and the return of forces supporting the GCC agreement and transition started in 2011, and which they interrupted by their coups de force from mid-2014 onwards.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Donate to:</p><p> Normal 0 false false false EN-GB JA AR-SA </p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><a href="http://www.msf.org/donate">Medecins sans Frontières</a>. See <a href="http://www.msf.org/yemen ">Yemen</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><a href="https://www.icrc.org/eng/donations/">ICRC.</a>&nbsp;See <a href="https://www.icrc.org/en/where-we-work/middle-east/yemen">Yemen</a>.</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/war-in-yemen">The war in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/international-community-and-crisis-in-yemen">The international community and the crisis in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/introduction-to-yemen%27s-emergency">An introduction to Yemen&#039;s emergency</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Helen Lackner Sat, 01 Aug 2015 10:44:40 +0000 Helen Lackner 94934 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The war in Yemen https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/war-in-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>International media talk constantly of Huthi forces, but in reality the main military force in Yemen is now that of ex-president Saleh who, wherever he is, is doing what he promised: destroying as much as he possibly can.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1268538-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1268538-2.jpg" alt="Pro-democracy supporters on streets of Sana'a in March 2013." title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pro-democracy supporters on streets of Sana'a in March 2013. Demotix/Luke Somers. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The war which has now started is what many of us feared for so long and hoped, against all rational thinking, would be avoided. And this time, let us not fool ourselves with misguided optimism, this will be long and as awful as any war can be. While political and even military internal struggles are hardly a novelty in Yemen, the new element is that the conflict has now added a major layer of international ‘proxy’ features which will only worsen the situation, making it reminiscent of the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s-80s.&nbsp; </p> <p>Why is this the outcome of the 2011 revolutionary uprisings seeking economic development, justice and dignity, the end of kleptocracy and other good things? Who is to blame? Could it have been avoided? My earlier articles provide some of the background to understanding the current situation, and while many of these factors remain relevant today, and will remain so in the foreseeable future, the outbreak of full-scale war including foreign parties is an entirely unprecedented phenomenon which will affect Yemen’s people and the region for years to come.&nbsp; </p> <p>While Saudi Arabian involvement in Yemeni affairs is a longstanding fact, going back to the Imamate period and the earliest days of the creation of the Kingdom, this is the first time SA has taken the initiative to launch a major international military attack, albeit by air.&nbsp; </p> <p>It may not be particularly useful to non-specialists of Yemen to go into the details of the sequence of events since the Huthi coup of 6 February. But a rapid recall of the main events is important. After a month under house arrest in Sana’a, the legitimate internationally recognised president escaped to Aden where he attempted to establish a temporary government. Although the southern separatists, one of whose main strongholds is Aden, gave him at least tacit support, Huthis and former president Saleh military forces increased their attacks southwards and rapidly reached Aden itself.&nbsp; The ‘popular committees’, ie local militias supporting him, are no match for Huthi/Saleh well trained and equipped forces. Since participating in the Arab Summit at Sharm el Sheikh, Hadi and his ministers are in Riyadh which has become their operational base.</p> <h2><strong>Decisive Storm</strong></h2> <p>On 26 March, Saudi Arabia launched air strikes under the name Decisive Storm demonstrating, among other points, that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) can act without the US with whom their differences have increased recently [re Iran nuclear deal, Syria etc.]. They still have US technical and military backing, and firmly support the US through their arms purchases, as clearly demonstrated by the fact that Saudi Arabia has become the world’s largest arms importer in 2014 [USD 6.5 billion]. Of the USD 8.7 billion Saudi Arabia and the UAE spent on arms in 2014,&nbsp; USD 8.4 billion is going to the US. </p> <p>Regardless of the absence of a UNSC resolution under chapter 7 of the UN charter, Saudi Arabia and the GCC members (except Oman), decided to intervene. Having itself benefited from SA and UAE intervention to save its regime, the Bahraini ruling family was unlikely to disagree. They had no difficulty assembling an alliance of vassals, all of whom would be nowhere fast without GCC financial support. Sisi was unlikely to refuse given the billions of USD recently committed by Saudi Arabia to Egypt’s economic development, and its support when the US showed hesitation after his coup. None of the regimes financially and politically indebted to Saudi Arabia is in a position to refuse to join this alliance. Not only do the GCC states support these regimes, most of them dictatorial, but it is far more generous financially than the USA which, at the very least, pretends to set conditions of democratic procedures and support for human rights. Pakistan, Jordan, Sudan, and Morocco have all joined in.&nbsp; To date, no ground troops are involved.&nbsp; </p> <p>No state other than Iran has condemned the intervention.</p> <h2><strong>The people</strong></h2> <p>Meanwhile the Yemeni people are trapped. A symptom of the situation is the fact that Yemenis are now seeking refuge in Somalia!&nbsp; People are suffering daily destructive and murderous airstrikes. In addition to the fear and anxiety they cause, people have no idea how long these will last or who/where will be hit next. More than 500 people have been killed to date and 1800 wounded, certainly an underestimate. </p> <p>Shortages of food are worsening with lack of imports of basic staples and fuel shortages for their transport. What food is available is increasingly expensive. Water is short everywhere but in addition the Huthis are cutting the supplies to the areas of their enemies: Aden has been without water for a week. Electricity is intermittent everywhere.&nbsp; </p> <p>The country is under blockade with destroyed airports. The few countries which used to allow Yemenis in without visas, Egypt in particular, have withdrawn this facility, leaving 4000 or so Yemenis stranded in a range of airports unable to go home or enter the countries concerned.</p> <p>The already dire humanitarian situation is getting worse.&nbsp; Before the current flare up, the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan for 2015 was assessed at USD 747.5 million to assist 8.2 million people of the 16 million estimated to be in need of various forms of emergency assistance.&nbsp; By 31 March this had only been funded to the tune of 8%.</p> <h2><strong>Who is to blame?</strong></h2> <p>The transitional regime remained toothless and at the mercy of the country’s traditional political forces.&nbsp; In particular</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The Yemeni political class completely failed to address the country’s fundamental problems [water, rural development, employment creation etc] and has spent the last few decades either enriching itself or involved in in-fighting between its various factions.&nbsp; </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The security reform only affected the top level, leaving the military institutions loyal to Saleh</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The National Dialogue Conference was badly managed and unable to deal with the country’s main political factions</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Interim president Hadi had no power base of his own and was at the mercy of the Islah party which had the upper hand, leaving all other main political forces to join the opposition</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; the international community failed to strengthen the transition. Nice words to and about Hadi are no substitute for financial means to effectively rule the country. The argument ‘no development without security’ ensured that development funding remained on the shelf while only military/security related investments were made. The country is now eating the fruits of this development with the well trained Saleh forces and others fighting throughout the country</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The UN element of the transition was left under the management of an individual who soon lost the respect of the vast majority of Yemenis</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The GCC states, led by Saudi Arabia, acted according to their real interests, namely preventing the emergence of a truly democratic entity in Yemen. </p> <h2><strong>What now?</strong></h2> <p>As has been demonstrated all too often and all too clearly, it is easy to start a war, a lot more difficult to put an end to it<strong>. </strong>The current intervention has destroyed a lot of the country’s military hardware, but it has failed to prevent the Saleh/Huthi forces from taking control of most of the city of Aden and all the major cities outside of Hadramaut. The so-called al Qaeda takeover of Mukalla [Hadramaut’s capital] is an exact replica of the manner in which Ja’ar and Zinjibar were taken over by Ansar al Shari’a [an al Qaeda clone] in May 2011; here again, for al Qaeda read ‘Saleh irregular forces’. </p> <p>International media talk constantly of Huthi forces, but in reality the main military force in Yemen is now that of ex-president Saleh who, wherever he is, is doing what he promised: destroying as much as he possibly can, and the Huthis should beware.</p> <p>The factional and tribal fights which are multiplying will see shifting alliances according to different criteria, but finance will be fundamental, reminiscent of the 1960s Civil war after the establishment of the Republic in 1962.</p> <p>The humanitarian situation will continue to worsen with not only shortages of water, fuel and food, but in the absence of any means to earn an income, poverty will mean people are unable to buy the few goods on the market selling at inflated prices to make sure that the merchants, at least, continue to profit.&nbsp; While the injured will find it difficult to get treatment [with or without money], the dead at least won’t have to worry about their future!</p> <p>This war, like so many others, does not serve the interests of the majority of the population who seek development, a means of earning an income and of living healthy and happy lives with their families and friends. Looking back at the Vietnam War, won exactly 40 years ago this month, why the sacrifices of the thousands, indeed millions who died in the fighting? Why the health problems of those who suffered due to the dioxin and other chemicals poured onto the land by the US army?&nbsp; Children today are still born deformed and veterans too poor to live without selling lottery tickets on the street.&nbsp; Meanwhile the country has become a tourist paradise, with good cheap facilities and only a few posters and banners to remind people of the dreams of socialism and equity fought over so hard.&nbsp; Coca cola and&nbsp; KFC are everywhere…</p> <p>The war in Yemen serves the interests of the wealthy, the leaders of the main factions who have already accumulated billions [in USD] by bankrupting the country for the past 4 decades. Yet again they are demonstrating a complete lack of humanitarian concern for the Yemeni people.&nbsp; None of the leaders of the parties involved in the fighting has the objective of improving society, giving equal opportunities to all or using the country’s resources for the benefit of the majority.&nbsp; None of them intends to invest in social welfare, health and education to improve the overall living and working conditions of the people.&nbsp; Instead the beneficiaries are safe in their bunkers or their palaces in GCC states or beyond, politicking as ever while the people are being left without water or electricity when they are not being killed by starvation or explosives. And arms traders are laughing all the way to the banks.</p> <p>Decisive Storm will continue: airstrikes will soon become counter-productive with the population on the ground being very diverse, thus ensuring that ordinary inhabitants are hit alongside any intended targets. In addition, the Huthis are already putting their prisoners in or near weapons stores, so can they still be targets? Saudi air drops of weapons have already fallen into the wrong hands. The offensive is unlikely to involve ground troops, but this can’t be excluded. Egyptians will be cautious after their humiliation in the 1960s civil war in the Yemen Arab Republic. The beautiful country many of us know and miss so deeply is being destroyed and its millions of generous and wonderful people are being driven beyond endurance.</p> <p>The GCC/Saudi intervention was prompted by the immediate threat of a complete Huthi/Saleh take-over of the country and the prospect of having a regime closely allied to Hizbollah and Iran on their southern border.&nbsp; While Iran manifested only marginal interest in Yemen and the Huthis until recently, giving them no more than occasional verbal support, it has now seriously increased its diplomatic support and backed it up with increasing material support.&nbsp; There was reason to speculate that this sudden increased interest might be indirectly related to the nuclear negotiations and that they might well be willing to abandon the Huthis in exchange for some positive deal elsewhere.&nbsp; Now that the nuclear deal is in sight, it remains to be seen whether this speculation has any foundation. This, of course, could help shorten the war in Yemen or, at the very least, reduce its intensity in coming months.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>The UNSC no longer speaks in one voice on Yemen, with Russia now having an independent view.&nbsp; However, given the effectiveness of its earlier actions and decisions, this may well not be a particularly important factor.&nbsp; </p> <p>On a positive note, it can be safely said that the young democrats, hoping to develop a new politics for the twenty first century, with equity and well being for all, have plenty of time to reflect and develop their ideas. There is little prospect of putting them into practice for at least a decade.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/international-community-and-crisis-in-yemen">The international community and the crisis in Yemen</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/introduction-to-yemen%27s-emergency">An introduction to Yemen&#039;s emergency</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/helen-lackner/yemen-where-is-transition-heading">Yemen: where is the transition heading?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/helen-lackner/yemen%E2%80%99s-national-dialogue-will-it-succeed">Yemen’s National Dialogue: will it succeed?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia openSecurity Yemen Civil society Conflict Economics International politics Helen Lackner Mon, 06 Apr 2015 15:52:51 +0000 Helen Lackner 91806 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The international community and the crisis in Yemen https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/international-community-and-crisis-in-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If Hadi is to build on the popularity he gained in recent days, he needs to prove that he is the rightful heir to the 2011 revolution. That is the kind of support Hadi needs from the international community, not just kind words and drones.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1614608(1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1614608(1).jpg" alt="Yemeni PM (right) talks to UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar, 2012. " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Yemeni PM (right) talks to UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar, 2012.Luke Somers/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>This month, a series of attempts by the Huthi to create institutions, including a ‘Constitutional Statement’, failed to gain recognition for their coup. Rather the opposite. With the escape of President Hadi from house arrest on 21 February and his resumption of responsibilities, the situation in Yemen remains very problematic, and significant military confrontation is possible between the Huthis, controlling Sana’a and the far north of the country, and forces loyal to President Hadi, currently operating from Aden, while it remains to be seen what former president Saleh’s supporters will do.&nbsp; At time of writing, Hadi has the support of many governors, tribes from different parts of the country &nbsp;as well as most southern politicians, including those who until recently were demanding&nbsp; separation and blaming him for all manner of evils. He also has strong support from the International Community, confirmed by UNSC resolution 2201 passed on February 15 and statements by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) calling on the population to support him.</p> <p>This is a timely opportunity to examine the role of the international community in Yemen in recent years, focusing on four aspects in particular:</p> <p>-&nbsp; the role of the United Nations, primarily its political involvement in the transition process since 2011</p> <p>-&nbsp; the involvement of the ‘gang’ of 10 ambassadors in the transitional period and the effectiveness of its support to the transitional regime</p> <p>-&nbsp; the dilemmas faced by the GCC states and particularly Saudi Arabia in the face of the current situation, and</p> <p>-&nbsp; the involvement of foreign financiers in addressing the economic and humanitarian crisis. </p> <h2><strong>International concern after the 2011 uprisings</strong></h2> <p>The 2011 uprisings were a long-awaited reaction to the autocratic and kleptocratic rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh and, while completely locally based, certainly were triggered by events in Tunisia and Egypt, persuading thousands of younger people that change was possible.&nbsp; </p> <p>The situation stagnated for months due to the stalemate between the regime-controlled security and military forces and the peaceful revolutionaries supported by a smaller but powerful defecting military as well as the official political opposition after 18 March.&nbsp; </p> <p>From then onwards, anxiety over Yemen’s future spread far beyond its borders: first the GCC countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, intervened when it became clear that the existing regime was no longer sustainable. As this was not enough to oblige Saleh to resign, the United Nations Security Council passed its first resolution in October urging Saleh to do so. Finally the GCC agreement was signed on 23 November 2011 in Riyadh in the presence of various Yemeni and international notables.&nbsp; Details of this agreement have been discussed in <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/author/helen-lackner">my earlier articles</a>.</p> <p>The main point here is that the GCC agreement, supported by UNSC resolution 2014 of 2011 gave both GCC states and the UN officially recognised roles in the transition. A further group of 10 ambassadors from major countries were given a supervisory role. At the time, as the agreement was seen as the mechanism to avoid full-scale civil war, it was welcomed by many including people who normally object to what resembled a 'mandate' similar to the one imposed on the region by north Atlantic victors at the end of WW1. However, even then indicators suggested that the objectives and motives for this intervention were not entirely disinterested or primarily concerned with the livelihoods of the 25 million Yemenis:</p> <p>- No GCC state, and particularly not Saudi Arabia, was likely to welcome a fully-fledged democratic state in Yemen, particularly not one which would give priority to the needs of the majority of the population over those of the minority of ‘traditional’ or other wealthy leaders.</p> <p>- The interest of the US and other north Atlantic states was primarily focused on counter-terrorism against AQAP with poverty alleviation, development and humanitarian aspects taking second place.</p> <p>- The UN’s record in recent years does not encourage confidence in its ability to successfully manage a complex political transition.</p> <h2><strong>The UN and the National Dialogue Conference</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1614618.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/1614618.jpg" alt="Preparing for the National Dialogue conference in San'aa's presidential palace, 2012. " title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Preparing for theNational Dialogue conference in San'aa's preseidential palace, 2012. Luke Somers/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>True to its traditions, the UN established offices for the Political Affairs Department in Sana’a, filled with staff and international consultants whose role was to facilitate the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and constitutional reform. The NDC brought together 565 members whose selection was problematic, but efforts were made to be as inclusive as possible, with the participation of all political parties, civil society, youth and women. Its mandate was to solve all the country’s political problems, including the most contentious, and guide the drafting of a new constitution more representative of the nation as a whole and reflecting people’s hopes.&nbsp; </p> <p>Given its remit and its members’ lack of previous experience in such negotiations, strong guidance and support were essential to enable it to achieve its highly ambitious objectives, particularly given the extreme sensitivities and tensions of the political situation. While willing, enthusiastic and determined to find solutions, most of its members had none of the specific skills required to address these issues and develop a framework which would produce a constitutional pact or implementable political solutions.&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite having a USD 25 million trust fund specifically for this purpose the UN failed, letting the NDC drift aimlessly into general discussions. Other than ensuring that the NDC was held in the only super-luxury hotel in Sana’a (offering a view of Yemen from mostly curtained windows, and serving food many delegates regarded as unsuitable), the UN oversaw the definition of imprecise terms of reference for the 9 working groups, offered meetings ‘facilitated’ by young people who had received minimal training and made sure documents were distributed to members. It also ran a broad public relations ‘outreach’ exercise through the internet (mostly accessible for foreign media and researchers as the vast majority of Yemenis have no access to electronic media) alongside other mechanisms, which amounted to little more than the distribution of badges and showing of carefully staged videos of some events.</p> <p>It failed to advise on an effective agenda or provide the technical knowledge and expertise which would have assisted the groups in focusing their discussions on clear constitutional outcomes. It failed to assist discussions to address the not unexpected problems faced by the three most contentious working groups (state building, southern and northern issues). Instead, the NDC was comprised o a form of open brainstorming with largely unstructured debates and educational seminars. While these were stimulating, and imposed equality in dialogue on individuals from different backgrounds and social groups who would otherwise never have engaged in any discussions – in the event, this contributed little to solving the country’s most urgent political problems. And while workshops were either educational or confrontational, the general sessions were a series of position statements leading nowhere. </p> <p>The UN condoned or supported the ‘parallel’ direct involvement of a number of foreign states each of which were invited to ‘adopt’ a committee, holding private meetings with its key leaders, thus leading many participants and outsiders to believe that the ‘real’ decisions were being taken elsewhere and reducing confidence in the process. Given all this, it is unsurprising that the NDC finally produced a document with over 1800 recommendations, most of them well-meaning and valuable, but often repetitive and difficult to translate into a constitutional document. Or indeed that the main political problems remained unsolved.</p> <p>Overall, observers had to wonder at the UN’s effectiveness and leadership, including the choice of Special Adviser: is someone whose previous experience includes political dialogue in Afghanistan and Iraq the person most likely to succeed in finding peaceful solutions in the complex Yemeni environment? Who makes such an appointment? How is it revoked? Incumbents on Assistant Secretary General pay scale are unlikely to resign unless they are highly principled. The UN and some north Atlantic states even describe as an achievement Benomar’s 34 trips to Yemen (Presumably not including the airmiles and environmental impact). To crown all this, and despite his reputation in Yemen, the latest resolution requests the Secretary General ‘to propose options for strengthening the office of the Special Adviser…’.</p> <h2><strong>The international community and economic and financial crisis</strong></h2> <p>While the political crisis in Yemen was to be solved through the NDC and constitutional reform, the economic and humanitarian situation had been informally handed over to the ‘Friends of Yemen’ established in 2010 after the ‘underpants bomber’ incident, and jointly chaired by the UK and Saudi Arabia, the former to provide guidance while the latter foots the bill. In 2011 the economic and humanitarian crisis had worsened dramatically as shown by the drop in GDP of 12.7%. Yemen has been suffering increasing poverty rates throughout recent decades, reaching 54% in 2012.</p> <p>The country’s economy is based on oil and gas exports which dropped to 164,000 barrels/day production in 2014, due first to the exhaustion of the limited reserves, and second the frequent interruption of supply by people in the producing areas protesting at the lack of local development benefits as oil income was used to fill the coffers of kleptocrats in the capital.&nbsp; </p> <p>The main economic activity, agriculture (including livestock), contributes to the income of the 68% rural population, supplemented by men’s casual labour in the cities. Due to drought, expansion of export-oriented thirsty crops and a majority of farmers working very small rain fed plots either as owners, sharecroppers or even casual labourers, the rural economy has weakened to the extent that over 80% of Yemen’s poor live in rural areas. These economic issues were to be addressed with a significant influx of funds.</p> <p>Foreign aid failed to support the transitional regime. With USD 8.49 billion pledged by the international community by mid-2014, little is yet visible on the ground.&nbsp; Delays were explained away with excuses of lack of transparency and the low absorptive capacity of state institutions. The September 2012 Riyadh conference had agreed a ‘Mutual Accountability Framework’ which would ensure transparency from the Yemeni side and financing for the projects of the Transitional Development Plan. This was to be managed by the ‘Executive Bureau’ which only became operational in March 2014 when finally the Yemeni government and funders agreed on its management. Since then there has been some progress with 70% of all funds approved for specific projects, and 39% of the pledges have been disbursed, one third from Saudi Arabia, with an amount almost equal to the contribution of all OECD funders put together. Most approved projects finance infrastructure, some of questionable value but high cost. They fail to assist the long-term economic development which would create lasting employment and provide viable economic investments for ordinary people.</p> <p>In view of the dire state of the economy, it is unsurprising that the humanitarian situation has continued to worsen and has now reached emergency proportions with about 16 million people in need of some assistance, including 10.5 million food insecure. Despite this, only 67% of the UN’s Humanitarian Strategic Response Plan for 2014 has been funded, leaving people wondering why such modest amounts by international standards could not be found. How does this reflect on the real concerns and commitments of the international community?</p> <p>Yemenis will continue to interpret lack of development and humanitarian support, particularly from north Atlantic states, in favour of their single-minded focus on AQAP and the remote potential threat of terrorism in their own lands, as complete uninterest in the reality and daily problems they face - &nbsp;with lack of employment, lack of water, lack of food or any of the other basics for a dignified life.</p> <h2><strong>GCC perceptions of the situation:&nbsp; what is to be done?</strong></h2> <p>As demonstrated by financial contributions as well as involvement with the ‘solution’ to the crisis, the GCC states are the outsiders most concerned with the situation in Yemen. For the UAE, it remains a fairly distant country seeking the unlikely opening of GCC borders to its large unemployed labour force. Saudi Arabia has always seen Yemen as a threat, given their comparable population size and its regime which, since the demise of the Imamate in 1962, has been republican and manifested democratic features. Although Saudi Arabia currently has other urgent problems to address (a new king, issues of succession and power within the kingdom, the Syria and Iraq crises), Yemen remains a focus of concern.&nbsp; </p> <p>For the Saudis, right now, the situation in Yemen presents a series of dilemmas which are not easily solved. They don’t like the Huthis, seen as Iranian proxies, Hashemites/Sada and Shi’a, who, moreover, expelled the Salafi educational institution from its base; in addition the areas they control are along the most populated stretch of the Saudi-Yemeni border. Thus Huthis have a series of characteristics which, for Saudi Arabia, are markers of enmity. </p> <p>At the same time, Saudi Arabia is totally opposed to armed Salafis incarnated in AQAP which, among other things, attempted to assassinate Mohammed bin Nayef, currently third in line to the throne and Minister of the Interior, and which considers Saudi Arabia a major target. They also dislike former president Saleh for being an unreliable upstart military man. Southern Separatists also may be mistaken for socialists, yet another dreaded bogeyman. So at this point, their main option is to support a range of tribal leaders and others who oppose all the above-mentioned forces. President Hadi’s return to his functions is welcome, and there are rumours that Saudi Arabia played a role in bringing about his escape from Sana’a.</p> <h2><strong>The future</strong></h2> <p>Failure of the transition and its current lack of popular support can largely be attributed not so much to its political failures but more than anything, to the fact that ordinary people’s living conditions have shown no sign of improvement in the past 4 years. If Hadi is to build on the popularity he gained in recent days, above all else he needs to prove that he is the rightful heir to the 2011 revolution. This means improving economic and social conditions and enabling the people to live in dignity, not an&nbsp; easy agenda, but possible if sufficient funds are made available to address the dire humanitarian situation and finance development projects with a longterm impact on the rural and urban community level economies, ocusing on skill development, production and marketing with small useful infrastructure. That is the kind of support Hadi needs from the international community, not just kind words and drones.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/introduction-to-yemen%27s-emergency">An introduction to Yemen&#039;s emergency</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/helen-lackner/yemen-where-is-transition-heading">Yemen: where is the transition heading?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/helen-lackner/yemen%E2%80%99s-priorities-feed-starving-children-or-security">Yemen’s priorities: feed the starving children or security?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/helen-lackner/struggle-for-security-and-against-terrorism-in-yemen-in-whose-interests">The struggle for security and against terrorism in Yemen: in whose interests? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Helen Lackner Thu, 26 Feb 2015 09:07:31 +0000 Helen Lackner 90836 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An introduction to Yemen's emergency https://www.opendemocracy.net/north-africa-west-asia/helen-lackner/introduction-to-yemen%27s-emergency <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>This piece aims to provide the minimum necessary background to understand recent and forthcoming events in a rapidly changing situation in Yemen.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Bab_Al_Yemen_Sanaa_Yemen.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Bab_Al_Yemen_Sanaa_Yemen.jpg" alt="Bab_Al_Yemen." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Bab_Al_Yemen. Wikicommons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The determination of the mass street demonstrations and occupations throughout the country in 2011 were insufficient to firmly exclude the former ruler from future involvement in Yemeni politics. Although Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to abandon the presidency in November 2011 under pressure from the Gulf Cooperation Council&nbsp; (GCC) and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), neither the GCC, the UNSC nor indeed the Yemeni people were able to force him out of the country. He remained in Yemen as a major force subverting the transitional process. </p><h2><strong>Hadi, the rock and the hard place</strong></h2> <p>His successor, former Vice President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, surprised many by not acting as a mere puppet to Saleh, but was unfortunately unable to manage the political transition towards a new Yemen. While most of the commitments included in the GCC agreement were formally implemented,&nbsp; in practice the transitional regime was unable to make the fundamental changes which were essential to bring about a ‘new’ Yemen and transfer power away from the previous elite groups. In addition to the points below, this was largely because the GCC/UNSC sponsored deal remained firmly within the confines of neoliberal policies and did not clearly and explicitly support a fundamental transformation and democratization of the country, which would challenge its existing elites.</p> <p>The Government of National Unity was formed as planned: with a majority of ministers from the&nbsp; main existing elite factions (Saleh’s GPC and the Islah party<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>), who used their ministries as bases to increase their patronage and income while the ministers from minority parties, women, youth and civil society were unable to affect the situation. This government gained the reputation of being the most ineffective and corrupt in the country’s history. Islah’s influence kept it in power with the aged Prime Minister who was its man till mid-2014, when the party was seriously weakened in fighting with the Huthis.</p> <h2><strong>The old guard infiltrate democratisation</strong></h2> <p>With considerable difficulty but determination, Hadi successfully changed most of the leaders of the main military and security institutions, removing those most closely associated with Saleh; but he was unable to change the middle ranking officers, and the majority of units, particularly the well-trained ones, remained loyal to Saleh. This is one of, if not <em>the</em> main reason why Hadi was unable to respond militarily to the Huthi take-over of Sana’a in September 2014 or effectively fight them in recent days when they took over of the main centres of political power (Radio and TV,&nbsp; Presidential Palaces,&nbsp; Council of Ministers, etc.)</p> <p>The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) was intended to bring together all Yemeni political forces, the traditional parties and personalities as well as the new ones emerging from the 2011 popular uprisings, including women, youth and civil society. Although delayed and the selection and representation mechanisms for its membership were somewhat debatable, this was an important political event where young people, women and civil society elements were able to express unorthodox views. Older influential ‘traditional’ leaders were compelled to engage with them as equals, something which some of them probably resented. The NDC produced over 1800 recommendations. Due to fundamental political disagreements, it was unable to agree solutions to the Southern question (discussed below) or decide the number of regions to be included in a federal state.</p> <h2><strong>Who are the Huthis?</strong></h2> <p>Until recently, most people had never heard of them.&nbsp; The name of their movement is that of their leaders’ family. Originally set up in 1992 by Hussein al Huthi as the ‘Believing Youth’ social and Zaydi revivalist movement, it first operated in alliance with Saleh’s regime<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>. However, Saleh encouraged the establishment of the rival Dar al Hadith Salafi centre in the heart of the Zaydi community. This led in 2004 to the first of a series of wars between the Saleh regime and the Huthi movement. Although Hussein al Huthi was killed in September 2004, the movement increased in strength despite worsening violent repression through 6 wars which killed thousands, displaced more, and destroyed the local economy and infrastructure. A ceasefire was agreed in 2010, and would probably not have held had the 2011 uprisings not taken place. </p> <p>Ideologically, the Huthis share the social characteristics of other fundamentalist groups, including claims to theological correctness, belief in unquestioning obedience to leaders and a retrograde attitude to women’s rights. Although a Shi’a group, Zaydi theological differences with Sunnis are few and the main distinguishing characteristic is their belief in the innate right of <em>sada</em> [ie descendants of the prophet] to rule. </p> <h2><strong>Rise of the Huthis</strong></h2> <p>In 2011 the Huthis participated in the uprisings against the Saleh regime where, after March, they found themselves on the same side as some of their main enemies: Ali Mohsen al Ahmar (the main military leader fighting them during the wars) and the Islah Party, long-standing rivals in their home areas. Instability throughout the country gave them the opportunity of taking complete control of their home governorate of Sa’ada bordering Saudi Arabia by the end of 2011, and in the following years, of increasing parts of the neighbouring governorates of Hajja, Amran and Jawf. </p> <p>The NDC ended a year ago, on 25 January 2014, and the ‘implementation of the outcomes of the NDC’ has since then become a slogan used in all official policy statements, including those which completely contradict these outcomes. The year revealed the fundamental weaknesses of the GCC agreement through the slowing down of progress on reforms on the one hand and the worsening security situation on the other. The transition was due to end in February 2014 but extended without a new deadline, largely to allow the Constitutional Drafting Committee (CDC) to carry out its duties and the preparation of a referendum on the constitution and new elections. </p> <h2><strong>The Saleh-Huthi pact</strong></h2> <p>How did the Huthis rise from being a minority regional politico-military movement to taking complete control over the formal state in less than one year? Long suspected by most Yemenis, but ignored by the international community, and denied by both concerned parties, the alliance between the Huthis and Saleh has been the main factor behind their military success. The vast majority of the Huthis’ armed forces are military and security units loyal to Saleh who follow his orders. Moreover even senior Huthi leaders take orders from Saleh, as revealed by a recently leaked telephone conversation<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> between Saleh and Abdul Wahed Abu Ras (Huthi representative at the NDC) where the former orders the latter to coordinate activities with Saleh loyalists, to ensure they control the country’s borders; they even discuss the appointment of the next Prime Minister: Abu Ras meekly acquiesces. Last week, it also emerged that the military refused to obey the Minister of Defence’s order to protect the Presidential Palace and other strategic locations in Sana’a: the only group who fought back were the President’s personal guard, suffering heavy casualties<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Last September, people wondered how the Huthis managed to take control of the capital, Sana’a, without firing a shot; the answer is clearly that the army and security forces made no move to defend the legitimate regime of President Hadi. Many people are looking forward to the moment when the Huthis remember that Saleh insulted their leader. It was also thanks to Saleh’s military forces that the Huthis defeated the al Ahmars and the Islah party in Amran Governorate, where they burned down the houses of the leading shaykhs. In September, their other main enemy, General Ali Mohsen who had led Saleh’s forces against them in the wars escaped to Saudi Arabia,&nbsp; and the Huthis organized tours of his ‘house’ in Sana’a as well as ransacking those of the absent al Ahmars.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>Allies &amp; enemies: sectarianism, regionalism and tribe</strong></h2> <p><strong>Al Qaida.&nbsp; </strong>The list of Huthi enemies is increasing. They have alienated many segments of the population. Their tactic of blowing up the houses of anyone who disagrees with them in the areas they control, certainly silences opposition but also increases resentment. While they have taken control of many Zaydi areas in the country, in the Shafi’i areas the situation is very different and people are fighting back. This has little, if anything, to do with theological differences or a Sunni/Shi’a split, but is based on issues of social cohesion, including tribal allegiance, power, control and (the absence of) development and social security funding for an increasingly impoverished and suffering population.&nbsp; </p> <p>The other major strong fundamentalist armed group in Yemen, Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is certainly using this situation to its advantage, promoting itself as the defender of Sunnis against takeover by Shi’a: for example, in al Bayda governorate, opposition to outsiders and other factors listed above have led local tribes to work alongside AQAP in opposition to the Huthis. The heavily populated governorates of Taizz and Ibb have few Huthis supporters and there are occasional battles between Huthis and others in these areas, and there is strong opposition to them.</p> <p><strong>The south</strong>&nbsp; </p><p>Further south, the Huthis have asserted their commitment to Yemeni Unity which means that the southern separatists have joined their opponents. While deeply divided with almost as many leaders as individual separatists, they are currently clearly unable to manage the former area of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. One leader declared independence (22 January) of the two southern regions (under the proposed federation of 6 regions), thus opening the gates for Hadramaut in the east to separate from the rest of the former PDRY, something which most observers firmly believe they will do in the case of secession. While no less than 16 other separatist ‘organizations’ met to discuss the situation on January 23.</p> <p><strong>Who supports the Huthis?</strong></p> <p>At least until recently, they had considerable popular support from a wide range of Yemenis including all those who dislike the Islah Party, a majority of the population in the northern part of the country primarily populated by Zaydis, and&nbsp; among <em>sada</em> throughout the country. In addition, their populist positions such as opposition to the IMF-supported fuel price rises, claims to support law and order and opposition to corruption have increased the numbers of their supporters. And, of course, many Saleh supporters including military and security troops can be relied upon to participate in carefully staged supposedly ‘popular’ support demonstrations.</p> <h2><strong>The slow coup</strong></h2> <p>The trigger for the events of the past week was, at long last, the presentation of the draft Constitution to the ‘Higher Authority for Monitoring the Implementation of NDC Outcomes’, after ten months of activity by the Constitutional Drafting Committee — much of it spent in luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi and elsewhere. While details of the proposed constitution are not analysed here, the Huthis’ main objection is the proposed federation of 6 regions. The original proposal excluded Hajja governorate with its outlet on the Red Sea from the region which covers most of the Huthi-controlled areas, though the Huthis have tried to control that area for a long time. Whether this was the actual only reason for their ‘slow’ coup may be revealed in coming decades. </p> <p>By January 22, they had full military control over Sana’a, including all its strategic institutions, something which they could have done months ago. They wanted to keep President Hadi as a puppet president, as they hoped he would be able to ensure acceptance of their coup by the international community, and hence a continuation of financial assistance. However Saudi Arabia, the main financier, has stopped payments for anything other than emergency humanitarian aid since the September take-over. The rest of the international community rejected this illegal takeover and aid, already far too limited, is drying up. Without an acceptable ‘front’, there was no hope of it being resumed.&nbsp; </p> <p>The Huthis overplayed their hand by kidnapping the Director of the President’s office<a href="#_ftn5">[5]</a>, then imprisoning the President in his house and the Prime Minister in the Presidential Palace and trying to blackmail them into accepting Huthi nominees as Vice President, Deputy Ministers in most ministries and top officials in senior positions in security and other key institutions. At this point the President and Prime Minister had two options: resign or openly operate as Huthi puppets. They chose the first, and at the very least have retained self-respect and the respect of many Yemenis.</p> <h2><strong>What next? </strong>&nbsp;</h2> <p>Meanwhile, the majority of the population remain demoralised and impoverished, suffering from electricity cuts in the cities (most rural areas where 68% of the population still live don’t have electricity anyway) higher prices everywhere, massive unemployment, floods or drought in agriculture. Most people feel demobilized and are waiting to see what happens next, hoping it won’t be another bomb killing dozens of their youth. The economy is almost non-existent and the country’s groundwater is running out. A sad situation and a grim future.&nbsp; </p> <h2><strong>The ‘international community’</strong></h2> <p>The ‘international community’ has not intervened effectively.&nbsp; Despite claiming to support Hadi, in the last 2 years, nothing meaningful was done to strengthen his position. Counter-terrorism took priority, drone strikes reduced Hadi’s limited support base and probably increased support for armed aggressive fundamentalists. </p> <p>In addition to developing an inclusive democracy, Hadi could have achieved strong and broad support throughout the country with massive development investment linked to effective humanitarian interventions. This would have enabled the millions of increasingly impoverished people to achieve something akin to a reasonable standard of living through agricultural development, other economic development (such as small and medium industries and services) in rural and urban areas, as well as improved social services and basic relevant infrastructure.&nbsp; </p> <p>Such a programme would have given hope to millions that a new Yemen is really possible, and would have persuaded many more to come out and demonstrate against the Huthis. It would have retained the energies of the thousands of youth activists from 2011, all hoping for a better life and participation in the country’s future. In recent days, increasingly serious demonstrations are taking place daily throughout the country opposing the Huthis, with many youth and women involved, something of a revival of the spirit of 2011; they are being repressed with beatings and shootings.</p> <p>As of 24 January, the Huthis are keeping the President and other senior leaders under house arrest.&nbsp; Formally, the successor to the President has to be the speaker of the Parliament, Yahia Ali al Ra’i, a firm Saleh loyalist who called for a meeting of Parliament for 25 January, a meeting which was then cancelled after southerners refused to attend; this meeting is necessary to accept or reject the President’s resignation. Negotiations are being held, presumably to persuade Hadi to withdraw his resignation. However keeping him incommunicado (his telecoms are monitored/controlled) is hardly likely to persuade him to withdraw it. Meanwhile, the alliance between Huthis and Saleh holds, but this is unlikely to last. Where the balance of power lies within this alliance will determine the future.</p> <p class="Footnote"><em>For detailed analysis of current developments in Yemen see Helen Lackner ed.&nbsp; </em>Why Yemen Matters<em>, Saqi books 2014</em></p> <hr size="1" /> <p class="Footnote"><a href="#_ftnref1">[1]</a>&nbsp; The Islah party is a conglomerate of Hashed tribal supporters of the al Ahmar family, now led&nbsp; mainly&nbsp; by Sadek and Hamid on the one hand, and Salafi fundamentalists led by Abdul Majid Zindani</p> <p class="Footnote"><a href="#_ftnref2">[2]</a>&nbsp; Hussein al Huthi was a member of the Parliament from 1993-97 and one of his brothers followed at the next election</p> <p class="Footnote"><a href="#_ftnref3">[3]</a>&nbsp; Leaked to al Jazeera TV on&nbsp; 21 January 2015 though it took place last October</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref4">[4]</a>&nbsp; On Monday 19 January, the only day when there was armed resistance to the coup.</p> <p class="Footnote"><a href="#_ftnref5">[5]&nbsp; </a>On 17 January as he was on his way to the formal presentation of the draft constitution to the relevant institution</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/steven-zyck/crisis-in-yemen-what-media-is-getting-wrong">Crisis in Yemen: what the media is getting wrong</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/open-security/aaron-edwards/yemen-descent-into-anarchy">Yemen: descent into anarchy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> North Africa, West Asia North-Africa West-Asia Yemen Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Economics International politics Helen Lackner Sun, 25 Jan 2015 12:52:37 +0000 Helen Lackner 89905 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A short excursion to pre-referendum Scotland https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/helen-lackner/short-excursion-to-prereferendum-scotland <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On a short trip to pre-referendum Scotland, it's possible to find senior figures in the yes campaign in small town halls across the country, making the case for a social democratic Scotland.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Birnam.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/553846/Birnam.jpg" alt="" title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Birnam, Perthshire</span></span></span></p><p>Mid-August 2014. A week in Scotland, weather reasonably good. Visited friends who support the Yes campaign, but are not particularly active canvassing, or at least not yet. Until 18 August saw very few ‘yes’ or ‘no thanks’ notices, though the latter usually prominent in fields and other rural areas, while the former more visible in the towns and cities, including one big flag on the roof of the Chamber of Commerce building in Dundee. Certainly on the last day we saw more ‘no’ posters than others, but during the previous 5 days, saw practically none, at least none that I noticed.</p> <p>Websites of both campaigns offer plenty of opportunities for leafleting, door to door canvassing, and market stalls. We wanted to attend meetings: had sought them out before going and found none for that period for the ‘no’ campaign within 25 miles of Perth or the west coast where we were planning to be, though we did avoid the two main cities to get away from the traffic and crowds. As result attended three pro-independence meetings in Crieff, Birnam and Carnoustie, all small to medium sized towns. A few observations: </p> <ul><li><p> first all three halls were full regardless of timing [Friday evening, Saturday morning and Sunday evening] with well over 100 people attending, no empty seats.</p> </li><li><p>participants were of wide age range, though I estimate the over-50s were the majority everywhere</p> </li><li><p>gender balance was in favour of women though, given that one meeting was run by ‘Women for Independence’ [open to men] and another was only for women, this is hardly surprising. At the third, I reckon there were about half of each gender</p> </li><li><p>the atmosphere of all three meetings was very ‘placid’, positive and friendly. No violent outbursts and generally politeness and courtesy reigned. Not sure if there was any ‘background’ to this, but at each meeting the chair initially stated that the discussion should take place with ‘respect’ to the opposing view.</p> </li></ul> <p>Although selected simply because they were accessible and taking place during our visit, the speakers we heard were very prominent. The first meeting had John Swinney, the Minister of Finance, Michelle Thomson, a leading business woman promoting Scotland, and Jeane Freeman, the former Special Adviser to Labour’s First Minister. The second was addressed by Lesley Riddoch, the non-party affiliated author of a recent book discussing the social problems of Scotland and the anti-poor [or pro-wealthy] policies of Westminster (<em>Blossom</em> a good book, well worth a read about recent decades of social change in Scotland) and the third by Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy first Minister of Scotland and the Deputy Leader of the SNP who was on her third meeting for the day! Somehow we missed the event with the leader of the SNP and First Minister which happened the next day but we hadn’t found it on the website. So it is clear that the ‘yes’ campaign is very active and that it is able to field some really senior people in even fairly remote places. To my knowledge none of the medium towns where these meetings were held had any particular significance with respect to polls or other aspects of the referendum.</p> <p>The speakers all managed to be lively and really interesting, and in particular to present complex issues clearly and in a language understandable by all. The meetings were focused on policies and on the positive aspects of independence rather than petty ‘political’ arguments such as we get daily down here on every issue, with the Tories pointing out that whatever it is they want to do is to correct the mistakes and deal with the disasters left behind by the previous Labour administration; not having to hear this trivia [and nonsense] was a great relief and contributed to making attending these meetings pleasant, despite the fact that all of them lasted a full 2 hours. To summarise the presentations, the arguments presented, directly or indirectly, were as follows:</p> <ul><li><p>Scotland is wealthier than UK at present and its resources are sufficient to maintain a good welfare state, on the social democratic model of 1960s Scandinavia. Currently Scotland pays into the overall UK budget more than it receives back. More than once was it mentioned that Scotland would be among the top wealthy countries in the world, if I remember rightly number 4. Hence an independent Scotland will be able to ensure a higher standard of living for its people.</p> </li><li><p>An independent Scotland would have full control over its finances; for example although currently health and education are devolved, the overall budget is determined in London and therefore Scotland cannot fully set its own priorities</p> </li><li><p>Regardless of scare stories from Osborne and others, Scotland could continue to use Sterling. While it would prefer an agreement on currency which would give Scotland a say in setting interest rates and monetary policy, even without these things, Scotland could use the Pound. No one can stop anyone using this currency anywhere. This came up both in the initial presentations and very much in discussions, as it had clearly been a major issue in the media in recent weeks and the meetings came just after the head of the Bank of England had made a statement on the subject, rather more positive or at least neutral than earlier threats by the Chancellor in London.</p> </li><li><p>Defence and getting rid of nuclear weapons was also raised as a) a means of saving money b) a policy which is widely approved by Scots and c) an actual realistic option though it was recognised that it would take some time to implement.</p> </li><li><p>Independent Scotland would maintain and improve current high standards in public health service, free higher education and certainly improve welfare issues, in particular cancel the ‘bedroom tax’. It would run a truly social democratic system reducing inequality and improving living conditions for the poor.</p> </li><li><p>People should not be afraid of this change, it is a challenge but Scotland would be far better off, with more investment in infrastructure, job creation, apprenticeships, a fairer society and run by politicians who have proved their competence over the years of devolution.</p> </li></ul> <p>Questions and discussion focused very much on social welfare issues in the broadest sense: the NHS and the impact of the many privatization aspects of the NHS in England, education, welfare and pensions in particular [they would be maintained and no one would suffer]. There were questions on the currency, clearly a concern successfully raised by the ‘no’ campaign, on nuclear weapons, and on jobs. While I attended there was only one clearly anti-independence question, from a clearly very frustrated and angry woman who questioned the speaker’s ‘right to challenge the Union’. International relations remained completely absent from the discussions and the only fundamental ‘constitutional’ questions raised concerned the monarchy [an issue to be addressed after independence has been achieved] in one case and the number of parliamentary chambers [one elected] in another.</p> <p>My conclusion is that the basis of the discussion and the main arguments in favour of independence focused on the type of socio-economic policies favoured, ie a welfare oriented social democracy versus the current neo-liberal Westminster regime. These are not fundamentally sovereignty issues and, were the UK currently managed within the welfare state paradigm of the 1960s, the pro-independence people would have little to say. The only fundamental issue discussed in detail and clearly interesting to the participants was that of nuclear weapons. Although raised, other issues relating clearly to sovereignty such as the type of parliament, the role of the head of state, preference for a republican/monarchical system. In that respect, many south of the border would certainly support the objectives stated by the pro-independence campaigners: a fair caring society, a decent welfare system, a functioning national health service, free education, reduced inequality. All we need to do to get all these things is to get a truly social-democratic Party in power. Too bad that such a party doesn’t exist in the UK.</p> uk uk Scotland's future Helen Lackner Tue, 02 Sep 2014 07:42:50 +0000 Helen Lackner 85459 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yemen: where is the transition heading? https://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/yemen-where-is-transition-heading <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The humanitarian situation remains grave. Why doesn’t it receive the attention given to similar situations elsewhere?&nbsp; With over 10 million people hungry, 13 million without access to water and sanitation, 1 million children malnourished, and about 700,000 IDPs and refugees, there is no doubt that there is a need for urgent humanitarian action.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>With yet another meeting of the so-called Friends of Yemen (FOY) and the National Dialogue finally due to start on 18 March, it is time to update on the situation in Yemen which presents a unique and interesting case among the Arab ‘revolutions’ of this decade.&nbsp; </p> <p>The first phase of the transition lasted 90 days and included the formation of a national Unity Government, and the election of the Vice President to replace the President of 33 years.&nbsp; This was successfully completed last February. &nbsp;As there was only one candidate, the high voter participation was a surprise and transformed the election from the widely expected rubber stamp into a strong and clear popular demand for serious change.</p> <p>The second phase has two years in which to implement the following: reform and restructuring of the security/military institutions, enactment of a transitional justice law, and holding a comprehensive National Dialogue to redefine the country’s political system and decide on the basic principles which will underlie a new constitution.&nbsp; An ambitious agenda.&nbsp;</p> <h2>The National Dialogue&nbsp;</h2> <p>International pressure has ensured that Dialogue participants include 30% women, and also calls for adequate representation of the revolutionary youth who were the main actors of the 2011 events, as well as all groups who have specific grievances, in particular the Southern and Huthi movements.&nbsp; According to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Agreement, it is due to last 6 months and be immediately followed by a Constitutional Commission.&nbsp; This Commission has three months to prepare a draft new constitution which needs to be put to a referendum; no time scale is specified between the finalisation of the draft constitution and the referendum, but it states that parliament then has three months from the adoption of the new constitution to enact a law convening the elections which bring the transition period to an end.&nbsp; As basic arithmetic shows, with six months of national dialogue, three months to prepare the constitution, time for a referendum, three months for Parliament to adopt the new constitution and an undefined period to prepare and hold elections, this process will take over a year.&nbsp; </p> <p>As the National Dialogue is now due to start on 18 March, after four months delay, there is no way the whole process will be completed by February 2014.&nbsp; Hence it is somewhat surprising to note that the Friends of Yemen meeting held on 7 March welcomes a Government plan to “deliver full presidential and parliamentary elections in February 2014”. This can only be achieved by cutting down some of the planned steps, which is likely to reduce the depth of participation, narrow popular involvement and restrict the scope of discussions. &nbsp;Rushing the process will seriously reduce its ability to address and reach conclusions and decisions representing a real consensus of the myriad different and often conflicting views on the major important issues which need addressing.&nbsp; These include the form of rule [presidential or parliamentary], whether to introduce a different form of decentralization either with a number of regions or a more federal structure. &nbsp;This alone will take considerable time as it means agreeing the number and delimitation of the different regions, which means addressing demographic, social as well as agro-ecological and water basin/aquifer&nbsp; issues all of which are determining factors for the future viability of the regions and the country as a whole.&nbsp; In addition, of course, the level of financial and administrative autonomy of the regions/governorates needs to be agreed and included in the constitution.</p> <p>Yemenis have, to date, avoided civil war and massive death toll.&nbsp; This is a major achievement which can largely be attributed to the youth of the Change Squares remaining determinedly peaceful in 2011 despite provocation and the attacks they endured.&nbsp; However, developments in recent months are cause for concern:&nbsp; current trends in the preparation of the Dialogue suggest that the outcome will not bring about the fundamental political and economic changes which millions hoped for and thousands died for in the last two years.</p> <p>Among the issues which have delayed the dialogue to date, the Southern question has taken most time and energy.&nbsp; Faced with a group of stubborn and aged leaders of the former PDRY all clamouring for independence/separatism, the dialogue preparatory committee has made significant concessions: the main one &nbsp;- to give the South up to 57% of the seats in the Dialogue meetings and institutions despite the fact that they represent at best 30% of the country’s population - has been described as a ‘confidence building measure’.&nbsp; It remains to be seen whether or not this succeeds in bringing them to the discussion table with the intention of discussing anything other than separation.&nbsp; Yet another meeting in Dubai on 9 March with the UN’s Special Envoy Jamal Benomar has only achieved agreement to hold another meeting. &nbsp;One also wonders how much the voice on non-separatist southerners will be heard. &nbsp;What is certain is that such concessions on the share of seats to the Southern separatist have the side-effect of reducing representation of other groups such as the independent youth and the rural poor, whose grievances and hopes may be equal or greater and whose agenda is more focused on the emergence of a better future for Yemen and its people. </p> <p>Analysis of the known participants to the National Dialogue indicates that, in addition to that of Southern Separatists, the main voice which will be heard is that of the Islah party.&nbsp; Islah is now the strongest element in national politics.&nbsp; It also dominated the Change Squares movement in its later months and thus displaced the ‘independent’ youth, who now are only marginally involved in the Dialogue.&nbsp; Women, while represented, mostly are part of their political factions’ groups and will hopefully bring more realism to the discussions.&nbsp; Minorities have been included in the Dialogue, including some such as the Jews who only represent a minuscule proportion of the national population [there are currently about 500 Jews in the country] and others, such as the Akhdam whose numbers are more meaningful.&nbsp; Efforts to include the widest range of special interest groups have neither prevented the domination of the major elite supporters [whether GPC or Islah] from having the majority of places, nor have they ensured any kind of demographic balance on the basis of either regional or socio-economic criteria.&nbsp; Giving voice to the South and to Huthis has encouraged the emergence of other regional interests, in particular from the Tihama.&nbsp; This may help the dialogue to develop truly regional decentralization.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Military and security developments&nbsp;</h2> <p>The second major responsibility of the transition period is the restructuring of the military/security apparatus.&nbsp; Although not finalised, it currently appears to be the most successful element.&nbsp; Within a year of taking power, President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi first removed the closest associates and relatives of Ali Abdullah Saleh from their leadership positions in the most powerful, well equipped and well trained (by the US among others) military/security institutions.&nbsp; Having done this through the usual (but effective) slicing mechanism, he then established new structures for the armed forces and the police.&nbsp; They are based on the Jordanian model and eliminate the multiplicity of power centres by abolishing some of the institutions and replacing them with fewer organisations whose role is better defined.&nbsp; There is still much to be done, including the appointment of leaders of the new units.&nbsp; </p> <p>It would be foolhardy to state that this battle is finally won, though there are signs of progress.&nbsp; While the second half of 2012 was marked by a succession of assassinations targeting newly appointed or potential military leaders and others who had been successful in displacing the insurgents from many of their strongholds, such assassinations and other attempts are fewer in 2013. &nbsp;Another positive sign has been the arrest and confiscation of large weapons consignments arriving by sea; although the destination of the weapons remains uncertain, the fact that both small and medium weapons are now in the hands of state forces must be greeted with relief.&nbsp; What is notable here is not so much that weapons are shipped to Yemen, but more the fact that they have been confiscated.&nbsp; </p> <p>Despite this, insecurity is still a major problem in the daily life of Yemenis and the remaining foreigners.&nbsp; Fighting between insurgents and Government forces has shifted mostly to al Baidha governorate in recent weeks, and the signs are that, although still active, the rebels have definitely been weakened.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Transitional justice&nbsp;</h2> <p>The transitional justice law is sitting in the Parliament and getting nowhere as there is considerable disagreement as to whether it should deal with events of 2011, or go back to 1994 or even earlier.&nbsp; Some even argue it should go back to the events in the South in 1986.&nbsp; This could go on for a long time. Meanwhile the wounded of 2011 are continuing to suffer and the families of the dead await some kind of closure.</p> <h2>Economic and humanitarian aspects</h2> <p>As mentioned in earlier articles, the GCC agreement completely ignores economic issues which are certainly at the forefront of concerns for the vast majority of Yemen’s 25 million people.&nbsp; The ‘Friends of Yemen’ are expected to address financial and economic issues.&nbsp; At the end of February 2013 pledges amount to USD 7.6 billion, of which only USD 1.6 billion has been spent, though the bulk of this (USD 1 Billion) is a deposit by Saudi Arabia in the Central Bank of Yemen, to bolster the currency.&nbsp; Some of the remaining has gone to humanitarian aid.&nbsp; </p> <p>Meanwhile, &nbsp;USD 5.4 billion has been ‘allocated’ which may mean that it might materialise, while USD 2.7 billion has been approved, which means it is slightly more likely to actually happen.&nbsp; According to the financiers, the main constraint to disbursement is lack of transparency and corruption in government.&nbsp; This is always said with absolute seriousness and ignores similar issues among the elites of some funding states.&nbsp; </p> <p>The next excuse is ‘low absorptive capacity’ in the country, which implies the absence of qualified cadres or of people willing to learn.&nbsp; While this is arguable given the many Yemenis with high levels of qualifications and experience, one could also wonder why the experts sent over the decades have so abysmally failed to transmit their knowledge and skills to young Yemeni civil servants or others.&nbsp; Instead they have promoted the establishment of parallel institutions with well paid qualified staff such as the Social Fund for Development; such staff could well have strengthened the absorptive capacity of the civil service if offered the same working conditions.&nbsp; In the context of the pledges, foreign financiers have insisted on the establishment of a ‘Mutual Accountability Framework’ to control corruption and this is to be implemented by yet another newly created Executive Bureau to manage the funds.</p> <p>The humanitarian situation remains grave.&nbsp; One wonders why it does not receive the attention given to similar situations elsewhere.&nbsp; With over 10 million people hungry or officially ‘food insecure’ and 13 million without access to water and sanitation, 1 million children malnourished and about 700 000 IDPs and refugees, there is no doubt that there is a need for urgent humanitarian action.&nbsp; In 2012, 45% of households had to borrow money to buy food.&nbsp; The UN’s annual Humanitarian Response Plan [including UN and NGO humanitarian projects] primarily focuses on refugees and IDPs: in 2012 it ended up only being financed at 56%, despite the above mentioned large pledges of the FOY. &nbsp;The amount requested for 2013 has been increased to USD 716 million and with two full months of the year gone has only been funded at 2%.</p> <p>In conclusion, the positive points are: there is no civil war, the national dialogue might yet come up with a more democratic system, and reform of the military/security institutions could improve their performance. But massive difficulties remain: the dominance of Islamists in the transition is discouraging, the absence of any challenge to the neo-liberal economic recipes does not bode well for improvements in living conditions of the poor, many of the country’s fundamental basic problems (primarily water) are currently not addressed, the former leadership is still active and ‘obstructing’ the transition as are some of the southern separatists, the National Dialogue may fail to solve the major political dilemma and the reform of the military/security apparatus may not be completed successfully.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Yemen Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics Helen Lackner Violent transitions Tue, 12 Mar 2013 07:24:57 +0000 Helen Lackner 71492 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yemen: can southern separatists break up Yemen? https://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/yemen-can-southern-separatists-break-up-yemen <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>By mid-2012, those demonstrators supporting a unified democratic Yemen were out-manoeuvred by separatists who now dominate the southern movement both in Aden and in Mukalla, the other main southern city. What are their plans?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Yemeni unity in 1990 was greeted with enthusiasm by Yemenis at large, whether from the former Yemen Arab Republic (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yemen_Arab_Republic">YAR</a>) or People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY).&nbsp; Although there was considerable discussion and disagreement in the leadership about the form it took, there is no doubt that for ordinary Yemenis the possibility of travelling anywhere in the country was welcome.&nbsp; </p> <p>While many women in the YAR had looked forward to the spread of the PDRY’s Family Law to the whole country, many men and women everywhere hoped to see the same for <em>qat</em> consumption laws, and southerners were looking forward to economic liberalisation, all were swiftly disappointed when the economy collapsed after the sanctions taken against Yemen by neighbour states following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. In addition, after the initial flourishing freedom of expression through a multiplicity of new parties and newspapers in the first years of enthusiasm, the political situation rapidly deteriorated as tension developed between the two former ruling groups.&nbsp; Starting with some clearly targeted assassinations of Southern leaders, this eventually brought about the 5 months Civil War of 1994 which was decisively won by Sana’a’s forces.</p> <p>From 1994 onwards many southerners, in particular the former elite and other Aden residents, considered themselves to be oppressed by outside forces.&nbsp; Land grabs by powerful northerners (often linked to various military/security institutions) as well as the appointment of northerners to senior political and security positions in Aden and elsewhere in the South did nothing to improve the situation.&nbsp; Many former military and security officers from the south were soon forcibly ‘retired’, &nbsp;their pensions paid irregularly or not at all. Over the years, resentment increased as no solutions were found and people’s living conditions continued to deteriorate.&nbsp; Aden, officially the ‘economic capital’ of the country was neglected; its Free Trade Zone received little investment.&nbsp; The port which many southerners still see as a possible panacea<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a> to the country’s economic problems, was contracted out to Dubai Ports World (DPW) on an agreement that served the international strategy of DPW, rather than that of Yemen. As a result it stagnated.&nbsp; Continued increase in the population, drought in rural areas, deterioration in the quality of education and health services, all contributed to worsening living conditions and impoverishment for the majority of the population with only a minority (mainly composed of northerners) benefiting from the new opportunities.</p> <h3>‘Peaceful’ beginnings</h3> <p>In 2007 a movement of former military officers and men started in Lahej and Dhala’ Governorates, the areas of origin of the majority of the military leadership and men from the PDRY period, those who had been dismissed in 1994.&nbsp; Following on the model started in 1996 in Hadramaut, this movement decided to be ‘peaceful’ from its earliest days and its demands were originally straightforward and economic: reinstatement in their positions or full payment of their pensions at current rates.&nbsp; As if it did not have enough problems with the Houthi rebellion in the far North, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime chose to answer their demonstrations with force rather than conciliation; whether this was incompetence or deliberate policy remains to be seen. </p> <p>Confrontations escalated over the following two years and spread to Aden and Mukalla where the movement became a more widespread ‘anti-north’ movement, associating all ‘northerners’ with the hated regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh, regardless of the equally difficult living conditions of ordinary ‘northerners’.&nbsp; By the end of 2010, Aden and parts of the South were effectively ‘low level war zones’&nbsp; where the State’s army was retrenched behind sandbags in fortified positions and under frequent attack from local insurgents and where flags of the former PDRY flew openly and were painted all over the place.&nbsp; In Aden, demonstrations were frequent and usually greeted with the force of guns.&nbsp; As a result the number of deaths increased and each one was the occasion for further demonstrations and bloodshed.&nbsp; Alienation of the population was widespread, though it is notable that these movements were particularly strong in Aden, Lahej and Dhala’.&nbsp; Elsewhere in the southern Governorates, the situation was less clear:&nbsp; in Abyan and Shabwa the main forces apparently opposing the regime were those associated with the armed fundamentalists of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP],&nbsp; whose relationship to the previous regime can be best described as ambiguous.&nbsp; Further east in Hadramaut and al Mahara, while dissatisfaction with the Sana’a regime was high, it did not necessarily translate into secessionist ambitions.<strong> <br /></strong></p> <p>In this context, the street sit-ins which started everywhere in the country in January 2011 were opportunities for the Southern movement to expand and develop, as it suddenly found itself as one of many movements which all shared as main objective the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and&nbsp; his autocratic regime.&nbsp; Most demonstrators hoped to replace it with a truly democratic regime which would respond to the needs and aspirations of the majority of the Yemeni population.&nbsp; Many believe that a Parliamentary, rather than a Presidential, regime would be the solution. This was the opportunity for the southern movement to unite with that of all Yemenis in a joint struggle for a better constitution and a regime free of corruption and extortion. </p> <p>Throughout 2011, street demonstrations continued, mainly in Aden where some areas (such as the Main street in Ma’alla and some streets in al Mansoura) became full-time <em>sahas</em> or tented areas occupied by young demonstrators on a full-time basis.&nbsp; The geography of Aden as a number of towns separated by narrow passes may have contributed to the political and social isolation of the different groups, each one occupying its area and with different leaders. Overall by mid-2012 those demonstrators supporting a unified democratic Yemen were out-manoeuvred by separatists who now dominate the southern movement both in Aden and in Mukalla, the other main southern city. </p> <h3>The separatists</h3> <p>Although it is highly questionable whether the majority of the population of the former PDRY would actually vote for separation were they given the opportunity to decide on the matter, the political debate in late 2012 is entirely dominated by separatists of different hues.&nbsp; Similarly, although the majority of street demonstrators in Aden and elsewhere are young people, most of whom were born after unification, and others were small children at the time, the debate is dominated by elderly statesmen, long past their ‘sell by’ date who should, by any logic, be living in retirement in their various exile locations, enjoying the benefits of their (in some cases ill-gotten) gains over past decades.&nbsp; </p> <p>Their claim to leadership of the movement can only be explained by the absence of new young leaders with alternative policies; one of the main unanswered questions is why no new young leadership has emerged.&nbsp; The attraction of separatism for youth is based on two perceptions: the first is nostalgia for an imaginary past which ignores and suppresses the negative features of the previous regime (in particular the in-fighting of its leadership) and promotes an idealised collective ‘memory’ of the ‘good old days’ which, incidentally includes the British Colonial period as well as the PDRY.&nbsp; The second is the equally erroneous belief that all northerners have a good deal and that it is only southerners who are oppressed by the regime.</p> <p>Instead of a common Yemeni struggle for better economic conditions and democracy, southern citizens find that the politicians who claim to represent them are a multiplicity of individuals and small groups, each of which claims to represent the South, many of whom are holding conferences and meetings to seek to establish their position as leaders and none of whom has demonstrated his (there are no women among them) ability to represent the interests of the population at large, whether rural or urban, in any of the southern Governorates.&nbsp; </p> <p>However, they all share the following characteristics</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Lack of any political or development programme beyond the re-establishment of a southern state within its pre-1990 borders, despite the fact that these borders were artificial and that socially, politically and culturally, they are largely meaningless</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Refusal to participate in the National Dialogue, presenting a variety of unacceptable pre-conditions, mainly the demand that the dialogue be between the two former states and no more than a discussion on the procedures for separation</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Displaying their divisions and inability to agree about anything (other than the ambition for separation); this bodes ill for any future independent southern state. In itself this situation should be enough to persuade most citizens to vote for unification, if only to avoid bloodshed in the future.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Complete disregard for the economic situation and the living conditions of the majority of the population, other than to claim that ‘all will be well once the old state is restored.’</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Utter neglect of the international political situation or the economic viability of a potential southern state.&nbsp; Both the GCC initiative and the UN Security Council resolutions affirm that any solution to the Yemeni problems must be within the framework of a united state.&nbsp; Have they considered the implications of becoming another Somaliland?</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Refusal to acknowledge that the likelihood of the population from the different areas wanting to form a single state under the domination of any one of these leaders is so low as to be insignificant.&nbsp; Economic, social and cultural conditions in Hadramaut are entirely different from those prevailing in Lahej, for example. Should Yemen divide, Hadramis will almost certainly go their own way, given that they have not only oil, but also considerable capital and possibly the only viable mini-state of the former PDRY area. Whether Mahra will join Hadramaut or Oman is something that only Mahris are able to decide. But further west, the divisions are likely to gradually re-create the micro-states existing during the British Colonial period, retaining their main characteristics, namely extreme poverty, lack of resources, and mutual antipathy.&nbsp; Not a recipe for success.</p> <h3>National Dialogue – who will participate?</h3> <p>Despite this situation and due to the importance of the southern question, the various national and international institutions involved in supporting the Transitional Regime in Yemen are actively trying to coax these factions to participate in the National Dialogue, which will determine the political future of the country.&nbsp; Why haven’t the many mediators succeeded?&nbsp; Are these southern ‘leaders’ hoping to scuttle the National Dialogue?&nbsp; Are they totally unable to overcome their own personal petty in-fights for status and ‘power’? </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/yemen%E2%80%99s-national-dialogue-will-it-succeed">National Dialogue</a> will set the bases for a new political structure and Constitution for Yemen.&nbsp; Non-participation by any one party is likely to strongly and negatively affect not only its own future but that of the country as a whole. Given their past record, the current political ‘leaders’ of the southern separatist movement should at least show some modesty and behave in a manner suggesting that they have concerns other than their own self-promotion.&nbsp; But they seem to live in a world of their own and are likely to come down with a major bump when they find that the population at large is very much against them and that other southerners do participate in the Dialogue and, indeed, these may be more representative of public opinion in the South.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[1]</a> In the 1950s Aden port was among the world’s largest and the city’s main source of income.&nbsp; Many southerners are deluded into believing it could return to such a level&nbsp; and&nbsp;&nbsp; be the economic engine of the entire country.&nbsp; In reality, while with good management, the port could play a meaningful role, there is no likelihood of it ever being more than a reasonably successful regional port, producing a moderate income.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> Yemen Civil society Conflict International politics Helen Lackner Violent transitions Tue, 23 Oct 2012 08:03:56 +0000 Helen Lackner 68977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yemen’s National Dialogue: will it succeed? https://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/yemen%E2%80%99s-national-dialogue-will-it-succeed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Eleven months after the signature of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s [GCC] initiative and the&nbsp; formation of the new Government of National Unity and nine months after the election of the interim President, where are we with Yemen's National Dialogue? Things are different this time - but are they any more likely to last?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;A quick reminder:&nbsp; the GCC deal was intended to remove Ali Abdullah Saleh as president, establish a Government of National Unity, and open a 2 year transitional period during which the military and security institutions would be restructured, a national dialogue would be convened to prepare for a new political structure, including a review of the Constitution and the electoral system leading to new elections held by February 2014.</p> <p>The Government of National Unity was formed in December 2012 and Ali Abdullah Saleh ceased to be president on the election of AbduRabbo Mansour Hadi on 24 February 2012.&nbsp; Contrary to the expectations of many, President ARM Hadi has demonstrated both his independence from the previous regime [which he had served for close to two decades] and his skill at manoeuvring his way through an excessively difficult situation.</p> <h3>Fundamental improvement in the security situation is a big achievement….</h3> <p>The Transitional regime can also be credited with a number of other major achievements. &nbsp;It has given priority to security issues in the belief that without security, nothing else can be addressed: </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; it ousted the armed fundamentalists [AQAP and Ansar al Shari’a] from their strongholds in Abyan and Shabwa, returning these areas under government control.&nbsp; The relative ease with which this was achieved is further indication that these groups had in the past benefited from complicity by many agents of the previous regime.&nbsp; Unfortunately, since their dispersal, they have assassinated a number of prominent military and security cadres:&nbsp; this suggests that they still have some well-placed contacts in the security institutions.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; although the wholesale restructuring of the army/security institutions is at an early stage,&nbsp; the new President has successfully relieved of their positions some of the more prominent relatives and friends of his predecessor<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>.&nbsp; This ‘slicing’ approach is the only one which had any chance of success and, to date, it has resulted in a significant shift of loyalty in favour of the new regime of the main military and security institutions<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p><h3>But the humanitarian and economic situations remain dire</h3> <p>Progress in security issues has unfortunately not been accompanied by notable economic improvements.&nbsp; Although the supply of electricity is improving, living conditions for the majority of the population remain dire and the humanitarian situation abysmal, with over 10 million people suffering malnutrition and, in most cases, daily hunger, leading to bad health, long-term threats to child development and worsening mortality, let alone daily misery for the millions affected.&nbsp; While foreign aid to the tune of USD 6.4 billion was promised at the Riyadh Pledging conference in early September, and a further USD 1.5 billion at the Friends of Yemen meeting on 27 September in New York,&nbsp; there are few indications to date of steps taken to start disbursing these funds in the interests of the Yemeni population, other than the opening of UN offices and having agreed a Mutual Accountability Framework intended to address the concerns of external financiers about issues of transparency and corruption.&nbsp; While some development financing may need months to design and prepare, other expenditure could start very rapidly.&nbsp; In particular the destruction and damage in Abyan Governorate demand immediate reconstruction and repairs to allow the population to return and re-establish their livelihoods.&nbsp; In addition to the problems of daily survival that this situation poses for the majority of the population, the lack of employment opportunities and of any signs of addressing the dire economic situation are major threats to the credibility of the&nbsp; new regime.&nbsp; </p> <p>Inadequate action on the economic and social fronts can, in part, be attributed to the Government of National Unity’s inability to act as a single body whose sole priority is the solution of the country’s problems.&nbsp; Instead,&nbsp; it has been used by some political groups as a means to undermine other political entities, resulting in something akin to paralysis in certain ministries.</p> <h3>The National Dialogue</h3> <p>Arguably, the National Dialogue is the most important element of the Transitional Period as it will determine the long term political future of the country.&nbsp; Although the Government of National Unity includes women as well as some youth who may be seen as representatives of the street uprisings of 2011, the National Dialogue is the only formal outcome of the sit-ins which demands full and adequate representation of women, youth and others who joined the uprisings.&nbsp; It is the main opportunity for them to voice their demands, and achieve their hopes and ambitions.&nbsp; According to the GCC agreement, the National Dialogue conference must include “all forces and political actors, including youth, the Southern Movement, the Houthis, other political parties, civil society representatives and women.&nbsp; Women must be represented in all participating groups.”&nbsp; Its responsibilities are of fundamental importance to the country’s future, and it is to discuss and agree on the following:</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; the process for the drafting of a new constitution, including the establishment of a constitutional drafting commission, the nature of constitutional reform, including the structure of the State and political reform</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; the Southern and Houthi issues, as well as other national issues</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; how to achieve a comprehensive democratic system, including reform of the civil service, the judiciary and local governance</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; national reconciliation and transitional justice, including human rights issues</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; the rights of vulnerable groups including children as well as the advancement of women</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp; determining the priorities for reconstruction and sustainable economic development to create job opportunities and better economic, social and cultural services for all </p> <p>A Preparation Committee of 25 members was formed in July 2012 and started work in August.&nbsp; It includes a number of well respected individuals, 5 women [still very much a minority] and a few youth.&nbsp; In September a further 6 members were added to increase the representation of youth.&nbsp; Over recent months, the Committee has made significant progress in reaching agreement on mechanisms for the selection of participants, on a variety of procedures for the dialogue and, most importantly, it has done its best to ensure participation of all parties.&nbsp; This has resulted in the inclusion of representatives of the low social status group known as <em>muhamasheen </em>&nbsp;or <em>akhdam.</em> </p> <p>Significantly, this has ensured the successful inclusion of the Huthi movement which, although it refuses to recognise the validity of the GCC initiative, has agreed to participate fully in the dialogue.&nbsp; This is partly thanks to the fact that it is well organised and structure, and thus able to select representatives who are accepted by all.&nbsp; </p> <p>While there are still complaints from the youth/sit-in movement throughout the country about their under-representation, some of them at least are there, and one of the reasons for complaint is the wide range of views they hold and the absence of institutions representing them, despite the fact that in recent months, some of them have created political parties and other civil society groups.</p> <p>The main current stumbling block is the refusal of the Southern Separatist<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> leaders to participate.&nbsp; Whether they are playing a ‘chicken’ game is difficult to tell at this point.&nbsp; With less than a month to go before the beginning of the dialogue conference [due on 15 November], and after a series of internal meetings and rival conferences, these self-styled leaders seem intent on giving priority to their squabbles and petty power struggles over the interests of the people they claim to represent. Their strategy has been to insist on a series of unacceptable preconditions. There are other Southerners on the Preparatory Committee and it is also highly relevant to note that many (possibly the majority of) Southerners do not consider the Separatist movement their representative.</p> <p>The Dialogue Preparation Committee has taken meaningful initiatives to address the concerns of both Huthis and Southerners.&nbsp; In late August, it submitted 20 demands to the President.&nbsp; Eleven of them concern 'the southern issue': this includes the reinstatement of all military and civil personnel suspended as a result of the 1994 civil war [the main demand of the southern movement when it started in 2007], the return of all southern confiscated property and funds,&nbsp; the return of state lands to the farmers benefiting from the land reform in the south [which they lost immediately after unification when nationalised land was returned to its previous owners or others], the release of all those imprisoned during recent uprisings,&nbsp; an official apology to the southerners and other points.&nbsp; A further four concern the Huthi conflict and are similar in nature: an apology, release of prisoners and an end to fighting and collective punishments.&nbsp; Only 2 points relate to the prisoners and investigation of events related to the 2011 Youth movement.&nbsp; While all these points were agreed by the President, it is clear that it will take time for their implementation.</p><h3>Town Council</h3> <p>On 16 October, a ‘Town Council’ meeting was held in Sana’a and televised live. &nbsp;With representatives of parties and civil society, it was a first opportunity for people to demonstrate their ability to discuss all relevant issues.&nbsp; Dr Abdul Karim al Iryani, chair of the preparatory committee and Yemen’s most senior politician outlined the work and achievements of the Committee and answered questions. He was followed by a discussion of experiences of other countries including Northern Ireland, and the third had a panel of two representatives of civil society and two from political parties.&nbsp; Questions were all limited to one minute and included some by SMS and video calls from different parts of the country.&nbsp; The facilitators successfully managed to ensure that people from all the different parts of Yemen participated and a variety of views were aired; they also enforced their ‘one minute’ rule with sensitivity and tact.&nbsp; Women and youth were strongly present among participants in person and from afar.&nbsp; Rural representation was mentioned, an issue usually ignored despite the fact that over 70% of the country’s people are still rural.&nbsp; </p> <p>Yemen has a history of failed ‘national dialogues’ controlled by the regime; this has led to some scepticism in the country.&nbsp; Things are different this time:&nbsp; the dialogue is specifically mandated to develop a new more democratic political system and is supported by the UN Security Council.&nbsp; It has emerged from the 2011 uprisings and is characterised by openness and intensity of political debate and a high level of participation of young people including women. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the first two years after unification when an unprecedented level of freedom of expression prevailed, then through the establishment of multiple political parties and newspapers.&nbsp; Today the mechanisms are You Tube and other mobile phone media, as well as over 10 TV channels.&nbsp; The other, sadder, reminder of that early period of euphoria is that then it was followed by a series of targeted assassinations against southern leaders which led to the 1994 Civil War, whereas today the targeted assassinations are against military and security personnel loyal to the new regime. The National Dialogue could be the gate to a democratic and well managed Yemen, but the dangers ahead are still enormous.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[1]</a>&nbsp; The most prominent of these changes were each followed by resistance from those being moved, with their eventual acceptance of the decision thanks to considerable pressure, from internal and external forces.&nbsp; A few examples: in early April he dismissed Ali Abdullah Saleh’s half brother Mohamed Saleh al Ahmar from his position as head of the airforce and air defence [appointing him advisor to the Minister of Defence]; following on the massacre of young military graduates on 19 May, he removed Abdul Malik al Tayyeb from his position as Commander of Central Security, leaving Yahyia Mohammed Saleh, his deputy, without the cover he previously had,&nbsp; since then the latter moved to Beirut and has hardly been seen in Yemen.&nbsp; At the same Time Ammar Mohammed Saleh was also removed from his post in National Security</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[2]</a>&nbsp; A future article will discuss the Southern movement in detail.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Yemen Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Constitutional reform Helen Lackner Security sector reform - a global challenge Security in Middle East and North Africa Militarisation Thu, 18 Oct 2012 11:21:26 +0000 Helen Lackner 68915 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yemen’s priorities: feed the starving children or security? https://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/yemen%E2%80%99s-priorities-feed-starving-children-or-security <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>At the beginning of Ramadan 2012, recognition of the urgency of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is welcome, despite being so badly delayed. But who needs help most?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Good news, Yemen is in the news again.&nbsp; Better news, it isn’t because of al Qaeda.&nbsp; Now for the bad news: it is that finally, after months of hard work from NGOs and the humanitarian community, the media are showing some interest in the desperate humanitarian crisis faced by the Yemeni population.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately for them, Yemenis are not in the habit of setting off on roads to nowhere carrying what little possessions they have and heading for borders or other places in the hope that somehow help will come to them in camps run by the UN and humanitarian organisations.&nbsp; So the world has easily failed to notice the poverty and starvation which have worsened dramatically in the past year and have now reached the point of extreme crisis with pictures familiar from African famines of starving and dying children too weak to cry and desperate parents whose distress is only too visible in their eyes.&nbsp;</p> <p>In recent times Yemen has featured in the news usually because of the activities of Al Qaeda and associates, or thanks to the revolutionary movement which has brought about fundamental but more gradual change than in more prominent Arab countries. Always the least noticed country in the Middle East, Yemen’s revolution is not often recognised as such for its transformational potential.&nbsp; But now, at the beginning of Ramadan 2012, recognition of the urgency of the humanitarian crisis is welcome, despite being so badly delayed.</p> <p>Poverty in Yemen is not new:&nbsp; the country has a history of outmigration going back centuries, due to its inability to provide sufficient income for its population largely due to its limited agricultural potential and water scarcity. Most recently, prior to the uprisings in January 2011, Yemen was already the poorest country in the Arab World.&nbsp; It had a rural poverty rate of 50% and a national one of 43%, both of which were increases over the previous few years and both considered underestimates by many Yemenis and other close observers.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Why the current widespread hunger?&nbsp;</h3> <p>As well as the ‘occupy’ movement which started and grew throughout the country in all the major cities and some towns, the simultaneous power struggle between the ruling Ali Abdullah Saleh clique and its rival Al Ahmar group contributed to reducing the majority of the population to destitution.&nbsp; While foreign involvement focused primarily on ‘the war against terror’ and secondarily on addressing the internal political struggle, the country’s already dire economic situation was allowed to deteriorate. &nbsp;&nbsp;This went alongside a number of events which seriously worsened the overall economic situation:&nbsp; </p> <p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; drought which affected the survival of all rural households (over 70% of the population still lives in rural areas), as rain-fed agriculture produced less than ever</p> <p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; frequent and major fuel shortages combined with the multiplication of fuel prices by up to 4 times meant that farmers could not afford the diesel needed to operate their irrigation systems for vegetables and other high value crops</p> <p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; the economic crisis reduced the limited earning opportunities for casual labourers in building and elsewhere;&nbsp; the majority of rural families are nowadays dependent on the earnings of their young men in towns and cities;&nbsp; this has become their number one source of income</p> <p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; widespread and lengthy urban power cuts reduced work opportunities in factories, in trade and throughout the economy,&nbsp; </p> <p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; insecurity and lack of policing ensured that men were very reluctant to leave home and their families without protection </p> <p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; fighting at different times in different places discouraged further movement; moreover the economic situation being dire throughout the country, there was little point in moving from one place with zero potential to another one with the same potential &nbsp;</p><p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; reduced operation and even sometimes complete stoppage of welfare payments</p> <p>- &nbsp; &nbsp; with the simultaneous rise in price of basic foods on the international market, retail prices of cereals and vegetables reached levels which were way beyond the reach of the majority of the population.</p> <h3>Current humanitarian aid situation</h3> <p>While some elements of the UN system and NGO humanitarian agencies continued throughout to try and raise the concern of the ‘international community’ to the seriousness of the humanitarian situation, their cries mostly addressed deaf ears.&nbsp; The UN’s Consolidated Appeal Process which tried to raise just under USD 600 million for 2012 had only received 43% of the needed funding by July 2012<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>.&nbsp; These funds are not primarily intended to address routine poverty and hunger in the country; 45% of this is allocated to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.&nbsp; After various other costs, this leaves significantly less than half to address the needs of the 5 million poor, food-insecure population living at home.&nbsp;</p> <p>The prime beneficiaries of this aid are Somali and other refugees, as well as Yemenis displaced by the fighting. Both of these groups deserve a few words. There are about 210,000 Somali refugees in Yemen.&nbsp; While many of them are officially based in the large Kharaz refugee camp in the southwest of the country, the majority live and work in the cities. Their main advantage over Yemenis is their access to regular supplies of food and other basic necessities through the UN. &nbsp;In addition, those living in the camp, as well as the small villages surrounding them, have access to a level of social infrastructure which is far superior to those of the rest of rural Yemen. Other official refugees in Yemen are Palestinians and Iraqis who are integrated into Yemeni society and economy.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are two main groups of Internally Displaced People [IDPs]:&nbsp; about 200,000 in the north west of the country, most of whom are in Haradh, near the Saudi Arabian border, living in and out of UN camps. These people have been displaced by the conflict between the central Government and the Huthi movement in the Sa’ada governorate, a conflict which has seen a series of wars since 2004.&nbsp; The second group are those displaced for just over a year by the fighting between the government forces and al Qaeda in Abyan Governorate:&nbsp; a further 200,000 or so people have been affected, the majority going to Aden where they live in schools and other buildings with others joining relatives and friends in al Baidha governorate.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Who needs help most?&nbsp;</h3> <p>While these groups are assisted by the UN humanitarian system, mostly through contracts with international and local NGOs, the vast majority of Yemenis, and particularly rural Yemenis, have been left out of what humanitarian support loop operates. Their conditions have deteriorated to the point of desperation which they have now reached. &nbsp;With the estimate of 10 million food-insecure and over 5 million ‘severely food-insecure’, ie hungry and with no access to cash or food, the UN appeal only proposes to address the&nbsp; needs of about 6 million people, still leaving many in desperate need and without any planned, let alone actual, assistance. Indeed, with a funding shortfall of 57% for the CAP, even these 6 million are hardly likely to see a solution to their problems.&nbsp; Hence scenes of emaciated children close to death are likely to be repeated throughout the country, in towns and villages alike; the fact that we don’t see them on our TVs doesn’t mean they are not happening and people continue to suffer and die.&nbsp; There is no doubt that CAP priorities need to be reviewed to give priority attention to the mass of ordinary rural and urban Yemenis whose needs have become more than urgent and whose lives are now at stake, particularly in the case of the most vulnerable, young children and the elderly.</p> <p>Yemen has a history of food shortages and famines. The country’s culture means that the majority of those suffering retreat to their homes, close the doors and wait for death.&nbsp; Public admission of poverty and destitution are perceived as shameful, so people do not advertise their desperation.&nbsp; Scenes such as those portrayed in last week’s BBC news<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> are examples of a situation which is replicated throughout the country, and most extreme in remote rural areas where there are no medical services, let alone any emergency supplies.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <h3>The ‘international community’ and the emergency&nbsp;</h3> <p>The main international financiers, in the west and in the Gulf, all claim that money is available for Yemen, so one is left to wonder why the CAP is not fully funded, why the urgency of the situation is not being addressed? Why are other basic development needs not being addressed? Why are health services and emergency supplies not being distributed? There is little doubt that aid for the fight against terror is available, as was shown by the recent most welcome victories of government forces over al Qaeda associates in Abyan.&nbsp; But to retain popular support, the new regime needs to address the needs of its population.&nbsp; Abyan has now been re-taken but its 200,000 IDPs cannot go home until the area is cleared of mines and their houses, schools, health centres, water supplies and roads restored to a usable condition.&nbsp; This emergency reconstruction aid should be a priority for the ‘donors’.&nbsp; What are they waiting for?&nbsp;</p> <p>The BBC news item, meanwhile, ended with an interview with the well-fed General Yahia Mohammed Saleh, second in command of the Central Security Forces<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> who asserted with a broad smile that the fights against al Qaeda and ‘security come first’<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>.&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[1]</a> UNOCHA Yemen, Humanitarian Response plan, Mid year review July 2012</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[2]</a>&nbsp; BBC 2 Newsnight 19 07&nbsp; 12</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[3]</a>&nbsp;&nbsp; He is also one of the nephews of the former president who are still in positions of power</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[4]</a>&nbsp; <em>Ibid.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/helen-lackner/struggle-for-security-and-against-terrorism-in-yemen-in-whose-interests">The struggle for security and against terrorism in Yemen: in whose interests? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Yemen Civil society Economics International politics Helen Lackner Security in Middle East and North Africa Ecological Security Structural Insecurity Tue, 24 Jul 2012 15:36:36 +0000 Helen Lackner 67211 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The struggle for security and against terrorism in Yemen: in whose interests? https://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/struggle-for-security-and-against-terrorism-in-yemen-in-whose-interests <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>People perceive that cash and support are available for military and security costs but not for development or humanitarian needs which affect the vast majority of the population on a daily basis.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>When Yemen features in the news, it is usually due to the supposed activities in Yemen or outside of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula [AQAP], the group said to be a follower of Osama Bin Laden’s similarly named organisation. The most prominent such events have been the 2010 ‘underpants bomber’ who was trained in Yemen, the 2011 ‘cartridge’ bombs which were sent from Yemen and -&nbsp; most important for Yemenis - the occupation of a Southern Governorate [Abyan] by AQAP and its associate Ansar al Shari’a between May 2011 and June 2012, when they were ousted.</p> <h3>AQAP and Ansar al Shari’a<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a></h3> <p>While the first two of these events are of limited interest to the average Yemeni, the presence of AQAP is one of the many security issues which Yemenis have to face on a daily basis. Although AQAP had been present and active in many remote parts of the country [Shabwa, Mareb and Abyan Governorates] since the beginning of the century, this presence only became a direct serious threat to the population in the last year when they occupied all the major towns of Abyan as well as some in Shabwa. Although earlier their presence had made it difficult for development and aid agencies to operate, these occupations led to mass displacement of over 200,000 people who have taken refuge either with relatives in neighbouring governorates [eg al Baidha] or moved to Aden where they settled in schools and other facilities and became Internally Displaced Persons [IDPs] recognised as such by UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies. These groups were successfully ousted from their positions between May and mid-June 2012 after holding the area for a year.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>How come this supposedly major threat was largely eliminated in such a short time?&nbsp; To answer this it is also important to understand why and how these groups were able to occupy towns in the first place. Collusion and support from some elements of the former regime were clearly partly responsible: in early 2011, at a time when the former ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh was under pressure to resign, he was determined to demonstrate to his US allies the truth of his claim that without him the country would descend into chaos and be taken over by AQAP. Suddenly, the main government troops in the coastal area of Abyan evacuated their bases, leaving weapons and ammunition behind and accessible. Unsurprisingly, AQAP &nbsp;moved in and took over, installing a form of fundamentalist rule which is clearly not to the taste of the majority of the population, who showed their views of the new rulers by voting with their feet and leaving <em>en masse</em>. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A year later, under a new regime determined to restore central government control over all of Yemen, and to prove to its US and other allies that it is actually serious in its efforts to put an end to the fundamentalist threat, AQAP was ousted from Abyan and most of Shabwa within a matter of weeks.&nbsp; This was as clear an indication as any that their ability to ‘control’ the area for a year was due to inertia [at best] of the previous regime rather than either military strength or popular support.&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to State armed forces and US airstrikes, a major contributor to the ousting of the fundamentalists came from the popular committees. Composed mainly of men from the local tribes, they were given some support by government in the form of ammunition for their weapons and stayed on the ground to fight the fundamentalists, most of whom are either from other parts of Yemen or foreigners. The role of the tribes is extremely important and disproves the rash and widespread assumption that tribes support fundamentalism<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a>. While being very socially conservatively religious, Yemeni tribes people - the majority of the country’s population, estimated to number about 75% of the country’s population - are not supporters of fundamentalist political ideology. It is worth noting that the areas in Abyan where Ansar attempted to rule according to its ideology (Ja’ar and to a lesser extent Zinjibar) are areas where tribes are a minority and the majority of the population are from the lower status, cultivating but not landowning, social group.</p><p>While a major victory and indicator to all that this regime is different from its predecessor, this victory has not come without a price:&nbsp;</p> <p>- Over a hundred government soldiers were killed and wounded in the process [including by landmines], and its immediate aftermath saw the assassination in Aden of the military commander of the southern region, General Qatan, as well as the attack in early July on the Police Academy in Sana’a which killed about 9 people.&nbsp; More such attacks are to be expected from individuals who have gone into hiding in the cities but have not given up their ideology or objectives. In addition they certainly still have some support in the military/security establishment.</p> <p>- &nbsp;Fighting on the ground was accompanied by at least 66 US air strikes and drone attacks in the first six months of 2012.<a href="#_ftn3">[3]</a> While these may have contributed to military success, they are also a major cause of anger for Yemenis throughout the country, but particularly among the rural population who are most aware of frequent drone flights. Given that the majority of these flights take place over the former PDRY, this is a further contributory factor to the southern population’s alienation from the regime.</p> <p>- &nbsp;Despite considerable talk, very little aid has yet materialised to repair the damage caused by the fighting whose towns have been practically reduced to rubble.&nbsp; The collapse of buildings and of the physical and social infrastructure, as well as the presence of landmines throughout the area, are preventing the population from returning home and thus worsening their already abysmal living conditions and increasing anger and frustration. These are reducing people’s confidence in the new regime which does not have the funds to finance reconstruction and, at the same time, are ensuring that Yemenis lose what little trust they had in the international community’s assertions of concern and support for Yemen’s transition to a more democratic and prosperous state.&nbsp;</p><p>The active involvement of the Group of 10 ambassadors, the UN Security Council and its special representative are viewed with mixed feelings by the majority of Yemenis: they welcomed international assistance and support to get rid of Ali Abdullah Saleh (and, gradually, many of his relatives and cronies). However, people note with dismay that cash is available for military intervention against the terrorists but is not forthcoming when it comes either to humanitarian aid (over 10 million Yemenis are currently food insecure, one million children are going hungry, the UN’s Consolidated Appeal Process for humanitarian needs for 2012 is funded at less than 50% of requirement), or for reconstruction or general development investment, let alone basic running costs for social and developmental institutions.&nbsp; In short, people perceive that cash and support are available for military and security costs but not for development or humanitarian needs which affect the vast majority of the population on a daily basis.</p><p>Many consider that Yemen is now in a state equivalent to an international mandate, but that this has a primary security anti-terrorist focus, and ignores the issues, including security issues, which the majority of the poor population face on a daily basis. &nbsp;The postponement of the ‘donor’ conference to September and the on-going assertions about the weakness of the country’s administration and absorptive capacity for aid are seen as excuses for not providing the aid which is so desperately needed. The role of the World Bank in leading development policies is also criticised by many who believe it and the IMF are responsible for the cuts in food and other subsidies, the introduction of so-called ‘cost recovery’ in health services and the reduction of the role of the state in the provision of social services.&nbsp;</p> <h3>People’s security concerns</h3> <p>While AQAP is the major reason Yemen features in the western world’s media, as far as ordinary Yemenis are concerned, they are not the primary security concern. For the last two decades life for people in Yemen has been marked by inadequate policing and arbitrariness. People have suffered regular hijackings and theft of vehicles on the roads, robberies in their homes, theft of land as well as physical attacks with various weapons. Most incidents have been completely ignored by the security institutions, particularly those involving theft by powerful security and military individuals of land belonging to farmers or even well-known families. Appealing to the police for assistance in addressing crimes has routinely resulted in requests for payments supposedly to cover transport and other costs. Multiple comic and semi-comic anecdotes are witness to these practises.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Since 2011 the level of insecurity and lawlessness has increased dramatically throughout the country, alongside the return of open carrying of arms.&nbsp; Car thefts, robberies, land thefts etc… have multiplied, as well as attacks against people. As many security services staff also left their posts - some joined the revolutionaries or the counter revolutionaries, while others just stayed at home - this encouraged bandits and others to act with more or less certainty of impunity. Worsening poverty and need have been further incentives to resort to any means to survive, including crime.&nbsp;</p> <p>For ordinary Yemenis, constant insecurity means that they cannot set off on a trip to nearby towns, or leave home if living in towns without concern and fear.&nbsp; They are liable to be confronted by bandits demanding their ‘money or their life’, or to return home and find it has been robbed.&nbsp; In the past year there has been no authority or institution able or willing to address these concerns.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Women</h3> <p>In addition to the problems just mentioned, women have further fears. In a very strictly sex-segregated society, their movements have become increasingly restricted due to the risks involved in being outdoors as they are liable to attacks, verbal and physical. The lawlessness which involves the possible presence of unknown men in rural areas and urban neighbourhoods is a major risk for women who are liable to violent sanction if they are seen to interact with strangers. Worsening deprivation means that many women have to take these additional risks by seeking food and income outside the home to feed their children and themselves.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the uprisings of the last year have been a major contributor to the empowerment of women, this ‘occupy’ movement has also had some serious negative effects with respect to the safety and security of many participating women. While there have not been the type of collective rape incidents associated with Tahrir Square in Cairo, participating Yemeni women have also been threatened and beaten when anti-female forces have had the upper hand.&nbsp; Not only have they come under attack from the former president’s <em>baltagia</em> tribal militias, but among the revolutionaries there have been ambiguous attitudes to women’s participation. When it served the various parties’ purposes, women have been encouraged, and when women had views differentiating them from the mainstream, they have been victimised, attacked physically and verbally<a href="#_ftn4">[4]</a>.&nbsp;</p> <h3>Conclusion</h3> <p>So while the ‘donors’ are willing to give real and practical support in interventions against AQAP, when it comes to increasing security for the ordinary citizens and for women, the situation is different.&nbsp; Although it is widely recognised that insecurity is closely related to poverty and deprivation, as well as to the disempowerment of women, solving these priority issues for the Yemeni people are currently spoken about, but none of the urgently needed action is being taken.&nbsp; As Ramadan starts, Yemenis are to face another month of deprivation, poverty and hunger.&nbsp; This is not a good sign for the transition.</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[1]</a> The term AQAP will be used here generically to describe the various related armed and aggressive fundamentalist groups attacking the regime and civilians; the actual relationship between AQAP and Ansar al Shari’a is unclear; while some claim it is the same organisation under different names, others believe them to be different organisations.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[2]</a> Another example of this is the intervention of tribal leaders in the liberation of 73 soldiers captured by AQAP in Abyan in June.&nbsp; After weeks of fruitless ‘negotiations’ with the government, the leaders of the tribes of the majority of the prisoners came to Ja’ar and informed AQAP that they would attack with all their forces unless the prisoners were released asap.&nbsp; The release came within hours.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[3]</a> Bureau of Investigative Journalism website: <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/05/08/yemen-reported-us-covert-action-2012/">http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/05/08/yemen-reported-us-covert-action-2012/</a>.&nbsp; There have been over 103 such attacks since the beginning of the century and the monthly count in early 2012 was higher than in Afghanistan/Pakistan</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[4]</a>&nbsp; For more analysis on these aspects see <em>Strong Voices, Yemeni Women’s political participation from protest to transition</em>, Saferworld, London, May 2012, pp 19</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> openSecurity Yemen Civil society Conflict Culture Economics International politics middle east Security Sector Reform and the Arab Spring Helen Lackner Security sector reform - a global challenge Security in Middle East and North Africa Militarisation Non-state violence Fri, 20 Jul 2012 19:48:16 +0000 Helen Lackner 67146 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Helen Lackner https://www.opendemocracy.net/author-profile/helen-lackner <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Helen Lackner </div> </div> </div> <p class="footnote">Helen Lackner has worked in all parts of Yemen since the 1970s and lived there for close to 15 years.&nbsp; She has written about the country’s political economy as well as social and economic issues.&nbsp; She works as a freelance rural development consultant in Yemen and elsewhere. Her new book <a href="http://www.saqibooks.com/book/yemen-crisis/"><em>Yemen in Crisis: autocracy, neo-liberalism and the disintegration of a state</em> </a>was published by Saqi books in October, 2017. </p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Helen Lackner has worked in all parts of Yemen since the 1970s and lived there for close to 15 years. She has written about the country’s political economy as well as social and economic issues. She works as a freelance rural development consultant in Yemen and elsewhere and is currently also engaged in research on hydro politics in Yemen. </div> </div> </div> Helen Lackner Tue, 19 Jun 2012 17:17:06 +0000 Helen Lackner 66560 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Yemen’s transition: a model to be followed? https://www.opendemocracy.net/helen-lackner/yemen%E2%80%99s-transition-model-to-be-followed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What is actually happening in Yemen?&nbsp; It is either presented as a ‘solution’ which could be a model for Syria, or as a ‘phoney’ change that only conceals continuation of the previous regime</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the current environment where the success of the ‘Arab revolutions’ to bring about genuine democracy to their countries is more than doubtful, there is value in examining in some detail the situation in Yemen.&nbsp; Where Egypt seems to be poised between a military or a fundamentalist regime, Libya is at risk of being divided between a multiplicity of various armed factions,&nbsp; Bahrain continues on its bloody confrontation between a minority regime and the demands of the majority of its people, early hopes for Tunisia are dwindling in the face of more aggressive fundamentalists and Syria is suffering civil war with a death toll of hundreds each weak, what is actually happening in Yemen?&nbsp; It is either presented as a ‘solution’ which could be a model for Syria, or as a merely cosmetic change which conceals a continuation of the previous regime.</p> <p>After many months of procrastination, Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to sign the so-called Gulf Cooperation Council Transitional agreement on 23 November 2011.&nbsp; While he attempted to continue ruling from behind the scenes, his power has been very dramatically reduced over the months.&nbsp; First, his former Vice President, Abdul Rabbo Mansour Hadi was elected president through an overwhelming popular endorsement on 25 February 2012 when more people came out to vote for him than had participated in the previously ‘contested’ presidential elections of 1999 and 2006.&nbsp; While the outcome was in no doubt as he was the only candidate, the fact that over 6 million Yemenis bothered to come out and queue to vote showed their desire for change and to get rid of the old regime - even if many of them were voting more against AAS than for ARMH - gave him a popular legitimacy which helps him develop a genuine power base which he previously lacked.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Since his election, the new President has demonstrated his skill at political manoeuvring as well as his ability to address the most pressing and important issues in the country.&nbsp; He is gradually strengthening his position with the population at large through a number of actions, including encouraging the popular <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/dispatches/news-promo/2012/03/02/-pluscachange-in-change-square/#igImgId_32685">‘change square’</a> movements to continue their activities and participation in political dialogue.&nbsp; Most significantly he has started addressing the military-security situation through a two-pronged approach: first he has gradually sidelined some of the most ‘obstructionist’<a href="#_ftn1">[1]</a>&nbsp; military and security leaders, and replaced them with men loyal to himself.&nbsp; Secondly, thanks to the new military leadership which is seriously committed to putting an end to the fundamentalist insurrection, the rebels have been dislodged from their stronghold in Abyan Governorate, pushing them back into Shabwa which was their main base for a number of years.&nbsp; Immediately after this achievement last week, moves have started in Shabwa and already some of their strongholds are falling, thanks to the establishment of local ‘popular committees’ who are ‘encouraging’ them to leave.</p> <p>The Government of National Unity which was established after the signature of the GCC agreement is composed of members of all the major forces present in Yemen, with the exception of the southern separatists who, by definition, refuse to participate in a Sana’a based entity.&nbsp; Despite being led by a Prime Minister who should be living in restful retirement due to his age and health, this government is addressing issues of personnel and management in the various ministries, and has prepared a ‘Transitional Program for Stabilization and Development 2012-14’ for which it hopes to obtain funding during the forthcoming pledging meeting in Riyadh on 27 June, to be attended by the country’s main international bilateral and multilateral partners.&nbsp;</p> <h3>National dialogue has a chance<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3> <p>A Committee to prepare the National Dialogue is working to ensure that this dialogue is as inclusive as possible and attempting to ensure that the most fractious elements in the country, namely the Huthi movement in the north and the various southern movements, participate.&nbsp; It is composed of a group of deeply committed and respected people from different political tendencies and is therefore the best bet to ensure comprehensive representation at the conference and thus its long term significance and success.&nbsp; This despite the fact that the international community’s support for this dialogue has been delegated to Russia, which is hardly the best model for the development of a genuinely democratic process, let alone a Constitution favouring the interests of the majority of the population.&nbsp;</p> <p>While this is hardly a positive comment about the international community’s role in Yemen, China as lead advisor for the Human Rights Committee is even more laughable, or alternatively, likely to reduce one to tears. Otherwise, however reluctantly, it has to be recognised that international involvement in Yemen is playing a positive role at the moment: the threat of personal sanctions by the UNSC against AAS and his relatives was a major contributing factor in persuading him to sign the GCC agreement and the same pressure has seriously contributed to persuading some his more ‘obstructionist’ associates to bow to the inevitable and accept their removal from senior military positions in recent months.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Most of the international community’s pressure is focused on the fight against fundamentalist terrorists. The UN special representative and the ambassadors present in Sana’a are helping to strengthen the new president’s position, and will hopefully also ensure significant international&nbsp; support and financing for the forthcoming donor conference of 27 June.&nbsp; While Saudi Arabia itself has already pledged USD 3.25 billion and others a further USD 0.75 billion during the Friends of Yemen meeting on 23 May this year, far more is needed to enable the new regime to address the basic humanitarian and development needs of the country and show the population that, at last, their interests are given priority.&nbsp; In addition considerable funds are needed to finance the various security and military costs of re-establishing its control throughout its territory.&nbsp;</p> <p>Willingness to provide financial support for development and humanitarian needs will be the test of the international community’s real commitment to Yemen’s transition to democracy, whether the GCC states or the rest of the world.&nbsp; For Yemen to emerge from its current economic doldrums, it will also be essential for the regime to assert itself economically: unless it rejects the ‘Washington consensus’ policies which have been forced on the country in past decades, the long-term impact of any financial assistance will create a new elite to replace the old one, concentrating wealth in the hands of the few, rather than addressing the needs of the majority.&nbsp;</p> <h3>What economic base?</h3> <p>Yemen’s economy, at the best of times a fundamental problem with no easy solutions, is in a state of almost complete collapse.&nbsp; Shortage of ground water and extraction rates way above replenishment mean that the expansion of irrigated agriculture is precluded, oil reserves have dropped dramatically and could at best produce 200 000 b/d though since 2011 the pipelines are regularly and frequently sabotaged, preventing any transport. Gas exports income will not replace the income from diminishing oil supplies in the short or long run.&nbsp; Electricity supply has been occasional at best for the past year in Sana’a and some other cities (though of course that is a lot better than in the vast majority of rural areas which have none at all).&nbsp; The last year has seen reduced activity in all sectors and a rise in unemployment estimated by the Ministry of Planning at over 50% last August.&nbsp; The thousands of rural families dependent on the casual labour of their young men in the cities in construction or services have lost this source of income as, in the absence of work opportunities, these young people have either come home or joined the popular movements; either way their income has ceased.&nbsp; Social security payments and charitable support to the poor barely exist, and the majority of the population have sunk to levels of poverty which led the WFP<a href="#_ftn2">[2]</a> to assess that 10 million Yemenis are now food insecure with over half of the rural population suffering from food insecurity, and half of the country’s children suffering from malnutrition. &nbsp;&nbsp;By 2011, 56% of the country’s households had insufficient food.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the many litmus tests for change is to be found in Yemeni Television.&nbsp; While its news bulletins used to be nothing but rather tiresome and monotonous accounts of meetings with notables where issues of mutual interest were discussed and agreed upon, there are now serious political debates, news bulletins are actually informative of the real situation in the country and address real issues.&nbsp; While there is also more freedom in the written press and there have been no arrests of journalists or prosecutions since the new president came to power, this is far less relevant given a) the high level of illiteracy in the country and b) the completely inadequate distribution mechanisms for the press.</p> <h3>Well, how does it look?<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h3> <p>It is clear that Abdul Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s Yemen is clearly not ‘business as usual’ for Ali Abdullah Saleh and his cronies, and the changes brought about by the GCC deal are far more than cosmetic. &nbsp;&nbsp;The battle is not won: the assassination of the main architect of the recent defeats of Islamic rebels only shows how fragile things are.&nbsp; However recent developments show the possibility of a truly changed regime in Yemen, should the coming months continue in the same spirit as the last three:&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Steps have been taken to transform the military and security forces; while many of the former president’s associates have been removed, some are still there and the fundamental restructuring of the forces remains to be achieved&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The government of national unity is inclusive and tackling the most urgent issues during the transitional period &nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Steps for the preparation of the National Dialogue are focusing on ensuring it is inclusive not only of the formal existing forces but also of representatives of the ‘change squares’ including women, giving hope that the new constitution will not be dominated by Islamists&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Major progress has been made in restoring state control over Abyan (and soon Shabwa) governorates, very considerably reducing the threat presented by the armed Islamists</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The role of the ‘international community’ is currently positive, given that it is enabling the new regime to weaken and eventually get rid of the leadership of the previous regime at all levels.&nbsp;</p> <p>This is a good record, particularly by comparison with the state of the Arab Revolutions elsewhere in the region.&nbsp; This does not mean that the future of Yemen is bright.&nbsp; There are plenty of challenges ahead:&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The fundamental problems of inadequate natural resources and mismanagement of existing ones, particularly water, remain&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Insecurity is still a major challenge on a daily basis throughout the country, with no effective police force operating either in cities or the rural areas.&nbsp; Changing this will take time.&nbsp; More assassinations of reforming leaders can be expected.&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The National dialogue might fail to produce a constitution representative of the interests of the population at large, in particular it may fail to provide the means for the majority of rural people to be truly and adequately represented in politics, other than through their tribal leadership.</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The struggle between the former leadership and its rivals remains an underlying factor and might explode, at the expense of the interests and security of the majority of the population; this could take the form of a struggle between the Islah fundamentalist party and others or a struggle over the restructuring of military and security forces which remains to be done&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Both the Huthis movement in the North and even more so the Southern Separatist Movement have the potential to bring about the disintegration of the Yemeni state&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Insufficient external financial support may lead to continuing and worsening disaffection of the majority of the population, particularly in rural but also in urban areas.&nbsp; This could lead to renewed support for the fundamentalist terrorists&nbsp;</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The international community’s role might soon be seen as negative interference if one or more of the following occur: drone strikes kill civilians in rural areas, financial aid privileges the few at the expense of the many, divisive economic policies are forced upon the regime</p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The state’s inability to address the humanitarian and development situation would alienate the population&nbsp;</p> <p>Although the GCC supported transitional regime has not turned Yemen into a revolutionary state, by comparison with what is happening elsewhere, the situation at the moment shows more positive signs than could have been expected: the forces of the uprisings are working to participate in the national dialogue, the transitional regime is working to weaken and remove most of the remnants of the previous era and is preparing for a new and hopefully more democratic future.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> <hr size="1" /> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[1]</a>&nbsp; The Special Representative of the UNSC has formalised this term which conveniently describes the former president’s close relatives and other cronies, most of whom ensured his control over the country in the past decades.</p> <p><a href="#_ftnref">[2]</a>&nbsp; WFP, <em>Comprehensive Food Security Survey, 2012</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> 50.50 openSecurity Yemen Conflict Democracy and government Economics Equality International politics middle east Security Sector Reform and the Arab Spring Helen Lackner Revolution Security in Middle East and North Africa Militarisation Tue, 19 Jun 2012 17:15:38 +0000 Helen Lackner 66559 at https://www.opendemocracy.net