Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1228, (8 - 14 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

New battles looming

Divisions between Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement and the country’s government are hardening, writes Nasser Arrabyee in Sanaa

Al-Ahram Weekly

A new war is emerging in Yemen: the war of the new constitution that seeks to divide Yemen into six regions.

The ruling group of the Houthi movement that has been leading a rebellion against the Sanaa regime has refused to divide Yemen into regions, considering this to be a threat to its “revolution” of September 2014, when it captured the capital and took control of the country’s military and security institutions.

The leader of the Houthi movement, Abdel-Malik Al-Houthi, said earlier this week that he would “not allow” the division of Yemen and would “not keep silent” about regime support for Al-Qaeda.

He indirectly accused Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi of ignoring if not supporting tribesmen allied with Al-Qaeda in Yemen, especially in the oil-rich province of Mareb.

Armed tribesmen who have camped out for more than two months in the Al-Suhail and Nakhla areas of Mareb had earlier intercepted a brigade of army units and plundered their heavy weapons, which included 12 tanks and 16 vehicles with machine guns.

The tribesmen were in this empty place in order to prevent the Houthis from taking control of it, as they have done in other provinces. Al-Qaeda operatives joined the tribesmen after the Houthis defeated them in the Ibb, Radaa, Hodeidah and Arhab areas.

Abdel-Malik Al-Houthi accused Hadi of helping the combination of tribesmen and Al-Qaeda elements by instructing the country’s minister of defence not to rescue the brigade that was attacked last week in Mareb.

The birthday of the Prophet Mohammed was celebrated in a different way this year in Sanaa. Tens of thousands of Houthi supporters gathered at a military base they had occupied in September after Ali Muhsen, the base commander, escaped to Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis believe that Muhsen is still supporting tribesmen from his party, Al-Islah (the Yemen Muslim Brotherhood), and Al-Qaeda, especially in the oil-rich district of Mareb, which is not far from Saada, the Houthi historic stronghold in the north that borders Saudi Arabia.

From the military base in Sanaa, the Yemeni army’s First Armoured Division launched six campaigns against the Houthis in Saada under Muhsen between 2004 and 2010.

Speaking from a secure location in Saada last week, with his supporters watching him on big screens in the military base in Sanaa, Abdel-Malik Al-Houthi vowed to defeat Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

On Monday, Hadi sent five of his advisors to Saada to meet Al-Houthi in a bid to lower the political temperature.

The delegation included Abdel-Kareem Al-Eryani, Rashad Al-Alimi, Sultan Al-Atwani, Abdel-Wahab Al-Ansi, Yahya Abu Asbu and Saleh Al-Sumat. The men are representatives from different groups that agreed to form a joint committee funded by the UN to implement the Peace and Partnership Accord signed after the Houthis took control of Sanaa last September.

Attacks on Houthi gatherings have hardened the group’s demands. More than 50 people were killed and 50 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a gathering to celebrate the birth of the Prophet Mohammed in central Yemen in late December.

Monday’s meeting was held in an attempt to thrash out the meaning of the Partnership with the Houthis, notably with regard to bringing the movement within the wider political process.

Meanwhile, the Houthis are paying a high price for their intransigence, with hundreds of them being killed in attacks each week even as the movement still controls ten Yemeni provinces and has a presence in 12 others.

“The Houthis want to control the north of the country where they are expanding their influence, while Hadi is trying to enhance his influence in the south,” said Adel Shuja’a, a political analyst.

“Yemen will become another Iraq if a genuinely national state is not established soon,” he added.

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