Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1232, (5 - 11 February 2015)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1232, (5 - 11 February 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Yemen’s new rulers

Following the resignation of the Yemen’s president and prime minister, Houthi rebels are taking steps to control the entire country, writes Nasser Arrabyee in Sanaa

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Rebel Houthi forces occupying Sanaa this week issued an ultimatum to the country’s parties to find a solution to the crisis. The demand followed the failure of Yemen’s political parties to resolve the power vacuum caused by the resignation of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, the rebel.

A Houthi-organised national conference authorised the leader of the Houthi rebels to assume power. According to Houthi statements, a presidential council and salvation government will be formed by the Houthis until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held.

The Houthis seem to have decided to take unilateral steps as other groups have refused to take part in the national conference, saying that parliament is the only legitimate institution in the country. The Houthis have only one seat in the 301-seat House of Representatives, the majority of MPs coming from the party of former president Abdullah Saleh.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, is trying to find a compromise solution that will be accepted by all the parties, including the Houthis, having previously tried to find a way to accommodate Houthi demands before the resignations on 19 January. The demands included the cancellation of plans to divide Yemen into six regions and to give the Houthis a guaranteed share of power.

Abu Baker Al-Querbi, a former foreign minister and a senior official in Saleh’s party, said all the country’s political groups, including the Houthis, should follow Hadi’s example and submit themselves to parliament.

“The president was careful in following the interests of the nation, and his decision must be respected by all. He does not need justification by those who were behind the crisis,” Al-Querbi wrote on his Twitter account.

At the international and regional levels any unilateral steps taken by the Houthis are likely to be seen as illegitimate, and donors to the country are expected to cut off their support.

Saudi Arabia, a main donor, will likely cut off its financial support, which is essential for paying state salaries. “The salaries will not come from the sky,” said Ali Al-Bukhaiti, a Houthi leader who resigned last week to express his disapproval of unilateral steps taken by his group.

Opponents of the Houthis, among them Al-Qaeda, are waiting to make a move, though for the time being Al-Qaeda is simply doing its best to prevent the Houthis from taking control of the south and east of the country, including Hudhramout.

The Houthis will need to maintain unity between the south and north of the country if they want to succeed, and they are presently coordinating with military and security commanders in Aden and Hudhramout to find ways to take over these areas, as they did in Sanaa in September.

Houthi leader Abdel-Malak Al-Houthi is looking for a president from the south for the new presidential council, with one candidate being the former president of South Yemen, Ali Nasser Mohammed, who is now living outside the country.

But in order for this plan to succeed the Houthis will first need to take control of the south and Hudhramout, which explains why Al-Qaeda is active in these areas. Al-Qaeda forces tried to take control of local government buildings in the city of Huta in Lahj province last Tuesday. Huta is the capital of the southern province, where a Taliban-style emirate is being established by Al-Qaeda.

There has been increasing violence in Hudhramout, where Al-Qaeda forces have assassinated intelligence officers and looted banks to finance their operations.

US drone attacks on Yemeni targets resumed earlier this year, despite the country having no president or government to approve them. On 2 February, US drones killed at least three men travelling a car in the Maswarah area between the Shabwah and Al-Beidha provinces.

The strike was the third this year, following a strike in Mareb and one in Shabwah over the last few days.

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