Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Danger surrounds Yemen’s absent president

Abdu Rabu Hadi, in Aden after abandoning Sanaa for Aden, faces as many, if not more, problems in the southern city, writes Nasser Arrabyee

Danger surrounds Yemen’s absent president
Danger surrounds Yemen’s absent president
Al-Ahram Weekly

Yemen’s Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi faces at least three threats in the southern city of Aden, to which he fled, despite Saudi and international support as the country’s legitimate president.

The first is a growing and regrouping Al-Qaeda presence in and around the city. On Monday, 9 March, Al-Qaeda operatives retook control of the town of Al-Mahfad, in Abyan province, as well as the town’s military base, Brigade 39.

Aden is about 50 km from Zinjubar, the capital of Abyan, which was a Taliban-style emirate. Al-Qaeda operatives looted most if not all the heavy weapons of the base after some soldiers were killed and others escaped.

Al-Qaeda also controls the city of Huta, capital of Lahj, which is only around 20 to 25 km from Aden. Al-Qaeda assassinations of security and military officers are almost daily occurrences in the city.

An important battle took place this week when Al-Qaeda set up checkpoints around Huta and declared it a closed emirate. The battle was only to remove the checkpoints, not more. Al-Qaeda fighters remained in their hideouts in the city and surrounding areas.

The battle was waged by dispirited security forces supported by local tribesmen who refer to themselves as anti-Qaeda popular committees.

Hadi is under the protection of 2,000 tribesmen, organised into these committees and under the command of Abdul Latif Al-Sayed. Until 2013, Al-Sayed was an Al-Qaeda leader.

The second danger is the separatist movement Hirak, which organises almost daily demonstrations calling on Hadi to leave and not bring the conflicts of the north to the south.

Separatists have their own square in Aden where they camp out, and they have their own satellite TV, broadcast from Lebanon and funded by the former president of the south, Ali Salem Al-Beidh.

The third, and most dangerous, threat to Hadi in Aden is the Houthi. Hadi escaped from Sanaa because of the dominance of the Houthi. But Aden is not free of Houthi supporters and fighters. When the army and security institutions of the state broke down, Houthi, as a popular movement, not merely sectarian, came to Sanaa to fill the vacuum. Aden is not much different.

Hadi issued a decree last week to sack the commander of the central security of Aden, Brigadier Abdul Hafez Al-Saqqaf. Hadi and his advisors accused Al-Saqqaf of being loyal to the Houthi as he is from the north.

Al-Saqqaf refused to recognise Hadi’s decree and deployed his forces in many important streets in Aden and around his huge camp in the heart of the city. For one week now, Al-Saqqaf has remained in his base, with his forces deployed and on highest alert for confrontations with militants of Hadi, the “anti-Qaeda and now anti-Houthi” popular committees.

Al-Saqqaf threatened several times to end any battle in hours, in response to some of Hadi’s aides who threatened to expel him by force. Al-Saqaaf’s forces were the only security forces to secure Aden. Most of his soldiers and officers are from the north.

One more important aspect that can be added to these three threats is acting Defence Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, who left Sanaa this week to either Aden or to his home village in Sabayha in Lahj, in the south of the country.

His departure from Sanaa to Aden was portrayed by the media as a defection from the Houthi and joining Hadi in Aden. The minister was working with the Houthi in Sanaa and attending all their events and meetings, including the announcement of the constitutional declaration in February.

He might play the same role in Aden. He did not say anything about the Houthi. Nor did he go to Hadi in Aden, although Hadi sent a high-profile delegation, headed by his son, Nasser Abdu Rabu, and Abdul Latif Al-Sayed, commander of the popular committees, to meet with him.

The Houthis, for their part, have made no comment about Al-Subaihi’s relocation. Al-Subaihi was the head of the supreme security committee formed by the ruling Houthi authorities.

After Al-Subaihi arrived in his home village, the security committee held a meeting but made no mention at all of Al-Subaihi. Houthi officials commented later that Al-Subaihi is free to go wherever he wants in his country, whether south or north.

Even with all these problems and threats in Aden, Hadi has refused any kind of dialogue in Sanaa, which he has declared an occupied capital, while referring to Aden as the alternative capital.

Hadi wants any dialogue to be held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, which would be impossible for the Houthi, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, all groups and parties are resuming negotiation sessions in Sanaa under the sponsorship of UN envoy Jamal Bin Omar, who met Hadi in Aden last week and briefed him on the main points under discussions in Sanaa.

The parties and groups agreed on a time limit of two weeks for coming up with a solution to the power vacuum that opened on 22 January when Hadi resigned, his government resigning on the same day.

The main proposals are a presidential council made up of five members with Hadi as head, or appointing four deputies for Hadi, with one being from the Houthi side.

Militarily, the Houthi and their allies are working on the ground at the same time as Al-Qaeda and its allies are also completely ignoring the dialogue.

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