Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)
Tuesday,21 November, 2017
Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Unhappy end of Yemen dialogue

The political parties taking part in Yemen’s transitional dialogue have been unable to agree on UN-sponsored proposals to end the conflict in the country, writes Nasser Arrabyee in Sanaa

Al-Ahram Weekly

After more than 10 months, Yemen’s national dialogue has now come to an unhappy end. While this does not mean the separation of the south and north of the country, it does mean that the situation remains unsatisfactory to both separatists and unionists.

UN envoy Jamal bin Omar, who has been mediating between the conflicting parties and groups in the war-torn country since November 2011, said last week that he was in favour of a solution that would divide Yemen into six provinces, two in the south and four in the north.

Nobody has welcomed this solution except Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi who would stay at least two more years in power under this solution supported by Bin Omar.

The country’s main political parties, civil society organisations, clerics and tribal leaders have refused the idea of dividing Yemen, whether in the name of federalism or under some other system.

At a recent press conference, Bin Omar answered a question from Al-Ahram Weekly about a complaint submitted to the UN Security Council by a number of Yemeni political parties to the effect that he was not a neutral mediator and was biased towards certain groups.

“Yes, I am biased,” he said. “But to the UN system, the Security Council resolutions, and the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] initiative.”

The preservation of the unity of Yemen has been the essence of all UN Security Council resolutions, including resolutions 2014 and 2052, and the preservation of the country’s unity is also at the heart of the transition deal supported by the US and Saudi Arabia.

Even the parties favoured by Bin Omar have distanced themselves from his solution.

While the GCC initiative looks at all the conflicting parties as equals, Bin Omar said he was biased towards groups and parties calling themselves “revolutionaries”, thinking that they should have more political gains than others.

However, for some commentators the “revolutionary” groups have been calling themselves thus in order to take the lion’s share of the country’s wealth and to silence those who say there was no revolution in the country in 2011 but only a deal between two conflicting parties.

Bin Omar is aware that the 2011 deal in Yemen ended in a deal that recognises two conflicting parties: ex-president Ali Abdallah Saleh and his party on one side and all the parties and groups that call themselves revolutionaries on the other.

Saleh is still the head of the General People Congress (GPC), which holds the majority of the seats in parliament, 50 per cent of the cabinet posts in the government and many of the tribal and social institutions.

Current president Hadi is the deputy chairman of the GPC, meaning that Saleh is the “president of the president”.

Bin Omar said after his announcement that all parties and groups had agreed to his solution, and continued unity was becoming impossible. However, three of the country’s main political parties, the GPC, the Socialists and the Nasserites, did not even attend the ceremony to sign his proposal, which he called a “fair solution to the southern issue”.

Bin Omar did not comment on this refusal to attend.

The other two main parties and groups that nominally signed were the Sunni Islamist party Islah (the Yemen branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) and the Shia Houthi group. These two groups have been fighting each other in Saada and other areas.

Many commentators have pointed out that it is strange that these two groups seem to have agreed on the same set of proposals, while at the same time refusing Bin Omar’s solution for Yemen.

Politicians from these two groups seem to have been supportive of Bin Omar’s proposal, while clerics in the groups have refused it, saying it is a “conspiracy against Islam” and the unity of the nation.

The clerics of the two groups are their real spiritual leaders, and they are more influential over the rank and file that form the bases of the two groups.

The politicians of the groups know very well that their rank and file do not want to divide Yemen, but they also want to please President Hadi, who in turn wants to please Bin Omar, who commentators say is largely ignorant of the real situation in Yemen.

The GPC has said that it is against Bin Omar’s solution since this would cancel the GCC initiative, which is designed to supervise the transition.

The Socialist Party has refused it, seeing it as a conspiracy to divide the south into two regions. It has said that it would only agree to it if Yemen were to be divided into the former south and north, which means separation.

The groups who are not involved in the dialogue, such as Al-Qaeda and the separatist group Hirak, have refused the legitimacy of the dialogue from the beginning and have been trying to establish their own legitimacy by violent means.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni social media and many activists are now talking more and more about a “foreign agenda” and a “conspiracy against Yemen” being implemented by Bin Omar.

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