Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)
Wednesday,15 August, 2018
Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly

New challenges in Yemen

Houthi forces have apparently refused to evacuate the Yemeni capital despite the appointment of a national unity prime minister, writes Nasser Arrabyee in Sanaa

Al-Ahram Weekly

Houthi Shiite fighters in Yemen have not withdrawn from the Yemeni capital Sanaa despite a presidential decree to form a new government chaired by a man they had already approved.

The country’s president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, appointed Khaled Bahah to form a new government on 13 October, with all the country’s various groups, including the Houthis, approving the tenure of Bahah, from Hudhrmout in the south-east of the country, as prime minister.

On 21 September, Hadi and the country’s different groups signed the Peace and National Partnership Agreement based on the outcomes of the country’s national dialogue, being a road map for the establishment of a federal state with six regions, two in the south and four in the north.

According to the agreement, the Houthi fighters undertook to evacuate Sanaa and all the state institutions they had been occupying immediately after a new prime minister was appointed. They also undertook to hand over heavy weapons taken from military bases after the capture of Sanaa last September.

However, the Houthis seem to be reluctant to withdraw their fighters from Sanaa where they have checkpoints everywhere including at the gates of military and security institutions.

They may feel they will not be safe if they leave without changing some of the country’s security officials first. On 2 October, at least 51 Houthi supporters were killed and 150 injured when an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber blew himself up at a rally in Sanaa protesting against the designation of Ahmed Bin Mubarak, who is loyal to the Sunni Islamist party Al-Islah, as prime minister.

The Al-Islah Party is the political wing of the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood.

To reassure the Houthis and make them feel more secure, the leadership of the Sanaa security forces was changed this week, with the minister of the interior publicly calling on the security forces to cooperate with the Houthi fighters when they entered Sanaa last September.

The head of the Sanaa police was replaced by Abdel-Razzak Al-Muayed, already approved by the Houthis.

The Houthis have also been trying to establish themselves elsewhere in the country and not just in the capital. On 13 October, Houthi fighters took control of an arsenal in the coastal city of Hodeidah in the west of the country, claiming that it had belonged to fugitive general Ali Muhsen who they accuse of giving weapons and money to Al-Qaeda.

The issue of south Yemen has also become more complicated in the wake of the Houthi control of Sanaa, with southern separatists wishing to emulate the success of the Houthis in the north of the country.

However, the southern separatists do not have a united leadership, since there are some 12 different groups all seeking separation, and they do not have a large political party, unlike the party of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh that has supported the Houthis.

On 14 October, the 51st anniversary of the October 14 Revolution against British colonial rule in Yemen, the separatists organised demonstrations called the “million-man demonstrations” in the southern coastal city of Aden to demand separation from the rest of the country.

Their exiled leader, Ali Salem Al-Beidh, called on the international community to support a referendum to decide on Yemen’s future, though the international community has thus far supported a united Yemen led by Hadi, who is from the south, and the newly appointed prime minister.

UN special envoy to Yemen Jamal Bin Omar briefed the UN Security Council on 13 October on the latest developments in Yemen.

“I briefed the Security Council on recent and sobering developments in Yemen,” Bin Omar said. “Members of the Council are all concerned about the dangers facing the transition.”

“I told the Security Council that the transition is at risk of collapsing and explained that the implementation of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement is the only way forward. The agreement is based on the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference and provides Yemen’s best hope to overcome the current crisis.”

“I welcome the appointment of the new prime minister, Khaled Bahah. Now swift action is needed to ensure the formation of the government,” he concluded.

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