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May 5, 2020

Division of Yemen

Editorial

 
May 5, 2020

A separatist group in southern Yemen has declared self-rule in the southern part of the country and announced an interim seat of government at Aden. The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) issued the declaration on April 26, practically asserting the north-south divide once again, and threatening new conflicts with other warring factions not only within the country but also in the region involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The northern part of Yemen is currently held by the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that overthrew the internationally recognized government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. The STC signed a power-sharing deal with the internationally-recognized government in November 2019. Interestingly, Saudi Arabia which was initially supporting the southern groups against the northern outfits, has described the STC announcement as an ‘escalatory action’. This development is even more puzzling at a time when the region is also battling the novel coronavirus, just like the rest of the world

The people of Yemen have been suffering under the double scourge of a raging civil war and a surging Covid-19 pandemic. Precisely at a time when the warring factions should be trying to alleviate the sufferings of the Yemenis during the month of Ramazan, and support peace efforts initiated by the UN, the declaration further complicates the situation. The STC declaration of self-rule has threatened efforts to revive talks between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels. This is an entirely unilateral action that will promote instability rather than bring some semblance of peace. Now, there is an even more challenging situation for the UN special envoy for the region. It will require much more to revive political negotiations between the government and the Houthi rebels. There is only one solution to this imbroglio and that is re-engaging in the political process – otherwise Yemen will remain mired in conflict for many years to come. It has been over five years now that a coalition led by Saudis intervened in March 2015 against the Houthis who have been in control of Sanaa since 2014.

Houthis also control most big cities and towns in the southern part of Yemen. Despite the repeated efforts by the UN, the northern and southern parts of Yemen have remained separate for all practical purposes for five years now, so the declaration only tries to formalize what has already been there. It is a sad fact that Yemen has lost, according to some estimates, as many as one hundred thousand people in the past five years. Another million or so have been either displaced or pushed to the brink of famine and starvation. Neighbouring Muslim countries such as Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have a lot to answer for in this tragedy. And so is the so-called alliance of the 40 odd Muslim countries. Nobody knows what that united force is doing if it is unable to restore peace in such a small country as Yemen.