Gulf | Yemen

Yemen unification faces hurdles

Secessionists call for termination of unity deal and revival of southern state

  • By Saeed Al Batati, Correspondent
  • Published: 00:00 May 23, 2012
  • Gulf News

Police cadets stage a parade marking the 22nd anniversary of Yemen’s 1990 reunification
  • Image Credit: AFP
  • Police cadets stage a parade marking the 22nd anniversary of Yemen’s 1990 reunification in Sana’a yesterday. Army Chief-of-Staff Ali Al Ashwal vowed on the occasion no let-up in the offensive against Al Qaida.

Sana'a: The jubilant mood that swept Yemen on the day of reunification was fading away in the country's southern provinces and replaced by voices calling for the termination of unity deal and revival of the Southern state.

Yesterday, Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi attended a sombre military parade in the capital marking the 22nd anniversary of unification, a day after more than 90 soldiers were killed in Sana'a by a suicide bomber. However, the Southern secessionists called for civil disobedience to increase pressure on the government to bow to their demand to break up Yemen.

Observers in Yemen think that unification is facing unprecedented challenges that could undermine it if they were not urgently addressed.

Abdul Bari Taher, political analyst, said: "The solutions to these challenges are below the required level and the political elite in the country are heedless to what's happening in Yemen.''

Resentment

Abdul Bari warns that Al Qaida's active branch in Yemen could shear off part of the south. "Yemen's offshoot of Al Qaida is more active than Iraq and Afghanistan and they control parts of the country and a threat to the national unity as the militants aim to declare their own autonomous state in the south."

Among the underlying reasons that flared resentment in the south, Abdul Bari said, is that the economic facilities in the south were neglected like the neglect of Aden's strategic port. Also the former Southern soldiers were forced to retire." The south is divided between many parties, some clearly call for secession, some call for federal system while the others demand unity in the south."

Abdul Rageeb Al Hadayani, the editor of Aden Online, agrees that the unification is facing hard times.

"When you have voices in the south calling for secession and many provinces in Yemen are out of the government control, I can safely say that the Yemen unification is at its worst."

Abdul Rageeb thinks that the current miserable situation is the result of the former regime's corruption that practised injustice, marginalisation, negligence and made most of the people live in poverty. "The country is suffering from the heavy legacy of Saleh's regime."

"I can say that the unification between south and north is going through exceptional times and it will be impossible for it to continue in its current form and Yemenis should look for another form like federal system or any other form to make unity endure."

Hope

Under the terms of the GCC-brokered peace deal, all Yemeni political forces should take part in a national dialogue conference to unreservedly discuss the country's worries.

"The national dialogue which is sponsored by the international community have a duty to convince the voices that call for separation. The next system will face a challenge of establishing a state based on equal citizenship and able to enforces law and justice."

Many observers think that the best solution to Yemen's problem is a federal system of regions as a middle ground between those who regard unity as red line and the others calling for secession, said Abdul Rageeb.

"To solve the problem I suggest that we should first admit the mistakes in the south. Second, returning people's stolen rights and property in the south. Third bringing back the forced army retirees and engage them in the army.

History

On May 22, the leaders former Marxist People's Democratic Republic of Yemen Ali Salim Al Beidh and the Yemen Arab Republic Ali Abdullah Saleh struck a deal to merge their two states into one state called Republican of Yemen. Ali Saleh Al Beidh agreed to relinquish power to his northern counterpart.

Three years later, differences between the two leaders came to the surface following a wave assassinations against members of the Socialist party.

In January,1994 the late Jordanian monarch, King Abdullah stepped in and invited the two quarrelling leaders to sign a peace agreement. The agreement lived shortly and the war broke out. On May 21,1994 Ali Saleh Al Beidh unilaterally announced from Aden the end of unity. The new state was not recognized by the international community.On July 7 1994,northern forces entered Aden and Al Beidh and other senior members of the Socialist party fled from Aden and went into exile. Al Beidh remained tight-lipped in Oman for 15 years .

In 2006/2007 thousands of discontented army pensioners from the South arranged rallies in Aden ,demanding equal rights with retired soldiers in the north. Then disgruntled citizens from the south joined them and the Southern Movement was born. As the movement gathered steam in the south, protesters turned into demanding the revival of the former South state.

Yemen government dealt with the movement with forces and hundreds of citizens died. On May 21st 2009,the movement got a shot in the arm as Ali Salim Al Beidh broke his silence and expressed his support with the movement.

Complaint

Southerners have complained that the northerners who controlled the south in 1994 exclusively and illegally controlled the land in the south. They said that the wealth and political power were unfairly distributed and northerners took over important positions.

Ali Salim Al Beidh

Ali Salim Al Beidh is the southern leader of the Socialist Party and former vice-president of Yemen from 1990-1994.He was born in 1939 in the south-eastern province of Hadramout . He fought against the British occupation and was appointed the first minister of defense after independence in 1967. Al Beidh gained power in the South in 1986 after bloody infighting between members of the Socialist Party. On November 30,1989 he signed unity deal with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. He was granted asylum in Oman in 1994 and left Oman to Germany in 2009.He lives now in Lebanon
 

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