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South Yemen separatists not in rush for vote

Southern council fully supports Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen

Gulf News

Al Mukalla: South Yemen separatists will not rush into organising an independence referendum, as they want to impose their writ over all institutions in the south, its oil and gas wealth before doing so. They also want to build legislative bodies, leaders said.

Adnan Al Kaf, a member of the Southern Transitional Council, told Gulf News the council had taken steps towards expanding public participation in the decision-making process in south Yemen by forming the National General Assembly comprised of tribal leaders, activists, and military and political figures. “We seek a more inclusive leadership. Representatives will convene in their provinces and select a leader,” Al Kaf said.

Tensions between south Yemen separatists and the internationally recognised government, currently based in Aden, escalated when Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi dismissed governors of several provinces who joined the council. “The government dismissed southern leaders who took part in the fighting against Al Houthis. We think there is a party from the government that seeks to terminate the partnership,” Al Kaf said.

Instead of weakening them, the sackings prompted separatists into organising massive protests in Aden and other cities, and pushing with their plan for reviving the former South Yemen state, which had united with the north in 1994.

Al Kaf said the council fully supported the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen, and is indebted to them for liberating the south from Al Houthis and other militant groups. “Our fighters are battling Al Houthis in Mokha and Saada,” he said, adding the council would escalate public pressure on the government in Aden to fix basic social services and pay government salaries. “The protests will be peaceful. Soldiers have not been paid for seven months.”

For the first time since the beginning of pro-independence protests in south Yemen in 2007, southerners are in charge of key security and government bodies. Due to the radical leadership changes in the south, separatists demanded taking part in peace negotiations sponsored by the UN. “We want to take part in talks. People in the south have the right to self-determination,” Al Kaf said.

Analysts noted that despite having the ability to dictate terms, southerners appeared less aggressive about voting on independence from the north. “The transitional council did not call for a referendum because it has not completed building the institutions,” Yasser Al Yafae, a political analyst based in Aden, told Gulf News. “The biggest achievement of the council is bringing together the southerners into one entity,” he said.