Sana’a: Qatar has donated $350 million (Dh1.28 billion) to a fund to compensate civilians and security force members in south Yemen who were forced out of their jobs, the UN special envoy said on Sunday.
“The south was marginalised under the former regime, its residents discriminated against and its resources plundered,” Jamal Benomar said at a ceremony marking the donation.
“Southerners have been made several false promises, but this is the first time concrete action has been taken to recompense them, which means we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Thousands of southerners lost their jobs after North and South Yemen united in 1990.
The UN envoy said he saw in the donation “a sign of solidarity from Qatar and the Arab nations of the Gulf with the Yemeni people”.
He also said he hoped for further donations. The fund for southerners is one of three compensation funds. Another is for the wounded and families of those killed in protests against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime and for the victims of conflict in the north and south. The third fund is to compensate victims of political violence in general.
Setting up the third fund was approved by a national dialogue currently under way in the capital, aimed at ending Yemen’s continuing political crisis. The other two funds have so far attracted only meagre contributions.
Benomar urged delegates in the national dialogue to “stop putting spanners in the works” of the political process and to “use international support to make it succeed”.
He said two crucial questions remained to be resolved if the dialogue were to succeed — demands for autonomy in the south and the future make-up of the Yemeni state.
The contentious southern question has been a stumbling block for the national dialogue, in which moderate members of the Southern Movement have been demanding greater autonomy.
The talks, which opened in March and were originally due to close on September 18, accepted the principle of a federal state, but President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi who took over from Saleh and northern delegates suggested it should comprise several entities.
Southern secessionists are demanding a federal state made up of a north and south only.
The dialogue is part of a transitional process stipulated by a UN-backed initiative, brokered by neighbouring Gulf countries, which ended a year of Arab Spring-inspired protests and eased Saleh out of office in February 2012 after 33 years in power.