Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Unity under threat in Yemen

By Nasser Arrabyee
Gulf News

Sana'a: Southern Yemen has been engulfed in violence since late last month. Restless groups from the south want to secede from the north because they are being politically "marginalised" by the central government in the north which united with the south in 1990.

The disgruntled groups say the unity is no longer peaceful since the civil war of 1994 when the first separation attempt ended in failure.

Rebellious groups marked April 27 as a day of "declaring war against the south". They pointed to a speech delivered by President Ali Abdullah Saleh on April 27, 1994, after which war broke out.
Two days before the groups' celebrations, which turned violent with riots breaking out in at least four provinces, in which dozens of people were killed or injured, President Saleh warned of a new a civil war if calls for separation continued.

"Yemen, Allah forbid, will not divide into two, south and north, but into villages and small states, and people will be fighting with each other from door to door and from window to window," Saleh said at a big rally in Sana'a on April 27 which brought together all the State's officials, and military and security commanders, notably from the south.

The marginalisation felt by the southern groups has been expressed in two major issues since early 2006.

The retirement or exclusion of thousands of military, security, and civil officials from their employments after the war of 1994. The second is the issue of lands in the south which were plundered by corrupt, influential officials after the war.

President Saleh and other officials admitted to some mistakes especially on these two issues, but they continue to say all wrongs must be corrected in the framework of unity.

In 2007, Saleh formed special committees to find facts about the two issues. The committees recommended that Saleh should get rid of 15 senior officials who were responsible for those wrongs of the two major issues, if he wants to preserve the unity.

However, none of those 15 official included in the presidential committee's report was held accountable until now. Tareq Al Fadhli, a southern prominent tribal shaikh in Abyan, joined the groups of south movement only last month after he served as one of the President's advisors since 1994.

Al Fadhli in his home town Zunjubar, Abyan, sponsored on April 27, 2009, a big rally in which he called for unity of the south to "drive away the northern occupation and have the southern independence."

The state was "the biggest plunderer of the lands in the south", said Al Fadhli, a former Jihadist in Afghanistan.

Mohammad Al Dahri, politics professor at Sana'a University, said what's going on in Yemen now is a crisis of partnership, a national integration crisis, and economic and legislation crisis.

The separation calls also receive political and media support mainly from the socialist leaders who have been living in the Gulf countries since after the civil war of 1994.

The government said it had requested Saudi Arabia and Oman to hand over those leaders who are politically supporting the south movement.

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