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Showing posts tagged as "yemen"
Showing posts tagged yemen
Yemen: Conflict Alert
Sanaa/Brussels | 26 Feb 2014
In Yemen’s far North, a patchwork of ceasefires between the Huthi movement, also known as Ansar Allah, and its various adversaries is in peril. The Yemeni government needs to take bold action, in coordination with the international community, to prevent a relapse of violence that would almost certainly be more difficult to contain than the last round.
The threat of renewed violence comes at a delicate moment in Yemen’s transition. Having completed the National Dialogue Conference in January, the country now has a blueprint for a new federal state and democratic reform. Yet, the vision is aspirational at best and events on the ground are moving in a different direction. If rekindled, fighting in the North could significantly derail implementation by further fracturing political consensus and undermining already weak state authority.
The latest bout of fighting escalated in October 2013, when Huthi fighters surrounded the Dar al-Hadith Institute in Dammaj, a city in the Saada governorate, accusing Salafis there of recruiting foreign fighters and preparing for battle. The Salafis accused Huthis (revivalists of the Zaydi school of Shiite Islam) of unprovoked aggression against peaceful religious students. Fighting soon spread throughout five northern governorates, from the Saudi border in Kitaf to the gates of the Yemeni capital in the Arhab region.
In the course of recent combat, two loosely aligned fronts crystallised. On one side, the Ahmars – the pre-eminent family of the powerful Hashid tribal confederation – recruited and materially supported Salafi fighters. Their coalition allegedly has been supported by General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar (no relation to the family) through his loyalists in the Yemeni army in Amran governorate, and indirectly by the Sunni Islamist party, Islah, through its tribal affiliates. On the other side are seasoned Huthi fighters aligned with disgruntled northern tribesmen opposed to the Ahmars and Islah, many of whom have ties with the General People’s Congress (GPC) party and/or its founder, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Huthis have been winning. The January 2014 ceasefire signed in Dammaj, requiring Salafi fighters to evacuate and temporarily relocate to Sanaa, was a clear victory. The Huthis also won the battle for Kitaf, completing their conquest of the Saada governorate. More importantly, they pushed south into Amran, where they aligned with Hashid tribesmen long frustrated with the Ahmars. On 3 February, they destroyed an Ahmar family home, symbolically ending the family’s decades-long hegemony over the Hashid confederation. In Arhab, Islah-affiliated tribesmen managed to hold the line, nothing more.
After months of fighting, the state has little to no control over the far North. The Huthis administer their areas, providing security that the state has thus far been unable to deliver. While Huthis claim that they will relinquish heavy weapons and will support the political transition, opponents are deeply sceptical, claiming that the group seeks to establish a religious theocracy in Yemen or, at a minimum, to mimic the Lebanese Hizbollah model of a state within a state.
Huthi victory in Amran has stoked fears that the group, emboldened by its substantial advances, will attempt an invasion of Sanaa. These fears are overplayed. The Huthis already exert significant political influence in the capital, and an attack could well backfire by jeopardising their popular support, damaging their international standing and bringing the army, which thus far has remained neutral – officially at least – into the fight against them. Yet, all parties are armed in the capital, and they might not act fully rationally should clashes renew.
To date, President Abdo Robo Mansour Hadi has chosen, shrewdly, to remain neutral and to avoid military action that almost certainly would complicate the situation and worsen the violence. He instead has supported presidential committees that belatedly have negotiated ceasefires, first in Dammaj and more recently in Arhab and Hashid (in Amran governorate). However, these are tenuous and by their nature limited. A comprehensive peace requires that each side realise some key demands: for the Huthis, the right to peacefully propagate their religious ideas, mobilise supporters and engage in political activity; for their opponents, that Huthis relinquish heavy weapons to the state and advance their agenda only through peaceful party politics.
Both sets of demands are desirable in and of themselves and conform to the results of the national dialogue. Yet, achieving them will be far from simple: it will require the design of and commitment to a plan of action and an oversight mechanism that are linked to political power sharing and security sector reform at the national level.
During this fragile lull, the Yemeni government and international community should act decisively to prevent a rekindling of violence as a first step toward a durable peace agreement. This requires several steps:
- President Hadi should immediately convene and oversee negotiations to solidify a comprehensive ceasefire in the North and to lay the foundations for a durable peace agreement. Discussions should include high-level stakeholders, including Abd-al-Malik al-Huthi, the leader of his movement; Ahmar family members; Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar and senior Islah, GPC and Salafi leaders.
- A peace plan should be based on the existing ceasefire arrangements and guided by national dialogue outcomes, including principles of political inclusion, freedom of religious belief and gradual disarmament of all non-state actors.
- The Ahmars, Islah and Ali Mohsen should explicitly accept the Huthis’ right to propagate their religious views and pursue peaceful political activities.
- The Huthis should agree to a sequenced program for transferring heavy weapons to the state, as the government simultaneously undertakes steps to ensure the neutrality of its institutions, especially the security services. This process could be started immediately, by removing controversial military commanders, especially in Amran, as well as by appointing less partisan governors in Amran and Jawf to replace the current Islah affiliates. Subsequently, further changes of local government officials and police should be negotiated to ensure, as far as possible, political neutrality or, at a minimum, adequate participation of all local stakeholders.
- All parties should agree to refrain from military activity in Sanaa and to pursue de-escalation and disarmament in the capital.
- To demonstrate the international community’s support for Hadi’s negotiation efforts, members of the G-10 (a diplomatic group based in Sanaa consisting of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the EU) – and especially Saudi Arabia and the U.S. – should back negotiations publicly and, if the Yemeni president requests, participate in talks and assist with implementation.
- Monitoring of the agreement must include a local component – possibly through inclusive, tribally based security initiatives.
PHOTO: REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
Yemen’s Southern Question: Avoiding a Breakdown
Sanaa/Brussels | 25 Sep 2013
In Yemen’s Southern Question: Avoiding a Breakdown, the International Crisis Group examines the transition – now at a critical juncture – of a country still coping with the legacy of unification and civil war as it struggles with the violence of al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula. The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) is winding down; its recommendations will shape a constitution-writing process followed by a constitutional referendum and elections. International and some domestic actors want to stick closely to deadlines, but a rush to complete the transition checklist could mean forcing an outcome lacking broad legitimacy.
The report’s major findings are:
- How to structure the state, and thus resolve the Southern issue, has arguably become the most complicated and divisive problem in current talks and must be a key component of any new constitution and durable political settlement.
- Forcing through a final settlement in current circumstances where basic trust, legitimacy and consensus are lacking will likely further discredit the transition process, strengthen militancy in the South and provoke dangerous brinkmanship.
- NDC participants and international partners should define the success of the NDC as reaching agreement on some issues while laying the basis for continued discussions on others, including state structure. They should also define extended transitional arrangements including:
- a time-limited delay of the constitutional referendum and subsequent elections;
- confidence-building measures for the South (addressing jobs and land grievances, improving security and devolving more financial and administrative responsibility to local government); and a clearly defined implementation timeline, mechanism, funding and oversight;
- inclusion of a wider set of Southern activists, especially Southern Movement (Hiraak) leaders inside and outside the country, in continued negotiations on future state structure.
“For the past two years, Yemeni politics has been guided by an imperfect transition agreement that, for now at least, has averted violence, initiated a political process and made some progress on substantive issues”, says April Alley, Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula. “More time and more work are needed to forge a broad-based solution acceptable to most Northerners and Southerners alike”.
“The alternative to a bounded delay of certain elements, especially the referendum and new transitional roadmap, is at best a thinly-backed agreement lacking sufficient elite and popular support”, says Robert Blecher, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Program Director. “The end result most likely would be further instability and a messy, perilous process of territorial fragmentation”.
Yemen’s Military-Security Reform: Seeds of New Conflict?
Sanaa/Brussels, 4 April 2013: Yemen must take further steps to reform its security forces, or longstanding divisions could well undermine its political transition, which entered into a six-month “national dialogue” on 18 March.
Yemen’s Military-Security Reform: Seeds of a New Conflict?, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the corruption, impunity, tribal divisions and vested interests that have plagued Yemen’s security forces and now threaten the transition process in a country that is also engaged in an armed struggle with al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists. Restructuring the security forces must be accompanied by a larger effort to produce an inclusive political consensus – without which Yemen’s major security stakeholders are unlikely to accept critical reforms.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- Fault lines within the security forces persist from the popular protest movement of 2011, when General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar threw his support behind protesters, while other commanders, mostly hailing from the family of then-president Saleh, remained loyal to the government.
- Since Saleh’s resignation, his successor, President Abdo Robo Mansour Hadi, has loosened the grip of the old regime, ordering a personnel shake-up and eliminating controversial military organisations commanded by General Mohsen and Saleh’s son. However, implementation is nascent, and reforms must go deeper than reshuffling individual positions.
- President Hadi must not ignore deeper issues, such as enforcing non-partisan rules regarding the management of personnel, integrating tribesmen into security forces and ensuring civilian oversight. Changes on this scale require an inclusive political consensus, without which major stakeholders are unlikely to relinquish their independent powers.
- Such a political consensus should result from the national dialogue that began on 18 March. However, this process must genuinely include two major constituencies that have been essentially excluded in the past: the Huthis – a primarily northern movement unhappy with the central government – and southern separatists. These groups are unlikely to support restructuring of the security forces without broad agreement on the parameters of the future Yemeni state.
“President Hadi must avoid ruling simply by decree, or making security appointments that smack of his own brand of partisanship”, says April Longley Alley, Crisis Group’s Senior Yemen Analyst. “To that end, he should communicate to stakeholders and the public the rationale behind new appointments”.
“The national dialogue’s goal is to generate a virtuous cycle in which security restructuring and the national dialogue reinforce one another”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director. “That’s a tall order, and international actors can and should lend a hand. But Yemenis themselves will have to get the sequence and timing right”.
Photo: Flickr/Ammar Abd Rabbo
CrisisWatch N°115 | (01 Mar 2013)
The assassination on 6 February of opposition leader Chokri Belaïd sparked Tunisia’s worst political crisis since the 2011 revolution. The killing triggered mass protests throughout the country against the ruling Islamist party An-Nahda, and in turn counter-protests by An-Nahda supporters. Having dissolved the government in response to the assassination, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali later resigned after his plan to form an interim cabinet of technocrats collapsed in the face of opposition from his own An-Nahda party.
Syria’s conflict continued to exact a horrific toll, with the number of dead, wounded and displaced rising. The Assad regime further escalated violence, reportedly firing ballistic missiles into civilian neighbourhoods, while reports also emerged of its mistreatment of prisoners; the rebels continued to make steady gains; signs of intensifying communal and sectarian friction continued to emerge. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees called the humanitarian situation “dramatic beyond description”. As yet there is little sign of progress in advancing a political solution to the crisis.
The Syrian conflict continues to threaten to destabilise neighbouring Lebanon. Ever more refugees flow across the border and Hizbollah appears increasingly sucked into the fighting. Meanwhile recent controversy over a proposed new electoral law exposed rising sectarianism and mistrust between the various Lebanese communities.
In Yemen, tensions between southern separatists on the one hand and state security forces and the Islamist party, Islah, on the other reached their highest levels since early 2012, and could lead to further violence. Clashes between separatist protesters and security forces in the South left at least six people dead. The UN Security Council warned that the actions of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and separatist leader Ali Salim al-Bid threatened to undermine the country’s democratic transition.
North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on 12 February, a reaction to the UN Security Council’s January resolution condemning its satellite launch last December. As the Security Council held immediate emergency talks, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the nuclear test as “deeply destabilising”. China also declared publicly its “firm opposition” to the test and summoned the North Korean ambassador to Beijing to express its dissatisfaction.
Tension increased ahead of Guinea’s forthcoming legislative elections. The electoral commission, accelerating its preparations for the vote scheduled for 12 May, controversially validated the choice of two companies to undertake a revision of voter rolls. The opposition, who believe the companies are open to political pressure, responded by withdrawing from electoral preparations, and opposition supporters protested in Conakry and other cities.
In Bangladesh, violent Islamist protests against the country’s 1971 war crimes tribunal intensified, as protesters faced off against a popular movement in support of death sentences for those accused, including senior leaders of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami. One of the organisers of the demonstrations in support of death sentences was hacked to death in a suspected Jamaat-e-Islami attack mid-February. Dozens have been killed in clashes since the tribunal sentenced a Jamaat-e-Islami leader to death on 28 February, and violence was continuing. The government faces growing calls to ban Jamaat-e-Islami.
In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe announced that the referendum on a new constitution would be held on 16 March, as worrying reports emerged of politically-motivated violence and intimidation, and of raids on non-governmental organisations (NGOs), confiscation of their documents and equipment, and police allegations that 99 per cent of NGOs are engaged in regime change.
Photo: Bronski Beat/Flickr
Yemen: A rare ‘success’ ‘at risk | BBC
By Barbara Plett
As turmoil seeped across Arab borders in 2011, the UN Security Council threw its weight behind a political transition plan for a nation roiled by protests and violence, stopping the drift towards civil war and leading to the resignation of the authoritarian leader.
No, this is not a fantasy about what might have been for Syria. It is the reality of what happened in Yemen.
And it is the reason council members see Yemen as a rare success story in their track record on the Arab uprisings, last week making it the destination of their first visit to the Middle East in five years.
Jemen ein Jahr danach: Der Regimewechsel steht noch aus | der Standard
von Gudrun Harrer
Ali Mohsen steht der islamistischen Partei Islah nahe - und Präsident Hadi hat in letzter Zeit viele Islah-Leute in wichtige Posten gehievt, zu viele für den Geschmack der revolutionären Jugend, aber sogar für den von manchen anderen Mitgliedern des oppositionellen Parteienbündnisses JMP. Die Islah ist ohne Zweifel heute die stärkste Partei des Jemen - auch hier fährt der Zug in Richtung mehr staatlicher Islam -, aber noch hat sie keine Wahlen gewonnen. Dass sie dennoch jetzt schon abkassiert, stört viele.
Manchmal scheint Hadi überhaupt zu vergessen, dass er nur einer Not-Transitionsregierung vorsteht, schreibt der Thinktank International Crisis Group (ICG) in einem Bericht im Oktober. Auch Hadi platziert vermehrt Leute aus seinem Clan - auch er hat einen Sohn - rund um sich. Angesichts der schlechten Sicherheitssituation ist verständlich, dass er enge Vertraute für seinen Schutz einsetzt, aber in der Politik haben sie eigentlich nichts zu suchen. Spöttisch spricht man jetzt schon von einer “Abyanisierung”, die Salehs “Sanhanisierung” abgelöst habe. Hadi stammt aus Abyan, so wie Saleh aus Sanhan stammte.
Southern support essential for Yemen dialogue | AFP
By Taieb Mahjoub
DUBAI — The lifting of a boycott by southern separatist factions of Yemen’s national dialogue, a key component of a UN-brokered power transition deal signed a year ago, is seen as vital for the success of the talks.
The agreement that eased president Ali Abdullah Saleh out of office after three decades in power and following a year of protests calls for the national dialogue to produce a new constitution and electoral law.
But the “Southern Movement participation in the national dialogue is a ‘make or break’ issue,” said April Longley Alley, a senior analyst from the International Crisis Group.
Yemen: New challenges for aid worker security | IRIN
DUBAI, 14 November 2012 (IRIN) - Yemen has long been renowned as a place where foreigners, including aid workers, are at risk of kidnapping. On the brink of civil war last year, and with a still fluid social and political transition under way, new challenges for aid worker security are emerging, say experts.
"It’s more risky than before, not just for foreigners, but they are the number one target," said Nasser Arrabyee, a local analyst and journalist.
"Since the election in February, the security situation has deteriorated gradually," Siris Hartkorn, head of risk analysis at Safer Yemen, a security consultancy specializing in advice to humanitarian organizations, told IRIN. "It is more insecure than it has ever been before."
Triage for a fracturing Yemen | Foreign Policy
By April Longley Alley
Nearly a year after former President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a transition agreement, Yemen risks significant localized violence and territorial fragmentation. While politicians and the international community in the capital prepare for national dialogue, Zaydi rebels, known as the Houthis, and Salafi fighters associated with the Islamist party, Islah, are positioning for further skirmishes in the North. Already, clashes during the last months have killed dozens of people and inflammatory rhetoric by both sides is a harbinger of violence to come. In the South, separatist sentiment remains high and there is no agreement on how to effectively include the southern movement, a loose and divided coalition calling for immediate southern independence or at a minimum greater autonomy, into the dialogue process. Attacks by al Qaeda and its local affiliate, Ansar al-Sharia, are on the rise, with assassinations of over 60 military-security personnel in 2012 alone. The minister of defense has escaped assassination on at least six different occasions.
Photo: IRIN Photos/Flickr