Yemen Civil War? Masses Rally in Capital & South Secedes

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) —

From 1967 to 1990, and again briefly in 1994, South Yemen was an independent country. In the first period, of some 23 years, it had a Communist government, the only one in the Arab world.

Today, South Yemen is again an independent state. Since the resignation of united Yemen’s president and prime minister last Thursday, in protest of the take-over of much of the north and the capital by Houthi militiamen, the provinces of the south have been issuing Fort Sumter-style declarations of secession. Aden, Maarib, Shabwah, Lahij, ad-Dali’ and Abyan provinces all refused to accept any military orders from Sanaa, the capital, in protest at its occupation by the Houthi militiamen.

In particular Maarib, which has some petroleum, dramatically announced its independence. The Houthis have made moves to occupy it.

The Houthis, or Ansar Allah, are members of the Zaidi Shiite branch of Islam. They hail from the northern city of Saadeh. Unlike Iraqis and Iranians, Zaidis do not have ayatollahs or a strong religious hierarchy. The Houthis, however, have been attempting to move Zaidism closer to Iran-style Shiism. People in the south are mostly Sunnis, the rival branch of Islam.

Yemeni officers in the south are apparently seeking to create a joint southern military command.

The USA will be worried that there are probably a couple thousand fighters of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in provinces such as Maarib and Abyan in the south. Most South Yemenis, however, are not radicals but mainstream Sunni Arabs. Some of them are Sufi mystics. Others support labor movements and socialism.

On Saturday in the northern cities, thousands of youth demonstrated in Sanaa and some other places (Ta’izz, Ibb, etc.) against the Houthi take-over of the capital, asking the militiamen to depart quietly.

Meanwhile some reports say that the Houthi command is attempting to form a presidential council to replace Mansour Hadi.


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6 Responses

  1. Not to worry. Bombing is O-bomb-er’s answer to every problem. We just need to bomb more.

    Bomb Bomb Bomb Plan didn’t work?

    On to the Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Plan.

  2. Seems to me that even a Houthi govt is better than one imposed by and propped up by a foreign government, as was Hadi and Saleh before him.

    Where do the folks of Hadramaut stand ?

  3. In every case in the Middle East and North Africa, forces claiming to embark on destruction of democratic transitions in the name of “correcting the course of the revolution” or staging a “war on terrorism” have made the situations in their countries worse. In each case where one or more forces tried doing this, they brought about a betrayal of the regional revolutions, democracy, and human rights. This has happened in Egypt, in Yemen, and several different forces have been doing this for a while now in Libya.

    It is better to have a shaky, even ineffective, transitional government which will give way to democratic governance than have some new anti-democratic violent force establish a murky new period of oligarchy or dictatorship.

    The Houthis need to work with the democratic Yemeni forces and ditch Saleh and his cronies. The demands of the Zaydis can be achieved through patient work toward liberty and democracy if the country is allowed to move in that direction. Even in its darkest moments, the Tunisian transition continued and Tunisians kept pressing forward. Despite various problems, they are starting to reap the fruit of that work. They did not run away from democracy at the first sign of adversity.

  4. If the US does not intervene this could be a long protracted civil war between a couple violent forces. If the US does intervene this could be a permanent civil war between fragmented violent forces in a failed state.

  5. I would rather qualify the term secession, while Al-Hirak has been asking for independence with mixed success, the current wave of “non-accepting orders from Sanaa” are more about who is in control of a united Yemen. Somehow it seems that the government forces are now the rebels but South Yemen is no more independent than it was a week ago. W’ll see what happens in the weeks to come.

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