GCC and Arab League call for Yemen unity
Sana\'a- Despite having its calls for secession rejected by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab League, Yemen’s Southern Mobility Movement pledged to support the Arab coalition at war with the Houthis.
However, major reservations regarding the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which the coalition is backing, remain.
Former Aden Governor Aidarous al-Zubaidi, an ally of the United Arab Emirates, announced the formation of a political council to govern southern Yemen, with the aim of eventually seceding.
Zubaidi said the 26-member council was willing to continue working with the Saudi-led coalition in the war against the Houthi militia and its allies.
The internationally recognised Yemeni government rejected the formation of the council, saying that it “targets the country’s interests, its future and social fabric.”
Hadi fired Zubaidi as governor a week before the announcement of the council, which resulted in angering southern separatists, who had a rally in Aden on May 4 calling for secession.
Yemeni sources said the conflict between Hadi and Zubaidi relates to Hadi’s alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al-Islah Party, which could open the door for militant organisations affiliated with it to seize control of cities in southern Yemen.
This could also lead to another conflict between Al-Islah and its affiliates and the southerners after the expulsion of the Houthis from Yemen.
This was an issue of contention in February when Hadi travelled to reassure UAE officials there that efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates to take over control of liberated areas in Yemen would not be tolerated.
Hadi’s visit was after reports that elements of Yemen’s government and members of the Yemeni branches of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda had been working to undermine UAE efforts to stabilise southern Yemen.
Yemeni sources said that a high-ranking military figure in the south expressed a lack of confidence in Hadi and the Muslim Brotherhood. He said the latter would not abide by agreements or guarantees provided by the Arab coalition related to the administration of Yemen after the war ends.
“The new council would be eager to open channels of communication with representatives of the Arab alliance to present to it the background to the council’s establishment and its objectives, as well as to confirm the Southern Mobility Movement’s continued support during the war and on the ground alongside the coalition forces and that it will not change its alliances in the war because of differences with parties from the Transitional Authority,” a council statement said.
Although Saudi Arabia and the UAE arm and finance the southern forces in the war, they do not support secession and say they are fighting for a united Yemen.
A military source said Zubaidi’s decision to put together the council was a natural reaction to the Hadi government’s inability to alleviate the suffering of citizens as well as an attempt to play a political role and engage in conflicts that far exceed its capabilities and effectiveness.
Secretary-General of the GCC Abdul Latif al-Zayani said the GCC countries urged Yemenis to reject the calls of division and secession and to back Hadi’s government.
Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said he was “disturbed” by developments in Yemen and called for unity among feuding factions. In a statement, Aboul-Gheit said: “All Yemeni forces should work together and get united at this critical time to fend off the perils of splits and divisions.”
He urged continued support for the legitimate government “until it imposes its full control over all Yemeni territories, and restores stability.”
The call for secession in southern Yemen has been an issue since 1994, due to southerners feeling exploited by leaders in the north, mainly former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his associates. The anti-Saleh sentiment led to the formation of the Southern Mobility Movement in 2007, which has the re-establishment of South Yemen as an independent state as its main goal.
The conflict in Yemen began when the Houthi rebels took control of Sana’a in September 2014 and then seized most of the country, leading the internationally recognised government to flee to Riyadh.
A Saudi-led Arab coalition, supported by the United States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Arab coalition ground troops later entered the fight. Recent developments, particularly calls for secession, could further complicate a war that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.