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article imageOp-Ed: Houthi rebel area in north Yemen peaceful for now

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By Ken Hanly     Oct 26, 2012 in Politics
Sana - For most of the last decade there has been conflict between the central government and Houthis, a Shia minority, in the Saada governorate of northern Yemen. At present, however, the area is calm with the rebels allowed to control the area.
Before President Saleh finally stepped down and his former vice-president Hadi took over the presidency, the Saada area saw constant conflict. President Saleh was insistent that the central government lord it over the Houthis. His troops regularly attacked towns of the Houthis. Saleh was supported by the U.S. at the time.The Houthis are strongly anti-American. The Saudis also sometimes attacked, accusing the Houthis of raids across the border. Most of the border in the region is still not agreed upon.
Saleh vowed to cut funding for schools and hospital funding in order to pay for a war to crush the rebels without mercy. President Hadi, on the other hand, has concentrated upon attacking and defeating Islamic rebels in the south with the help of the U.S. Some of these groups were associated with al-Qaeda, particularly Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
While Saleh was busy with the rebellion against his rule, the Houthis set up their own organs of government in the Saada region. As you can see from the attached video, many of the buildings are still in ruins from earlier fighting. However, now shops are full and business is doing well. Residents are happy that at least for now the area is free of conflict.
Some officials complain that Houthi militia rule through threats of violence and want the central government to take back complete control. Most residents though welcome the stability that the area enjoys under the Houthi.
The Yemeni flag is rarely seen and Houthis man checkpoints in the region. Banners and graffiti are everywhere with the notorious Houthi slogan: “God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, power to Islam” .
However many Yemeni politicians oppose the new rulers claiming that they staged a coup and central government authorities were forced to flee. However, Faris Manaa, an arms dealer and former Saleh ally, who was appointed governor by local notables, claimed to have frequent contact with the central government. He claimed that there were still government employees in Saada and that even soldiers were posted there.
Obviously, some important power brokers have made a deal that has given the Houthis considerable power. Manaa said that many were unhappy that there was peace in Saada. They wanted all the power to themselves rather than sharing with the Houthis. Most analysts think that the Houthis will retain a share of power even if there is a deal that brings them nominally into the orbit of the central government again. Hadi may be wise enough to avoid stirring up another hornet's nest when he already has plenty of problems to deal with first.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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