On Sunday, separatists in southern Yemen staged a general strike in the port city of Aden. They also called for protests against a national dialogue the groups are boycotting.
South Yemen was formerly an independent republic. Many in the region think that unification has benefited the north of the country to the neglect of the south and would like to become independent again. A six-hour general strike closed schools and universities in Aden and paralyzed the former capital of the People's Republic of South Yemen. Protesters have closed the main roads with stone blocks and security forces have been deployed across the city according to Press TV. On March 13, in Aden, two protesters were killed during clashes with security forces.
Protesters were to gather later in the day organized by several factions of the Southern Movement. The rally will protest the upcoming national dialogue sponsored by the UN and part of the transition of power deal brokered with Saleh to have him step down.
The deal supported by Saudi Arabia and the US, but brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council, granted former president Saleh, his relatives, and associates immunity from prosecution for any crimes they may have committed during the uprising against him that killed many protesters. Later his vice-president General Hadi ran for president unopposed, again with the support of the US and Saudi Arabia. His election was touted as a model for democratic transition. The national dialogue is set to last six months after being postponed several times. It is supposed to settle differences among competing groups and pave the way for elections later. The dialogue was originally scheduled for mid-November last year but in part because of the southern separatist issue was postponed. Elections are scheduled for February 2014..
Some southern separatists will join the national dialogue hoping to at least achieve a degree of autonomy for the south but the factions behind the protests want nothing short of independence.
South Yemen's former president Ali Salem al-Baid insists that negotiations be held between two independent states. Qassem Askar, a leader of a hard-line faction in the Southern Movement, described the national dialogue as follows: “It is a conspiracy against us by the international and regional community. Several people have not been informed that they were appointed to represent southerners in the talks and some have withdrawn. Others representing southerners are of northern origins."
Cars patrolled Aden streets urging residents to take part in protests, and anti-dialogue slogans were painted on the walls of many buildings. Flags of former South Yemen were also displayed in parts of the city.
There was a previous civil war between north and south in 1994, just four years after unification in 1990. There are several different factions of the separatist movement who are boycotting the national dialogue.As well as Baid's group the Southern Movement's Supreme Council head Hassan Baoum is boycotting the dialogue and his movement is the most powerful of the separatist groups. A third group in exile also is joining in the boycott. Indeed, most of the movement seems to be opposed to the dialogue.
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