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article imageOp-Ed: Secessionists in Southern Yemen threaten Saudi-backed government

By Ken Hanly     May 12, 2017 in Politics
Aden - Senior tribal, political and military leaders have formed a new council that seeks the secession of the south from the Yemen government of president Mansour Hadi,
The formation of the group was announced by former governor of the Port of Aden Aidaroos al-Zubaidi. The Hadi government backed by the Saudis, many Gulf States and the US has been fighting a lengthy battle against Houthi rebels who still control much of the north of Yemen including the capital Sanaa. The Houthis are Shia Muslims and have the support of Iran whereas the supporters of the Hadi government are Sunnis, However, the former president Saleh is also allied with the Houthis and those in the armed forces who support him. Zubaidi was recently fired as the governor of Aden,
Before the Houthis drove Hadi out of power and into exile, there was already opposition to the Hadi government in the south but many in the movement rallied behind the Hadi government's offensive against the Houthis which recaptured Aden and much of the south of the country. The flag of the former South Yemen whose forces were defeated by those from the north in 1994 uniting the country often can be seen flown by military vehicles. Zubaidi said a national political leadership with himself as president would represent the south. The south contains most of the modest oil deposits that are a prime support of the Yemeni economy. The new development threatens the Saudi-led campaign against the Houthis. For their part the Houthis claim that Gulf state powers seek to divide the country and occupy it.
An anonymous senior southern official said: "It is a step forward after a long struggle. The people of South Arabia have finally managed to organize themselves towards independence,The UAE and the Gulf respect the right of self determination, and we don't think they will be against the Southern will ... We don't advise the Hadi government to use force.``Many in the south feel that they had been exploited by the north under Hadi's and previous governments and that they were cut off from jobs and influence. Zubaidi said that the council would continue to cooperate with the coalition and foreign powers to combat what he called Iranian influence and terrorism.
Zubaidi's announcement came just as there was a meeting between Hadi and the UN special envoy to Yemen, Ould Sheikh Ahmed. Ahmed is hoping to resume peace talks between the Hadi government and the Houthi rebels. Hadi had been trying to keep together a coalition fighting the Houthis. Zubaidi's move was provoked after he was fired on the 27th April along with cabinet minister Hani bin Braik. Both men played key roles in driving the Houthis out of Aden and adjacent territory but they also have close ties to the secessionist movement.
After the firing thousands of demonstrators had demanded that Zubaidi set up a new leadership. The new council has 26 members and includes governors of five southern provinces and even two government ministers. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) which is part of the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis is apparently involved in the move against Hadi. Hadi accused the UAE crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed as acting like an occupier. It seems that the real problem is that he Zayed had been working closely with the fired Aden governor. No doubt the UAE may be hoping for a southern government over which it would have considerable influence.
The World Health Organization estimates the death toll from the Yemen conflict so far at more than 8,000 with another 44,500 injured since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the conflict back in 2015. The UN claims that two thirds of the population are on the brink of famine.
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
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