Monday, 8 August 2011

Yemen: Southerners focus on survival

In the south, there have been few new developments as people are preoccupied with trying to run their own areas, obtain fuel and food and provide security in the continuing absence of an effective central authority. Aden is in a particularly sorry state, even compared with three months ago.

The organised protests have been mostly directed against the regime and make common cause with all those in Yemen demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh should go. The demand for secession has not gone away, even though the street protesters now argue for a solution within a united Yemen. The main external leaders met in Cairo in mid-July to coordinate their position with the Joint Meeting Parties and clarify the terms they want for a federal Yemen. They have been trying to explain exactly what they meant about a previous statement that said Yemen's oil would be owned by the south in any future federal Yemen. The leaders now say that the oil will be “owned” by the south but that the federal government would exploit it and distribute revenues according to an agreed formula. That will still be rejected by any likely regime in the north but it is a more conciliatory position than the previous one.

There is continuing concern about the fate of Hassan Baum, one of the most effective internal leaders of the southern movement, who has been in prison for some months. Reports in early August spoke of major differences between external leaders of the movement such as Haydar al-Attas and the secessionists, who tend to look to Ali Salim al-Bidh, ensconced in his Austrian Schloss, as the external leader they might accept. Brigadier Ali Mohammed Assadi, one of the internal leaders close to Baum, who wants nothing short of secession, gave his view of southern Yemen as “a liberal, social democracy, similar to current European socialism”. He said he saw this as carrying on from where the PDRY was in early 1990. He must have a very selective memory – but then one of the problems in the southern movement is that all have redacted memories of PDRY, most of which are conflicting and inaccurate.

For more news and expert analysis about Yemen, please see Yemen Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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