Bouchra Belguellil analyses the troubled situation of Yemen - Part I

Since the beginning of the saudi-led military operations in Yemen on 26th March 2015, the Republic of Yemen is facing the worst humanitarian, political, and security crisis in its modern history. The armed conflict has entered a phase of deeper fragmentation, which risks plunging the country into an interminable war, where warlords, terrorist organisations, and criminal networks find safe-havens.

On the « National level » Frontline between the Houthi rebels and their allies in the North, on one hand, and Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirate (UEA) backed forces in the south, on the other hand, remained mostly static and the dynamics of current armed conflict coincides with the old demarcation line between the two pre 1990s separate entities, a) Northern Yemen and b) Southern Yemen. On the regional level, New sub-conflicts and warfare dynamics have emerged, especially in the South. The current fragmentation of the conflict is a clear sign of the erosion of the State Unity.

The root causes of the conflict in Yemen remains linked to the failure of the reunification of the country in 1990, and that the Arab Spring (2011) merely surfaced underlying problems and grievances which had existed for over a decade. It is also linked to a failure of the reunification of the South (1967). This aspect is rarely discussed in media, as the focus rests on the regional aspect of the conflict due to its more sectarian and destructive effect. In this regard, it is critical to be mindful of the complex social and tribal fabric of Yemenite society, and the history of armed conflict and civil unrest in the country. Over the past eight decades in Yemen, the country has witnessed more than 18 armed conflicts; that is approximately a new conflict every five year, A stark reminder of Jean Giraudoux's historic words about the notion of peace, as an interval between two wars.

But Yemen, gradually loses its state attributes, whether for the benefit of its regional allies or that of non-state entities. The country is administered in the North by a De facto government in Sanaa (Houthis and their allies), in the South it remains under the control of a De jure government (from Ryadh and Aden) competed by its contingent ally namely the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and some « proto local governments » including in Hadramout.

The legitimate government's role, is reduced to protocolary prerogatives, and it no longer exerts effective sovereignty over its own so-called "liberated" territories. According to the latest UN panel experts on Yemen report, published in January 2018, the legitimate government is not able to govern the country from abroad, and the panel warns against the proliferation «of independent operations of proxy military forces » backed by Saudi Arabia and AUE in the South.

Indeed, the coalition seems to deviate from its original « mandate » (to restore the "legitimacy" and disarm Houthi rebels). At least two increasingly contradictory agendas have emerged on the ground, on one hand the Saudi, more concerned by the Houthis and iranian issue, and the other hand, UAE acting as an occupying force over islands and port cities of the South, and who supports the STC and other non-State armed groups openly against the « Legitimate government ».

The recent tensions between the legitimate government and the UAE - after its military deployment in Socotra - is a perfect example not only of a lack of coordination between the Hadi government and the coalition but is also a serious violation of the sovereignty of the Yemeni state.

Moreover, the legitimate government no longer has the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force. Between 100 and 120 million pieces of weapon circulate in the country, for 27 million inhabitants. Also, the formation of non-state armed groups: In the north the Ansar Allah (Houthis) supported by the revolutionary committees, and in the South the southern popular committees and movements that fight the Houthis. To this must be added AQAP forces, and what has been named: the national army, formed to support the legitimate government. It is not a real army, but a cluster of militias, and mercenaries - who have nothing in common except the uniform.

The chains of command do not always go back to the ministry of the Yemenite defense, but directly to the coalition, (joint command or Saudi or Emirati) and sometimes certain armed groups are under a strictly local command. It should be remembered that The Yemenite army was considerably weakened as a result of the post-Arab spring reshuffling, the six wars of Saa'da (1004-2010) and the civil war (1994). The former President Ali Abdellah Saleh built the Yemeni armed forces on very fragile pillars, which allowed its rapid collapse following the restructuring of the army. The reforms undertaken by Hadi aimed at purging the Saleh family network within the armed forces, who evidently held high positions in the military institution and within the security forces. This largely explains the division of the army following the conflict. Many defected or deserted, around 15000 joined the Houthis, and 50% of the units that were in the South and the Est (Hadramut and al-Méhara) supported Hadi, or at least were against the Houthis.

The Yemeni state is losing its regalian prerogatives as the conflict is fragmenting. The Yemeni central bank, which is unlocalized in Aden, and administered from abroad (Amman, Jordan) strengthens the financial dependence to Yemen's allies and consequently this dissolution process.

06/06/2018 - Any reproduction, copy, transmission or translation of this publication is prohibited.

Un dépôt d'armes de Houthi explose après avoir été frappé par des frappes aériennes à Sanaa, au Yémen, le 31 janvier 2018.
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