Weekly News Update 1 November 2012

Joe Sheffer/The Guardian/http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/31/cycling-in-yemen-struggle

Highlights:
Triage for a fracturing Yemen
Foreign Policy — 31 October 2012
The technical committee is doing its job, but it needs the support of the president, the government, and the political parties to build a supportive environment for dialogue. To date, this has not happened. Thus far, not one of the technical committee’s confidence building measures has been implemented on the ground. Granted, some requests are complex and would take considerable time, such as fully resolving land disputes or addressing illegal dismissals from public sector employment following the 1994 civil war between the North and South. However, the current government has not begun forming committees to begin addressing these issues, nor has it taken advantage of low hanging fruit, such as implementing steps to re-open the South’s most prominent independent newspaper, al Ayyam, which has been closed since 2009 following an attack on its offices by the central government on suspicion of supporting separatists.

Yemen’s ‘Death to America’ rebels bring calm to northern Yemen
Christian Science Monitor — 28 October 2012
Now signs bearing the group’s slogan, “God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Damn the Jews, Power to Islam,” pepper the streets alongside tributes to fighters killed during the years of conflict. While government troops continue to man their posts, armed Houthis run checkpoints undisturbed, controlling the vast majority of Saada and parts of adjacent provinces. Life has seemingly returned to normal now. Markets in the province bustle and newly constructed hotels welcome guests. But the group’s bellicose anti-American rhetoric and unrestrained criticism of the US government’s policies in Yemen worry Western diplomats. Houthi leaders have sharply criticized members of Yemen’s current government for their cooperation with the United States, capitalizing on rising anti-American sentiment in the country. Many residents expressed enthusiastic approval of Houthi governance, saying the rebels’ rule has lead to security and stability. And as the frequent sight of construction attests, some here are confident enough about the current calm to invest, pouring money into infrastructure projects in the impoverished province. “We’ve seen so many difficult years,” says Abu Ahmed, a businessman in Saada overseeing construction work at his new soap factory. “But now, Saada is at peace, and we can actually imagine a better future.”

Building a Yemeni state while losing a nation
Foreign Policy — 28 October 2012
Hadi stated that the failure of the National Dialogue would be a disaster for Yemen. However, unless something happens before the conference is rescheduled, the lack of Southern Separatist representation poses a great challenge to its success. There are legitimate criticisms of the Southern leadership’s handling of the situation, such as their inability to act as a united front, put forth a clear proposal for separation, or even to represent most of the South. There are also some less legitimate criticisms, such as those who claim that since the president (a Southerner himself) has issued a specific invitation to separatists to join the dialogue, the separatists are being uncooperative. However, the separatists are hearing conflicting messages and fear that they will again be the losers in a compromise. While the government calls for dialogue of all parties, the so-called Friends of Yemen who support the government in this dialogue have made explicit their rejection of the possibility of secession. In fact, they have proposed sanctions on leaders of the Southern movement. The Southern leaders, meanwhile, have asked for international mediation to help put forth plans for separation. As the government in Sanaa lacks the capacity to deal with its most pressing issues — most notably the need for military reform — the voices in the South who believe that they will be better off alone are getting stronger.

Security:
The Other Embassy Attack
Wall Street Journal — 26 October 2012
The leading culprit is a Shiite rebel force backed by Tehran. Taking their name from a deceased commander, the Houthi militia have since the mid-1990s fought against the Sunni-dominated government in Sanaa. According to Western officials in Yemen, Iran has provided assistance for a Houthi resurgence in the past year. Their fighters have gone to Iran and Lebanon for training, and money and arms have flowed from both into Yemen, officials say. The Houthis run a satellite TV channel, al-Maseera, from Beirut.

Yemeni counter-terrorism official shot dead
Reuters — 25 October 2012
Masked gunmen shot dead a counter-terrorism official south of Sanaa on Wednesday, a security source said, the latest in a series of assassinations as the U.S.-allied government battles al Qaeda militants. Ali al-Yamani was shot by two motorcycle gunmen in Damar province where he was leading counter-terrorism efforts, the source said, adding the gunmen who fled were suspected of being linked to al Qaeda.

Drone hits suspected al Qaeda target in north Yemen
Reuters — 28 October 2012
At least four men suspected of being al Qaeda members were killed in what a local official said was a U.S. drone strike on Islamist militants in northern Yemen on Sunday. It was a rare attack on al Qaeda-linked targets in northern Yemen, an area dominated by Shi’ite Muslim Houthi rebels battling Yemeni government forces for control of the rugged mountainous region. U.S. drone strikes have regularly targeted al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen, where the group had exploited last year’s protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and seized swathes of territory before being driven out by an army offensive in June. But it was the first report of an attack by a pilotless plane in the area near the Saudi border in northern Yemen.

Yemen uncovers al-Qaeda plot to recapture Jaar
Al-Shorfa — 26 October 2012
Al-Qaeda’s latest plan “tasked the mission to the remnants of ‘Ansar al-Sharia’ in Jaar and surrounding areas, as well as to terrorist elements in al-Askaria and Laabous in Lahij province,” official Yemeni news agency Saba reported on Tuesday (October 23rd).  “Such a plan confirms that al-Qaeda has not benefited from the harsh lesson it was given during Operation Golden Swords,” the mission launched in June to purge the organisation from Abyan, an interior ministry official told the agency.

Yemen leader blames al-Qaida for attacks
AP via Google News — 26 October 2012
Yemen’s president has accused al-Qaida of orchestrating the latest string of attacks in his country, pledging to continue his government’s battle against terrorism. In a televised speech late Thursday at the start of the Eid al-Adha holiday, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi said his government is determined to uproot al-Qaida from the country.

National Dialogue:
Activists protest sentencing of death penalty handed down to Ibb woman
Yemen Times — 24 October 2012
Tens of human right activists protested Tuesday in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office in Sana’a, continuing to demonstrate against the death sentence handed to Raja’a Al-Hakami from the judge of appeals in Ibb. Raja Al-Hakami was first sentenced to two years in prison by an Ibb district court after killing a man who tried to break into her room and rape her. The court of appeals then upped the sentence to the death penalty.

Yemenis suspect Iran’s hand in rise of Shiite rebels
Christian Science Monitor — 30 October 2012
Regardless of the intensifying rhetoric and issues of foreign support, many observers argue that the Houthis represent an indisputably important segment of the Yemeni polity. As Yemen’s post-Saleh government aims to bring the country towards stability, they say, the Houthis’ incorporation into the process will be key; due to their significant base of support and power positions, they cannot be ignored “Most Houthis are genuinely motivated, even if they get support from outside,” says Abdulghani al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst. “There’s no way there can be a political settlement in Yemen without the Houthis; we cannot move forward in Yemen unless the Houthis are taken into account.”

Yemeni National Dialogue Conference aims at peaceful transition
Al-Shorfa — 29 October 2012
Preparations are under way for Yemen’s upcoming National Dialogue Conference, according to Amal Basha, official spokesperson for the technical committee tasked with organising the conference. Yemenis of all backgrounds are keen to resolve the country’s problems through dialogue since the alternative is a catastrophic war for everyone, she told Al-Shorfa.  But the dialogue holds no place for al-Qaeda because it is a terrorist organisation, she added.

Shatara replaces Al-Asnag as newest Technical Committee team member
Yemen Times — 24 October 2012
President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi issued a decree Tuesday night, appointing Lutfi Shatara a member of the Technical Committee, responsible for preparing for the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). Shatara would replace Abdullah Al-Asnag, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and one of the opposition leaders abroad. Shatara has already attended three committee meetings in the place of Al-Asnag.  Shatara is a southern activist and member of the Revolutionary Powers’ National Council abroad. He returned to Aden in May after spending several years abroad, working as a copy editor for London-based Asharq Alawsat Newspaper and establishing the Aden Press website. The appointment came hours after Shatara called on southerners to participate in the NDC. He said it was the only way to solve the southern issue.

Who represents the South?
Yemen Times — 25 October 2012
Members of the Southern Movement believe the movement began July 7, 1994, when the civil war ended with Yemen intact, as one united country, against the wishes of the secessionists. Until last year, the term secessionist was very problematic politically and caused its believers many problems, from verbal abuse to illegal arrest. However, today, we have come a very long way, and the word is no longer a disgrace. In fact, those state opponents, who once demanded secession, are now political partners in the National Dialogue.

Child Trafficking:
Yemen takes action against child traffickers
Al-Shorfa — 31 October 2012
According to the Yemeni Interior Ministry, security forces have thwarted 70 attempts to smuggle children since the beginning of 2012, and more than 10 suspects have been arrested on charges of attempting to smuggle children in the past five months alone. “The phenomenon of smuggling Yemeni children has declined, [though] the smuggling of children from various Horn of Africa countries [via Yemen] has increased,” said Adel Debwan, director general of social defence at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour. “[There have been] 260 Yemeni and African children smuggled in 2012 up until September, compared with 500 children in the same period last year.” Dr. Afaf al-Haimi, professor of sociology at Sanaa University, said the phenomenon of child trafficking in Yemen can be attributed to a variety of factors. “Poverty in some regions, especially in those bordering Saudi Arabia, such as Hajjah province, is the key factor behind this phenomenon, along with the absence of law [enforcement], rampant illiteracy and a misconception among families that children are obligated to help their families and that a ‘love for work’ culture should take precedence [over everything else],” she said.

Economy/Governance:
Yemen LNG gas pipeline blown up again
Reuters — 31 October 2012
A gas pipeline feeding Yemen’s only liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal was blown up again on Tuesday night, the operating company said on Wednesday. “Yemen LNG confirms the sabotage of the 38 inch gas pipeline that links the block 18 to the Balhaf terminal on the Gulf of Aden,” said the company, run by France’s Total. “The explosion occurred at 2200 on October 30, 2012 at 295 km north of Balhaf Liquefaction Plant.”

Entrepreneur tries to get Yemenis buzzing about coffee, not qat
Christian Science Monitor — 27 October 2012
Indian businessman Shabbir Ezzi, a member of a Shiite sect with roots in Yemen, hopes to persuade farmers to give up growing qat –  “a Class-A drug,” according to him – and give coffee a try instead. But rather than preach to qat growers that qat is harmful, Ezzi created a competitive pricing standard and startup resources and worked to convince farmers that they could make more money by planting coffee. He says he’s now breaking even and recently bought large coffee processors to speed up production. Besides Sudan, Yemen is the only Arab country that produces coffee. Mick Wheeler, a London-based coffee industry expert, says Yemeni coffee has a good global reputation. One of its biggest buyers is coffee behemoth Starbucks. But Yemen’s coffee exports are in decline, he says. Last year, the country exported about 2,500 tons – a fraction of the world coffee market and down from more than 5,000 tons in 2009.

Eid al-Adha in Yemen remains vibrant despite tough economic conditions
Al-Shorfa — 25 October 2012
Yemeni markets selling sacrificial animals are seeing high demand this year as Eid al-Adha approaches, prompting a price increase ranging between 40% and 70%, according to the Yemeni Studies and Economic Media Centre.  “The astronomical rise in the price of sacrificial animals and local livestock has forced many poor people to buy imported animals, which are usually less desirable,” Centre head Mustafa Nasr told Al-Shorfa. “However, people are keen to follow the Prophet’s Sunnah and hold fast to their traditions, particularly poor families who cannot afford meat except during special occasions and Eid [celebrations].”

Five thousand tons of honey produced annually at a value of $80 million [Arabic]
Al-Arabiya via Mareb Press — 29 October 2012
Official statistics revealed that production of honey over the past three years has reached 5,000 tons annually, which is worth $80 million dollars. The Gulf countries import about 500 tons a year for about $13 million. The study predicted that exports to this market will increase steadily due to rising demand for Yemeni honey, which is famous for its quality.

Microfinance projects in Yemen
Yemen Times — 24 October 2012
Dr. Amat Al-Razaq Ali Homad, Minister of the Social Affairs and Labor Ministry, and Abdulqader Helal, Secretariat of the Capital, on Sunday inaugurated the “Microfinance Project Days” fair in Sana’a’s Al-Sabeen Park.  The event was organized by Yemen’s Microfinance Network and financed by the Social Development Fund (SDF). The fair, which will take place all week, aims to initiate a greater role of microfinance projects in creating job opportunities in Yemen, where 96 percent of all businesses operate on a small scale.

Yemen deports 392 Arab nationals for violating residency requirements
Saba Net — 30 October 2012
The branch of Immigration and Passport Department in Aden deported during the period (January – September ,2012) 392 persons of Arab nationalities for violating residency requirements. At the same time of the year, the security services in the province seized 88 people from illegal African residents.

Yemeni Business Leaders Search for US Investment
Voice of America — 25 October 2012
In a conference room of General Electric Company in downtown Washington D.C., 10 of Yemen’s most successful business leaders sit around a large table.  They are on the second stop in a five-city tour led by U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Gerald Feierstein to attract American business investment to Yemen.  They are in search of American know-how in power generation, renewable energy, agriculture, water desalination, and waste water treatment.  The guests and their host say Yemen is at a critical juncture in its history.  Most Western headlines about Yemen focus on drone strikes and the terrorist activities of the home-grown al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.  But in February of this year, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was swept from power on the coattails of the Arab Spring.  His vice president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, heads up a transitional government preparing for elections in February of 2014.

Culture:
Cycling in Yemen: an uphill struggle against insurgency and ignorance
The Guardian — 31 October 2012
It is inaccurate to describe the team as the national cycling team of Yemen, simply because they have lacked the resources to travel anywhere as a team since 2006. Riashi is the only member of the current team to have competed abroad. He says that when they arrived in Egypt in 2006 to compete in the Arab Club Championships, his Yemeni team were almost laughed off the starting line.

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