Weekly News Update 7 February 2013

Samuel Aranda/New York Times/http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/world/middleeast/with-brennan-pick-a-light-on-drone-strikes-hazards.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&

Samuel Aranda/New York Times/http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/world/middleeast/with-brennan-pick-a-light-on-drone-strikes-hazards.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&

Highlights:
Despite announcement of NDC start date, participation unclear
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
Despite the fact that President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi announced on Wednesday the much anticipated start date of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) as March 18, many of the political parties to participate have not yet handed in their representatives lists. Amal Al-Basha, a spokesperson the Committee, said that the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) and the Houthis, two large political groups, have not handed in the names of their representatives for the conference. However, a list of the Houthis was leaked by media outlets. The list included only one of the group’s existing participants in the Preparatory Committee.

Drone Strikes’ Risks to Get Rare Moment in the Public Eye
New York Times — 5 February 2013
Although most Yemenis are reluctant to admit it publicly, there does appear to be widespread support for the American drone strikes that hit substantial Qaeda figures like Mr. Shihri, a Saudi and the affiliate’s deputy leader, who died in January of wounds received in a drone strike late last year. Al Qaeda has done far more damage in Yemen than it has in the United States, and one episode reinforced public disgust last May, when a suicide bomber struck a military parade rehearsal in the Yemeni capital, killing more than 100 people. Moreover, many Yemenis reluctantly admit that there is a need for foreign help: Yemen’s own efforts to strike at the terrorist group have often been compromised by weak, divided military forces; widespread corruption; and even support for Al Qaeda within pockets of the intelligence and security agencies. Yet even as both Mr. Brennan and Mr. Hadi, the Yemeni president, praise the drone technology for its accuracy, other Yemenis often point out that it can be very difficult to isolate members of Al Qaeda, thanks to the group’s complex ties and long history in Yemen.

Improving the Quality of Basic Education for the Future Youth of Yemen Post Arab Spring
Brookings — 31 January 2013
The paper suggests three types of reforms that can be carried out in the short run. First, it is necessary to systematically monitor teachers’ actual deployment and attendance in order to link the information with salary management and incentives. Second, there is a need to refine and scale up the existing implementation and monitoring mechanism for school grants to reward schools and communities that improve access for disadvantaged students and girls, and enhance the quality of learning. Third, there is a need to enhance transparency and accountability of school resources and results by disseminating a simple database that would include trends of basic indicators to monitor and compare progress at the school, district and governorate level.

National Dialogue:
Yemen factions to mull constitution, reforms in March
Reuters — 6 February 2013
Yemeni political factions will meet on March 18 to start drafting a new constitution and agree other reforms in a bid to end months of turmoil and pave the way for elections, the president and officials said on Wednesday. “All the nationalist forces need to work closely together to make the conference a success,” said Hadi as he announced the date, according to state news agency Saba. Abdel-Rashid Abdel-Hafez, a member of the committee preparing the conference, said delegates would join specialized committees to draft detailed reform proposals and a new constitution over the next six months.

Yemeni businessmen provided with seats to voice their concerns at NDC
Yemen Times — 4 February 2013
Yemeni businessmen wanting private sector representation in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) have been given the initial green light by the conference’s Preparatory Committee. “They will be included in the NDC as part of civil society organizations,” said Ahmed Awadh Mubark, the secretary general of the conference. Yahiya Saroor, a businessman, who is a part of the group that requested representation, said the private sector has been marginalized, but with their vision they hope to shape the future of Yemen in terms of job creation.

Yemen’s Nobel winner says Saleh must be banned from politics
AFP via The National — 5 February 2013
The Yemeni Nobel peace laureate Tawakul Karman warned today that her country’s transition process is on the brink of collapse and demanded former president Ali Abdullah Saleh be banned from politics. The activist, who was a leading figure during the youth uprising in Yemen in 2011, also claimed that President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi is unable to implement his plans to reshape Yemen’s security forces because he does not control the army. “The main obstacle facing the political transition and threatening its viability is the fact that Ali Abdullah Saleh remains a president of the General People’s Congress,” the former ruling party, Ms Karman said.

Lingering protestors in Tahrir and Change Square to be evacuated
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
A recent announcement from the Military Affairs Committee that the state will begin removing tents from Tahrir Square and Change Square has caused some in the neighborhoods to cheer, while enraging protestors who feel it’s their right to peacefully continue camping out.  On Sunday, the Military Affairs Committee held a meeting where a memorandum of understanding for evacuating the squares was discussed.

President Hadi holds up current government, criticizes previous one
Yemen Times — 4 February 2013
In a special meeting on Saturday with  government officials in Sana’a, President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi criticized the government formed during the rule of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, according to several published media reports.  Although he did not direct his comments directly at the former leader, Hadi also stated no one is allowed to interfere in the current government’s affairs. Many media outlets have interpreted the comments as a sign of increasing rifts between the former leader and the current leader.

Yemen: A rare ‘success’ ‘at risk
BBC News — 5 February 2013
Mr Saleh is accused by various parties of blocking or even sabotaging progress. This, says Britain’s UN Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant, is the biggest weakness of the transition agreement. “In taking forward the national dialogue… the biggest threat to that is the continued presence of ex-President Saleh in the country and his attempts to derail that process,” he said.

Children’s Parliament brings together government and armed groups for tough questions
Yemen Times — 4 February 2013
The Yemeni Children’s Parliament will begin interrogating representatives from the government and armed groups like the Houthis on Monday to bring light to issues like childhood marriage, child soldiers and other childhood crimes. The event is being held in participation with the United Nations Children’s Fund.  Jamal Al-Shami, the head of the Democratic School, which is the Yemeni non-profit umbrella organization for the Children’s Parliament said the event will allow children to present questions to representatives from the Defense, Interior, Education, Justice, Endowment and the Information Ministries regarding their role in preventing childhood violations like conscripting children soldiers.

Dr. Ahmed Awadh Mubark speaks to the Yemen Times
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
Dr. Ahmed Awadh Mubark, the secretary general of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), answers technical questions regarding the long-awaited event as he is in charge of supporing the Technical Committee and  executing the logistics of the conference. There are still many issues left unresolved Mubark admits.  While he says progress is being made every day, there are many roles yet to be determined and filled.

Yemen military must not ‘punish’ injured protesters
Amnesty International — 6 February 2013
Military forces in the Yemeni capital Sana’a must not use unlawful force against dozens of injured protesters, Amnesty International said. Since Tuesday night, the military’s Fourth Armoured Brigade has blocked access into and out of an area outside the Council of Ministers office, where protesters have been engaged in a sit-in protest to demand adequate treatment for injuries sustained during demonstrations in 2011. Of the around 70 protesters taking part in the sit-in, more than half sustained injuries in 2011 and many have recently gone on hunger strike.

Injured revolutionaries continue to protest after sympathizer sets himself on fire
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
Dozens of injured revolutionaries are still camped out in front of the Cabinet Office in Sana’a, calling for the government to keep its promise to provide them with immediate medical treatment. Following the self-immolation of Muneef Al-Zubairi, a revolutionary supporter of the protest on Tuesday, protesters went on hunger strike, objecting to the ‘government’s slow pace’ in dealing with their medical problems.

Injured revolutionaries continue sit-in and hunger strike in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 4 February 2013
Run over by a military vehicle in front of Al-Shab School in Taiz during a protest in 2011, Taha Mohammed Al-Ariqi, an injured revolutionary, passed away on Friday. Since then, a group of injured revolutionaries have stationed themselves in front of the Cabinet office, calling on the government to provide them with financial assistance to receive treatment abroad. The group of injured came armed with medical records attesting to their need of treatment outside of Yemen.

Yemeni Revolution Falls Far Short
Al-Tagheer via Al-Monitor — 3 February 2013
The persistent grip of the old mentality, the old policies, the same, tired programs and methods upon the reigns of power in Yemen are emptying the revolution of all meaning. They are transforming it into something more akin to a cosmetic treatment that skirts the cause of the underlying disease. Or, if you like, a passenger stuck in a car filled with run-down machinery, faulty engineering and an obsolescent engine that could collapse at any moment.

International Support:
Jamal Benomar speaks to the Yemen Times
Yemen Times — 4 February 2013
In an exclusive interview with Yemen Times, the U.N. secretary general’s special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, talks about the transitional process including the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and the progress of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) implementation mechanism.

Yemen, UN, GCC discuss establishing economic recovery fund
Saba Net — 2 February 2013
Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa chaired Saturday a meeting to discuss the Yemen-UN joint initiative to establish a fund to achieve economic recovery in the country. UNDP resident representative in Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, ambassadors of the GCC’s states, director of the GCC office in Sana’a Saad al-Arifi and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Mohammed al-Sa’adi attended the meeting.

WB to help accelerate allotting donors’ funds to Yemen
Saba Net — 4 February 2013
A senior official at the World Bank (WB) stressed Monday the Bank’s commitment to follow up the implementation of the funding granted to Yemen in Riyadh donor meeting.

Iran:
Seized Iranian ship carried varied weapons
AP — 6 February 2013
A ship seized by Yemeni authorities last month carried a wide variety of Iranian-made weapons, Yemen’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday. They included material for bombs and suicide belts, explosives, Katyusha rockets, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades and large amounts of ammunition. In a statement, the ministry detailed contents of the Iranian ship seized in Yemen’s territorial waters in mid-January. It described contents as “large, diverse and dangerous” weapons that also included night vision binoculars and goggles, remote devices, circuits, wires and rifle silencers.

Yemen says intercepted ship carrying weapons was Iranian
Reuters — 2 February 2013
Yemen confirmed on Saturday that a ship intercepted last month off its coast was an Iranian vessel trying to smuggle explosives and surface-to-air missiles to the country, the state news agency Saba reported. Officials in Washington said earlier this week that the seizure of the ship on January 23 had been coordinated with the U.S. Navy and that the intercepted shipment was believed to have been from Iran and destined for insurgents, likely to be Shi’ite Muslim Houthi rebels mainly based in northern Yemen.

Iran denies links to shipload of arms seized by Yemen
AFP via Ahram — 2 February 2013
Tehran has denied that a ship loaded with rockets and explosives intercepted by Yemen’s coast guard originated from Iran as claimed by Yemeni officials, local media reported on Monday. The reports cited an unnamed source in the foreign ministry as saying that Tehran “strongly denies claims” by Yemen that the vessel came from Iran and was loaded with arms destined for Shiite rebels in Sunni-majority Yemen. “The reports in this regard have many ambiguities… these kind of irresponsible claims are not in line with the mutual interest of the two nations,” the source was quoted as saying.

Economy/Governance:
Yemen c.bank slashes key interest rate – SABA
Reuters — 7 February 2013
Yemen’s central bank cut its deposit rate, the key rate which it uses to adjust monetary policy, by 3 percentage points to 15 percent, state news agency SABA reported on Thursday.

Yemen to implement e-government project
Al-Shorfa — 5 February 2013
Since its first failed attempt to introduce e-government in 2002, the Yemeni government made another attempt to implement the project. The Council of Ministers formed a committee in 2008 which developed a portal offering government services. But operations were halted during Yemen’s political crisis, said Ahmed al-Awjari, director general of the Ministry of Telecommunications’ Information Technology Centre and a member of the newly formed technical committee. “The e-government project needs more preparatory work, including the automation of government services and preparation of the work environment, so as to proceed with the implementation of the project on the ground,” al-Awjari said.

Buildings on Hodeida Airport’s land to be removed by government authorities
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
The presidential committee assigned to resolve land disputes at Hodeida Airport began paying field visits on Wednesday in order to progress plans for the removal of buildings erected on the airport’s land.

Yemen’s craft workers suffer as unrest scares tourists
Reuters via Al-Arabiya — 31 January 2013
Yemeni craftsmen and women complain of a downturn in business in light of the country’s political crisis. Craft workers say the country’s unrest has brought their business to a halt. “The handicrafts business has been slow before and after the political conflict. After the unrest, we had some hope that it could get better, but the [political] disputes started again and it brought a pause to the business,” said craftsman Ali Sadagah. Yemen’s handicrafts industry depends mainly on the tourism activity as hundreds flock to visit the architectural art and heritage of the ancient city of Sanaa. But the political unrest in Yemen frightened tourists away and plunged the trade activity. Yemen’s struggling economy is badly in need of revenues from tourism, which contribute 3 percent of GDP. The country offers visitors rich historical sites, rugged mountains and pristine beaches. But a number of violent incidents have scared many off.

Lion breeder in Yemen cashes in on Gulf demand for exotic pets
The Guardian — 3 February 2013
A village on Yemen‘s scorched Tihama plain is an incongruous home for African lions. Set back several miles from the nearest road and reached by a rough network of sandy paths and thorny gorse bushes, it is home to one of Yemen’s newest and most unlikely businesses. Lion breeding in Yemen seems as improbable a venture as salmon fishing. But rampant demand for exotic pets from collectors in the wealthy Gulf states has made this exercise in animal husbandry suddenly profitable. With the value of lion cubs, and those of other big cats, reaching 50,000 Saudi riyals (£8,400) apiece, animal trafficking represents an enormous opportunity to people in one of Yemen’s poorest regions. A loose network has sprung up, trading not just lions but also cheetahs, leopards, gazelles, hyenas and monkeys.

Yemen seeks to amend investment law
Al-Shorfa — 6 February 2013
A committee formed to finalise the amendments includes representatives from the GIA, relevant government agencies, private sector entities and donors, said Mohammed Hussein, head of GIA promotions. The proposed amendments “promote decentralisation” and aim to establish investment facilities via GIA branches in the various provinces, Hussein told Al-Shorfa. They also call for the implementation of the national investment promotion strategy in cooperation with stakeholders, including private sector and civil society organisations, he said. The amendments aim to simplify investment procedures by restoring the GIA’s authority to grant tax and customs exemptions, in addition to extending incentives to investors in remote areas, Hussein said.

Security:
Two militants, five soldiers killed in Yemen: sources
Reuters — 31 January 2013
Two militants and five soldiers were killed on Thursday during a Yemeni army raid on a mountainous area where insurgents linked to al Qaeda have been holed up since they were driven out of two southern towns last year, military sources said. Two suspected members of Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) were also captured in the raid, launched on Thursday morning with army tanks and artillery.

Yemen drives militants from mountain retreat
Reuters — 2 February 2013
Yemeni government forces have driven a group of Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda from their mountain retreat in the country’s south after killing 21 militants during two days of fighting, a military source said on Saturday. The army and pro-government militias battled militants on Thursday and Saturday near the town of Shuqra in Abyan province, an impoverished, rugged region of southern Yemen where tribal law holds sway and armed Islamists have a strong presence.

Yemen weapons depot blast kills 10 civilians
AFP via Daily Star — 7 February 2013
An accidental blast at an ammunition depot in an army camp killed 10 civilians in Yemen’s northwestern Haja province on Thursday, a security official and witnesses said.

CIA using Saudi base for drone assassinations in Yemen
Guardian — 6 February 2013
The CIA is secretly using an airbase in Saudi Arabia to conduct its controversial drone assassination campaign in neighbouring Yemen, according to reports in the US media. Neither the Saudi government nor the country’s media have responded to the reports revealing that the drones that killed the US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his son in September 2011 and Said al-Shehri, a senior al-Qaida commander who died from his injuries last month, were launched from the unnamed base.

Yemen Minister: Yemen’s Stability Key to Regional Stability
Al-Khaleej via Al-Monitor — 1 February 2013
In his first interview with an Arab newspaper since assuming his post as interior minister, Qahtan said that President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s recent decisions provided moral and practical motivation to ministry and its various departments, and gave it an incentive to recover its sovereign role of maintaining security and stability in the country. In his interview with Al-Khaleej, Qahtan clarified that the reconciliation government’s performance did not satisfy everyone’s aspirations and hopes. But given the size of the challenges and grave problems inherited by the reconciliation government from the former regime, it would be fair to say that it achieved great strides on several levels, including with respect to security and the economy.

Approved by president, reorganization of the Interior Ministry and police forces to be implemented
Yemen Times — 4 February 2013
The committee tasked with restructuring the Interior Ministry and police force says it is in the midst of executing a restructure after a plan was approved by President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi last Thursday. The new restructure will be put into practice in the coming two weeks, said Colonel Mohammed Marish, the head of the Restructuring Technical Committee, a branch of the Security Reorganization Committee that is overseeing the change.

IDPs:
Internally displaced persons in Rada’a district subject to poor health and living conditions
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
Hundreds have fled Rada’a district in Al-Baida governorate recently due to violent clashes between Al-Qaeda affiliates and security forces. As a result, an estimated 500 internally displaced families have arrived in Dhamar governorate, placing pressure on local communities and governorate resources, according to a statement issued by United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Mohammed Al-Dahab, a member of a family that personally houses refugees in Dhamar said, “These families were worried as they arrived 13 days after they had heard the news of security campaigns and clashes,” he said.

Wanting to go home but threatened by landmines, Ahim area IDPs caught in limbo
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
At the beginning of October 2011, tribes in Kashir district in the Ahim area in Hajja began clashing with Houthi militants, a group that operates outside of the state and were looking to expand their control in the North. The conflict turned into a six-month war, forcing 1,500 families from their homes. As a tactic of war, Houthi fighters are accused of placing land mines indiscriminately throughout the area.

Education:
Continuation of strike by five governmental universities paralyses educational process
Yemen Times — 7 February 2013
Although Majdi Alsaqaf, a student in his final year at Sana’a University, is excited about the prospect of his pending graduation, a coordinated strike by administrative staff at Sana’a, Dhamar, Taiz, Ibb and Amran Universities against new legislation has put his fate, alongside thousands of other final year students in jeopardy. “This is my last year at university, but when it ends I will not know whether I have succeeded or failed,” said Alsaqaf. Unable to complete their January exams because of a lack of staff, students are now unsure where they stand regarding credits for graduation.

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