Weekly News Update 4 April 2013

Highlights:
Mixed views as talks open on Yemen future
Financial Times — 3 April 2013
After two weeks of lofty speechmaking in the commanding heights of Sana’a’s Mövenpick Hotel, the so-called Yemen ‘National Dialogue’ conference has been credited with airing long-stifled views, but also criticised for being too elitist, too lucrative for participants and too dominated by figures from the country’s troubled past. Further arguments have raged over the stipends paid to conference attendees to compensate them for lost earnings. These have ranged from $100 for Sana’a residents to $180 for those who have travelled from elsewhere – a lucrative contrast to the average Yemeni’s earnings of about $2,000 a year. Noaman Qaid al-Hothifi, a representative of the historically marginalised al-Akhdam minority group, told the conference his people hadn’t spoken “for 1,300 years”. His speech was widely acclaimed and moved one blogger to anoint him the “Obama of Yemen”.

Saudi deports thousands of Yemenis, remittances to suffer-official
Reuters — 1 April 2013
Saudi Arabia has begun deporting thousands of Yemeni labourers following new regulations requiring foreigners to work only for their sponsors, a Yemeni official said on Monday, a move that could “significantly damage” the poor country’s economy. Some two million of Yemen’s 25 million citizens work abroad, more than half of them in larger and richer neighbour Saudi Arabia. Remittances bring in $2 billion a year to Yemen, a country still grappling with revolt, a separatist movement and an Islamist insurgency. The Yemeni Defence Ministry’s website estimated up to 2,000 Yemenis were being deported daily since the new regulations went into effect some 10 days ago.

Drone policy hurts the U.S.’s image in Yemen
Washington Post — 1 April 2013
Although the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are engaging Hadi’s government on development and humanitarian issues, most Yemenis feel only the negative effects of U.S. counterterrorism policy. Rather than the steady stream of military delegations, a more robust economic assistance program and public diplomacy strategy — including a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry and other high-level diplomats — would signal support for Yemen’s transition and its democratic aspirations.

National Dialogue:
NDC concludes first session, working groups incomplete
Yemen Times — 4 April 2013
The National Dialogue Conference, which began March 18, ended its first session on Wednesday. The conference’s nine working groups, which were formed on Sunday, will reconvene on April 13. All working groups—except for group which will be discussing the contentious issue of Sa’ada—have agreed on their presidential committees, made of a president, two deputies and a rapporteur.

Female dialogue conference delegates confront responsibility of representing rural women
Yemen Times — 1 April 2013
Women in Yemen comprise almost half of the country’s estimated 25 million people, where two thirds of the population live in rural areas. Yemeni women in general still operate in a very traditional role throughout the country, but this role in rural areas can especially subject them to a lack of services. Women say life can be very hard in the country’s remote areas.  “I hope that we would really do something for the women in rural areas,” said Samira Zuhra, a member of the NDC who represents one of the 40 independents seats allotted to female representatives at the conference.

Yemen’s victory: Getting everyone in the same room – with no swords drawn
Christian Science Monitor — 29 March 2013
It will be months before anyone can say whether Yemen‘s ambitious national dialogue conference, slated to tackle major issues such as constitutional reform and restructuring the government, was a success. But the conference, which began last week and will last into the fall, can already celebrate one achievement: In this divided country, it has managed to get representatives from the bulk of the key factions in the same room. “You see all these currents with different interests and you wonder how they’ll reach agreement on one current for Yemen,” says Saadaldeen bin Taleb, minister of industry and trade and a participant in the conference representing the Southern Movement. “Of course, this will go on for six months, and hopefully we’ll see real focus on the key issues. Still, let’s just say that this whole process is new to us.”

Unfinished uprising
Financial Times — 27 March 2013
Outside Sana’a, the fluidity of a country where significant parts lie beyond government control is even more palpable. In Aden, once a vital shipping way station for Britain’s imperial rule in India, the flag of the Hirak southern separatist movement is plastered on every street and flies from every pole other than those on official buildings. Grievances here run deep after the 1990 unification of the country unravelled quickly and triggered a civil war in 1994 in which southerners were defeated and then suffered mass property seizures and sackings from public positions. Now street protests attract tens of thousands. Two people died in clashes in February after security forces intervened when Hirak held a march to counter a demonstration by Islah, an Islamist group that enjoys significant popular support, particularly in the north, but is criticised by opponents for its links to the former regime. “What is the point of unity if neither northerners nor southerners benefit from it?” asks Ayesha Taleb, a southern activist, echoing a view held widely among analysts that southern secession, whether partial or total, will happen eventually. In the southern countryside, the 14 government checkpoints on the two-hour journey from Aden to the town of Dalea, a Hirak heartland, show how tenuous the government’s hold is there. The town feels as if it is under colonial occupation, with military outposts in positions above a community whose loyalties lie elsewhere.

Political parties file court appeal, claim should have been included in National Dialogue Conference list
Yemen Times — 4 April 2013
Eight new political parties, calling themselves collectively the Youth and Opposition Parties, presented an appeal to the Administrative Court in Sana’a on Sunday.  The coalition is objecting to President Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi’s decree that specified the  National Dialogue Conference’s (NDC) participants and participating parties. “In the appeal, the eight parties demand representation in the NDC just like other similar parties,” said Doctor Ibrahim Bin Abood, head of the legal team for these parties.

The Muhamasheen’s National Dialogue Conference representative makes history
Yemen Times — 4 April 2013
Qaed, who is typically dressed in a suit, provides a stark contrast to the population he represents.  The  Muhamasheen, meaning “marginalized ones” have a long history of discrimination in Yemen dating back over a thousand years ago.  Historians believe they were originally used as slaves  and now generally assume low-income jobs like street cleaning. Although other estimates of their population are much lower than Qaed’s  approximation of 3 million, the majority live in isolated communities with a lack of education and health services.

Ex-president Saleh leaves for Saudi Arabia
AP — 2 April 2013
Officials at the airport of Yemen’s capital Sanaa say former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has left for Saudi Arabia for medical treatment on a special Saudi plane. A senior member of Saleh’s Congress Party confirmed Tuesday that the former president will be hospitalized at a Riyadh hospital but did not say what kind of treatment Saleh will receive. He said the party will issue a statement later.

Wounded revolutionaries vow to stay put until all receive medical treatment
Yemen Times — 1 April 2013
Outside the Cabinet building in Sana’a, fewer than 20 protestors sit in five ragged tents, day and night. They are there demanding medical treatment for injuries they—and tens of thousands of others—sustained during the 2011 revolution. They’ve been in front of the government office since January 29 and—despite beatings by state forces—are still holding their ground. An estimated 28,000 Yemenis were injured during the 2011 uprising—either by state forces or caught in clashes between armed tribes and the government—and have been promised YR100 million almost $500,000 for their treatment, paid for by the current administration. As of now, only 212 of those injured have been treated, 126 are currently in treatment.

Dialogue, not the Only Alternative
Yemen Post — 3 April 2013
If President Hadi’s legacy is to include a success story after the transition period, or if he hopes to succeed in extending his presidential term, he must engage the street directly. His political capital, mainly with the international community, presents Hadi with an opportunity to abandon horizontal elite-elite politics and engage a top-down strategy to regain the trust of the street. It does not take a genius analyst to realize Hadi’s priority should be to create a gap between the street, whether Houthi, Islahi, Hiraki or GPC, and the leadership inside or outside Yemen obstructing the process. Leaders want to position themselves further to gain or regain their piece of the pie, neglecting the reality on the ground and needs of the general public. President Hadi risks being vilified, or at minimum completely ignored, by history as in the case of all other ‘interim’ presidents of the twentieth century.

Economy/Governance:
Yemen discussing aid with IMF; expects faster growth
Reuters — 2 April 2013
Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, told reporters that the talks focused on a new financial programme for Yemen. The IMF resumed lending to Yemen in April last year, approving the payment of a $93.7 million loan to help the country with its balance of payments deficit, which had been worsened by a year of political turmoil. In an interview with Reuters late on Monday, Yemen’s central bank governor said he was comfortable with the current level of interest rates and that he expected economic growth to accelerate to about 7 percent this year. The central bank slashed its main interest rate by 3 percentage points to a three-year low of 15 percent in February, helped by a sharp fall of inflation, in an effort to support economic recovery in the volatile Arab state. That is more optimistic than the IMF’s latest public forecast of 4 percent growth for Yemen.

Yemen offers 20 new oil sectors for investment
Al-Shorfa — 1 April 2013
In response to growing interest from global oil companies, the Yemeni government recently announced it would open 20 new oil exploration and development sectors for investment. These include al-Joaf 19 sector in al-Sabaateen basin, north Belhaf 28 in Belhaf basin, al-Rayan 57 in al-Rub al-Khali basin, Shaqat al-Kharita 58 in south-eastern al-Rub al-Khali basin and the marine-ground sector 17 in Aden-Abyan sedimentary basin.

Cleaning workers threaten strike, Cabinet asks for more time
Yemen Times — 4 April 2013
The Cabinet asked for three months to sort out issues related to the contracts of street cleaners, via a statement issued on a government-owned news agency on Wednesday. The General Syndicate of Municipality Workers issued a statement on Monday threatening a nationwide strike to begin Friday unless Yemen’s estimated 25,000 street cleaning workers are offered official contracts that stipulate desired terms of employment like job security, meaning they cannot be fired without just cause.

Parliament seeks solutions for Ministry of Electricity’s mounting debt; sheikhs, officials refuse to pay bills
Yemen Times — 1 April 2013
The Ministry of Electricity – sitting on a YR 64 billion, almost $300 million debt – has asked the government to step in and help them collect the owed money, specifically targeting government officials, institutions and influential sheiks who have refused to pay. “High-ranking officials including parliamentarians and sheikhs consider themselves exempted from paying the electricity bills,” said the deputy manager at the Ministry of Electricity, Harith Al-Amiri. “If government institutions evade paying their electricity debts, [how can] the citizen be blamed?” About half of the Ministry’s debt is due to government institutions.

Moth damages tomato crops in Yemen
Yemen Times — 4 April 2013
The Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation said that it has been unable to wipe out the tuta absoluta moth that was discovered late last year. The moth decimated 90 percent of Yemen’s tomato crops, causing economic losses estimated at $350 million. Dr. Mohammed Al-Ghashm, the deputy minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation said  they have been spraying a pesticide on crops which kills the male moth, leaving the female’s eggs infertile.

Security/Military:
Reveal Any Military Role in Journalist’s Killing
Human Rights Watch — 3 April 2013
Yemen’s Defense Ministry should cooperate in bringing the killer of a journalist and his friend to justice, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the defense minister, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Nasser Ahmed, requesting information about possible military involvement in the case. The journalist, Wagdy al-Shabi, and a friend, Wadoud Ali Saleh al-Somati, were killed on February 22, 2013, in al-Shabi’s home in Aden. The Defense Ministry initially claimed responsibility for these killings on its semi-official website, saying that security personnel had killed the men during an attack on a checkpoint. Later it changed the statement about the men’s death, stating only that they were killed at home, without providing any details.

Prison guard killed as south Yemen protests
AFP via Daily Star — 30 March 2013
The overnight attack came as several district of the main southern city, including Mansura, Sheikh Othman and Crater, were brought to a virtual standstill by the protest action. Police said the shooting took place when a police vehicle from Mansura prison arrived at the local hospital carrying a sick inmate. The assailants fled the scene. On Saturday morning, dozens of southern activists used rocks and logs to block main roads around Aden, where shops, banks and schools stayed closed, an AFP correspondent said. Pro-autonomy groups have staged such actions every Wednesday and Saturday since February 21 in protest at killings of southern activists in confrontations with security forces.

One shot dead as south Yemen protests
AFP via Google News — 31 March 2013
A passer-by was killed and three others were wounded when police opened fire to disperse protesters in the southern Yemeni city of Aden on Saturday, witnesses and medical sources said. The witnesses said police intervened to clear the roads in the flashpoint Crater district of the port city where dozens of southern activists had set up roadblocks as part of a “civil disobedience” campaign. Medical sources confirmed the casualty toll, naming the dead man as Hisham al-Nunu from the city of Taez north of Aden.

Yemen vows to find kidnapped European trio
UPI — 1 April 2013
Yemen’s president has vowed he will use force to free a Finnish couple and their Austrian friend abducted by al-Qaida three months ago. President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi made the pledge during a meeting with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, Gulf News reported Monday.

No suspects yet in Rada’a explosion, officials continue investigations
Yemen Times — 1 April 2013
A bomb exploded last Tuesday in the Al-Qane’ neighborhood of Rada’a. Official sources said the intended target of the blast was Abdusalam Al-Nasiri, a prominent sheikh in the southern city. Four houses and a metal fence were damaged, but no one was hurt. After almost a week of investigations, it’s still unknown who set off the bomb, or why the sheikh was targeted. The failed assassination could have been an attempt to reignite violence, Al-Amari said. Certain parties would rather see Rada’a remain unstable, he said.

Migrants:
Fate of stranded migrants in Yemen ‘very grim’: IOM
AFP via Daily Star — 2 April 2013
The plight of thousands of migrants stranded in Yemen after trying to reach Saudi Arabia and the Gulf has reached desperate proportions, the International Organisation for Migration warned on Tuesday. “The situation of migrants in Yemen is very grim,” IOM spokesman Jumbe Omari Jumbe told reporters. Yemen has seen a spike in the number of migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa who risk their lives to cross the Red Sea in smugglers’ boats only to find themselves blocked at the tightly-controlled Saudi border. Numbers have doubled from around 53,000 in 2010 to over 107,000 last year. Ethiopians make up the overwhelming majority, but others hail from countries such as lawless Somalia and Eritrea.

Yemen deports 2,500 African refugees this year
Yemen Times — 1 April 2013
The Deportation Department in the Immigration and Passport Authority has extradited 2,500 illegal African migrants from Yemen since the beginning of 2013, according to officials.  In March alone, 850 migrants have been detained and returned to their home countries, Abdullah Ali Al-Zurka, the director of the Deportation Department, said.

Saudi Relations:
New oil behind Saudi-Yemeni strained relations, Yemeni workers escape-goat Nasser Arrabyee’s blog — 2 April 2013
Some observers here say the new Yemeni oil wells are behind the strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and this reflected on Yemeni workers and  it is not a matter of application of law  and regulations. Yemen announced that May 15, 2013, will be the deadline for receiving applications from international companies for investment in five new oil sectors including the sector of Al Jawf 19, Al Sabateen basin, at the southern border of Saudi Arabia. According to sources familiar with oil tenders, Saudi Arabia wanted to impose its most famous and largest oil company AramCo to be the main investor of the  new Yemeni oil sectors especially Al Jawf sector 19, important and big sector at southern border of Saudi Arabia.

Protests against amended Saudi labor law, experts predict Yemeni economy to take a hit
Yemen Times — 4 April 2013
Hundreds of Yemenis staged a protest on Tuesday in front of the Saudi Embassy in Sana’a to demand an abolishment of a new Saudi labor law that many say will lead to the expulsion of tens of thousands of Yemeni expatriates working and residing in Saudi Arabia. Last week, Saudi Arabia ratified amendments to their labor law. The changes stipulate that foreign workers cannot work for anyone other than their sponsor—the Saudi Arabian individual or company that originally brought them to the country—and they cannot open their own business.

Guantanamo:
Protesters rally outside US Embassy in Yemen for release of Guantanamo detainees
AP via Washington Post — 1 April 2013
Activists and relatives of around 90 Yemeni detainees held in Guantanamo Bay protested outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa on Monday to demand the prisoners’ release after more than a decade in detention. Yemenis make up the largest contingent of the 166 detainees held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. Most were detained in Afghanistan following the 2001 U.S. invasion.

Turkey:
Yemen and Turkey officially remove visa requirements
Yemen Times — 4 April 2013
It’s official. After months of promises, the Turkish government has ratified an agreement between Turkey and Yemen to remove visa requirements for travel between the two states beginning May 1.

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