Weekly News Update 11 April 2013

Highlights:
South Yemen Struggles In Wake of Unrest
Al-Monitor — 7 April 2013
Local discontent with the government for not working hard enough to rebuild the town is greater than ever, challenging central government claims of victory. Such sentiment is particularly striking in places such as Abyan, the home province of the president and his defense minister. The government has brought back electricity and water to damaged towns in this southern province, and some hospitals are again serving the public. This is the case in Zinjibar, site of the heaviest battles. In Jaar, the main hospital, once targeted by drone strikes for treating injured al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) troops, functions again with the assistance of the Red Crescent. The post office headquarters, a makeshift hospital for local citizens during the war, now functions as it was meant to. That, however, has not calmed the local populace nor made it satisfied with government efforts in the province, particularly when the government did not reopen important offices such as those dealing with public education. Dozens of schools are still closed.

Yemen’s Military-Security Reform: Seeds of New Conflict?
International Crisis Group — 4 April 2013
In a larger sense, the key obstacle to meaningful reform remains the absence of an inclusive political pact. It is hard to see major military-security stakeholders relinquishing hard power or fully accepting change that could leave them vulnerable to domestic rivals in any circumstance; it is near impossible to imagine it when distrust runs so high. There are other, related complications: two major constituencies, the primarily northern-based Huthi movement and southern separatists, share profound scepticism toward a restructuring process from which they have been essentially excluded; they are unlikely to support decisions taken without broad agreement on the parameters of a post-Saleh state.

Yemen president orders military shakeup
AP via Yahoo! News — 9 April 2013
In his latest move, Hadi not only removed Saleh’s son and two nephews from their posts, but also effectively ordered them to leave the country by posting them abroad. He removed Saleh’s son Ahmed as head of the Republican Guard and appointed him ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. The force is an elite army unit that was once the backbone of Saleh’s rule. It was supposed to be reorganized and brought under the control of the Defense Ministry according to Hadi’s orders last year, but those changes had not materialized on the ground. In other changes, Saleh’s nephew Ammar, the deputy intelligence chief, was made a military attache in Ethiopia. Ammar’s brother, Tareq Yahia, head of the Presidential Guard, was made a military attache in Germany. The decrees also affect one of Saleh’s top foes, Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who defected during the 2011 uprising along with his First Armored Division and joined opposition forces. He commanded more than 50,000 soldiers and up to two dozen generals. Hadi ordered that al-Ahmar, one of the most powerful men in Yemen, leave his post and serve as a presidential adviser, a move that diminishes the general’s reach. It comes a year after the president ordered his division dispersed among other military units.

Saudi Arabia:
Saudi-Yemen relations are in need of a modern makeover
The National — 9 April 2013
But neither Saudi Arabia nor Yemen is the same today as it was in 1970. The world has changed immeasurably – the rocketing of oil prices has brought an enormous disparity between the two countries. Today, Saudi’s GDP is 10 times that of Yemen’s. Nasser died in 1970 and with him much of the pan-Arab revolutionary fervour he embodied. Political pluralism (such as it is) and universal sufferage in Yemen are no longer a threat to Saudi influence. And with Mr Saleh finally gone, there is a chance of a new relationship between Saudi Arabia and Yemen. That is what is needed now. The visa expulsions demonstrate that Saudi still sees Yemen as just another country whose population wants access to its labour market. But that is a mistake, because the long-term stability of the whole Peninsula depends to a large extent on what happens in Yemen. Locking the two countries into mutual development would be beneficial for the whole GCC, which needs manpower (which Yemen has). And Yemen’s government needs investment (which Saudi can provide).

Saudis to Delay a Measure Deporting Foreign Workers
New York Times — 6 April 2013
Almost two weeks after Saudi Arabia started deporting thousands of foreign workers from Yemen and other countries in a crackdown that drew protests from local business owners and foreign diplomats, Saudi officials on Saturday reversed course and announced a three-month grace period for the workers, according to the official Saudi news agency. In late March, Saudi officials announced changes to the country’s employment code, promising tough measures, including deportation, for foreigners found to be violating the work-visa sponsorship system. The statement on Saturday said the workers had three months to conform with the new regulations.  It was not immediately clear whether workers who had already been deported — including up to 20,000 from Yemen, according to officials there — would be allowed to return.

Saudi Arabia builds giant Yemen border fence
BBC News — 9 April 2013
The 1,800km (1,100-mile) fence is set to run from the Red Sea coast in the west to the edge of Oman in the east. Security has deteriorated on the Yemeni side after its long-term president stepped down in 2012, Saudi border official Lt Col Hamed al-Ahmari said. Yemen is considered a base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP).  President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over power after 33 years to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in February last year after months of anti-government protests. Since then, militants have gained ground in the country.

National Dialogue:
Yemen needs to do more in restive south: UN envoy
AFP via Google News — 4 April 2013
Yemeni authorities urgently need to take “confidence-building measures” in the south after demonstrations there, the UN’s special advisor to the country said Thursday. Jamal Benomar said such actions were required to “address the long standing grievances of southerners over unlawful or unjust seizure of property and dismissal from the military or the civil service.” Yemen, the only Arab state where an uprising in 2011 eventually led to a negotiated settlement, began a national dialogue on March 18 to pave the way for the drafting of a new constitution and the staging of elections.

National Dialogue to make or break Yemen
Deutsche Welle — 4 April 2013
Engineering student Abdul Azziz Morfak participated in the protests against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh at the age of 19. Now, two years later, he’s not pleased with the results. “It’s not what was in my mind,” he said. “In general, I think people are not feeling good about what is happening, but we have to accept things for what they are.” According to Morfak, discussion among Yemen’s citizens is the revolution’s greatest achievement. “Freedom of speech and talking without fear is a huge development. It’s perhaps the only good thing that happened in Yemen,” he said.

NDC Update
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi is working on replacing the names of at least five National Dialogue Conference’s participants such as Noble Peace Prize Winner Tawakkol Karman and member of Parliament Ahmed Saif Hashid who declined to participate in the conference. Names will be made public on Saturday.   After failed negotiations between the Islah and Houthi leaders about who will head the Sa’ada working group, President Hadi said he will announce the group’s leader by Saturday.  Former Prime Minister of the South Haidar Al-Attas, a Hirak leader abroad, announced he will join the conference.

Saleh:
Yemen’s Deposed President Has Built a Museum Dedicated to Himself
VICE — 10 April 2013
Lately, Saleh’s activities have intensified and, at times, turned bizarre. In the last month alone, Saleh sat for an interview with Russia Today, flew to Saudi Arabia for further treatment, and started a new Facebook page. After only a few weeks, the page already has 65,000 “Likes.” One reason for the page’s popularity, apart from accusations of fake followers, could be the pictures. Images have been uploaded of the ex-president playing pool and “working out” in the gym. Unfortunately for those unsatisfied by Facebook photos and in need of more tangible Saleh memorabilia, the museum will not open to the public until later this spring. The director says that a few final items still have to be moved in and that security must be improved. When it does open, Surmi isn’t expecting the clientele to come from diverse political backgrounds.

Elections:
Elections authority short on money and time to prepare for 2014 voting
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
The Supreme Commission of Elections and Referendum (SCER) said preparations for the country’s new electronic voter database registry are facing speed bumps. The Commission announced setbacks, like a delay in the release of funds for the project and a limited time frame for implementation, at a meeting recently with representatives from Parliament and the United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar. The new system, which was stipulated by the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Initiative as part of Yemen’s transitional process to pave the way for presidential and parliamentarian elections in early 2014, has to transfer the already 3 million registered Yemenis to a central digital file. With the support of the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), the estimated $23 million project will include thumbprint machines to identify voters.

Education:
The Ministry of Education takes stand on cheating in schools
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
On Sunday, the Ministry of Education unveiled new procedures to combat the widespread practice of cheating in high schools across the country. The new set of academic standards will go into effect for the coming final exams, which are held in June. Cheating is a huge problem in schools all over the country, Mohammed Al-Rumaim a teacher from Taiz said. Some of the students think that “it is their right to cheat.” But it’s not just the students who are violating academic codes. Some teachers accept bribes from students who ask to carry answers into the exams, Al-Rumaim said.

Qat:
Activists battle with Yemen’s qat chewers
Financial Times — 5 April 2013
Abdo Seif, head of the advisory and oversight team at the UN Development Programme in Sana’a, said that while his agency did not classify qat as “good” or “bad”, he was worried about the health impact of chemicals such as fertilisers used on the crop. He also points to estimates that purchases of the plant consume up to 10 per cent of poorer families’ income, in a country where the economy has been badly hit by the 2011 uprising that eventually forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh from office. “Whenever the unemployment pool grows, the consumption grows,” Mr Seif said, noting that the qat economy is estimated to be worth at least $10m a day, or 40 cents per person in a nation where the average income is less than $6 a day. “Because people have nothing else to do other than chew.”

Justice:
The Executioner’s Tale: A Talk With One of Yemen’s Designated Killers
TIME — 10 April 2013
The numbers Shamsadeen cites suggest that executions in Yemen far exceed the Amnesty figures. Certainly the 2012 statistic of 28 seems small. “I killed 101 people in 2001,” he said, recalling his busiest year and blaming the spike in deaths on a particularly officious judge. He is currently running at about three executions a month in Ibb, where public executions were abandoned in 2004 after several gatherings came under attack from armed family members and fellow tribesmen attempting to make last minute rescue attempts.

Security:
Al-Qaida Denies Its No. 2 in Yemen Was Killed
AP via ABC News — 8 April 2013
Al-Qaida in Yemen posted a statement on militant websites Monday saying that its second-most senior commander has not been killed. It was the second time the group has denied Saeed al-Shihri’s death. The Saudi national, who fought in Afghanistan and spent six years in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, is “alive and in good health,” according to a senior al-Qaida cleric in Yemen and the group’s media arm, al-Malahem. The cleric, Abu-Saad Al-Aamly, posted the claim on his Facebook account. A Yemeni police official told The Associated Press that security forces may have been too quick announcing al-Shihri’s death in January, based on information from Saudi Arabia. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to release the information to reporters. Yemeni security officials had claimed the al-Qaida commander was killed by a U.S. drone strike. The country’s state news agency, SABA, reported in January that al-Shirhi was in a coma after a missile attack in late November, but did not make clear if he had died.

Attacks in Marib governorate leave country without power, again
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
Power lines in the Al-Damashika and Al-Junaid areas of Marib governorate sustained two consecutive attacks on Monday and Tuesday, knocking out power for much of the country including Sana’a. Locals have accused Hassn Mabkhout Al-Hweik, a local tribesmen of carrying out the attacks as he had threatened to do so days earlier. The Saba News Agency quoted officials in Marib saying Al-Hweik was upset about people from Marib not getting bids for projects there, furthering unemployment in the area.

Tribesmen, army deserters clash in south Yemen, seven killed
Reuters — 8 April 2013
Seven people were killed in clashes between army deserters and tribesmen in south Yemen on Monday, officials and residents said, in another sign of disorder in a country of multiple conflicts next to oil export giant Saudi Arabia. Restoring security in Yemen is a priority for the United States and its Gulf allies to contain threats from al Qaeda militants and separatist tribes to Saudi Arabia and nearby sea lanes where oil tankers pass.

Following fresh clashes in Rada’a, Defense Ministry launches fact-finding mission with local sheikhs
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
The Guards are there as leftovers from a campaign that took place months ago in which state forces bombed and overtook the area in an attempt to drive out what were believed to have been Al-Qaeda affiliates. Tribal mediations followed, prompting the state campaign to come to an end. But since that time, locals report ongoing instability during the day in their relations with the estimated 150 Republican Guards.

Yemeni officials: ‘Jihad’ in Syria causes problems for Yemen
Al-Shorfa — 5 April 2013
Yemeni newspapers and websites, including Al-Shareh and Al-Jumhour, have published reports indicating that religious leaders affiliated with Al-Islah recruited thousands of Yemenis and organised their travel through Turkey to Syria so they can fight with armed groups.

Fewer rape crimes this year than last
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
Fewer rapes occurred in 2012 than the year before, the Ministry of Interior reported. Rape crimes have decreased by around seven percent, meaning there were ten fewer reported instances of rape this past year than in 2011. Mohammed Al-Maweri, the spokesman for the ministry, said their statistics were compiled based on several security reports provided by police stations in Sana’a and other governorates.

Five die in checkpoint clash between tribesmen and military in Marib
Yemen Times — 8 April 2013
Officials say one soldier and four tribesmen were killed in the latest confrontations between armed tribesmen and soldiers in the Al-Hajeel area of Sirwah district of Marib governorate on Friday. Accounts of what happened are conflicting. A group of armed men from the local Bani Dhibian and Jahm tribes attacked military officials from Brigade 132 at an official checkpoint, said Abdulrahman Al-Jasami, an officer in the operations department at the Interior Ministry.  He said the men tried to bypass the checkpoint and opened fire on guards.

Activists stage protest in solidarity with kidnapped foreigners in Yemen
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
On Monday, over 20 protesters—including members of Activists for the Sake of Yemen and other organizations—gathered outside of the European Union Mission office for the second week in a row. They carried signs and chanted, expressing their opposition to the practice of kidnapping foreigner tourists and students, a tactic that Yemeni tribes and Al-Qaeda groups have used to extort money from the government. These kidnappings, the protestors said in a released statement, reflect neither the values of Yemeni culture nor Islam. Foreigners should be treated as honored guests, the protestors said.

Press:
Lack of funding and access to information obstruct investigative journalism in Yemen
Yemen Times — 8 April 2013
Despite the fact that there are around 260 newspapers in Yemen, according to a study conducted by the Yemen Polling Center (YPC) in 2012, multiple hurdles still obstruct the adoption of investigative journalism by Yemen’s press corps. Khalid Al-Haroji, deputy head of Al-Thawra Establishment for Press, Printing and Publication for Human and Financial Resources, said few Yemeni journalists are patient enough to devote the time necessary to produce works of investigative journalism, which could take months to develop depending on the report’s subject and independent research and analysis needed for it.

Yemeni journalist fined for article slamming government spending
Yemen Times — 8 April 2013
The Yemeni Journalists Syndicate its concern by what it sees as increasing violations against journalists. In a statement issued Tuesday, the syndicate said it received complaints from several journalists who experienced threats while on the job. Last Tuesday, Hosam Ashor, an employee in Al-Neda’a Newspaper and a radio broadcaster, was sentenced to three months imprisonment and fined $1,500 for an article he published, accusing a public official of corruption and misuse of government funds. Ashor was found guilty of libel, but the sentence has been suspended.

Education:
Sana’a University under indefinite shutdown, students call for classes
Yemen Times — 8 April 2013
Hundreds of students gathered at Sana’a University on Saturday, protesting the shutdown of the university and calling for the resumption of classes. The semester’s final examination would have been held this past week, but none of the classrooms were open. The University Council suspended classes indefinitely last week, after a staff meeting was disrupted by a group of students who blocked the doors of the building for over four hours, locking the university president, vice-president and deans inside. The students—enrolled in Sana’a University’s College of Engineering—called for the postponement of final examinations and a university-wide loosening of academic standards.

Economy:
Street cleaners’ strike called off temporarily, Mayor Hilal asks for more time to negotiate
Yemen Times — 8 April 2013
After a meeting between representatives from the General Syndicate of the Municipality Workers—a labor union of Sana’a’s street cleaners—and Mayor Abdukadir Hilal, the strike that workers’ threatened to go on last week has been called off.  Basheer Al-Radhi, the general secretary of the street cleaners’ syndicate said they would wait two more months before halting work, giving the government more time to meet their demands.

Judges continue to strike in capital
Yemen Times — 8 April 2013
Going into its second week, the Judges Forum, a syndicate for Yemen’s judicial officials, says it will remain on strike in Sana’a.  Last Saturday a group of 100 judges stopped receiving cases because of 34 self-reported threats on judges’ lives over the last two months.  More judges have threatened to go on strike if the alleged perpetrators of these crimes are not prosecuted.  “Our strike will carry on and we will escalate until it reaches all courts of Yemen if the perpetrators continue at large,” said Sulaiman Al-Shamiri, a member of the Judges Forum.

Mocha Port: Can it rise again?
Yemen Times — 11 April 2013
“The former regime handed the port over to a failed administration and military authorities,” said Mustfa Nassr, the head of Studies and Economic Media Center. “Those people used to blackmail merchants,” said Mahyoob Swaedan, a businessman from Mocha Port, which he said has caused merchants to migrate away from Mocha.  These military and other influential figures are accused of imposing unauthorized tariffs on locals. According to one local from the area who asked to remain anonymous, troops used to greet incoming ships, including ones accused of smuggling weapons, and charge them anywhere from YR30,000 ($140) to YR50,000 ($233).

Demand for second-hand clothing keeps trade alive, despite illegal importation
Yemen Times — 8 April 2013
In one of the second-hand clothing shops in Sana’a, Um Mohammed rooted through piles of clothes, in search of something that would fit her daughter, Hadeel. Hadeel loves getting clothes. “I come to this shop, especially on Eids,” Um Mohammed explained. “I buy lots of clothes because they aren’t expensive. For YR1,000  [less than $5], I can [afford] a lot.” In Al-Khaima Market in southern Sana’a, used clothes are laid out for sale on the sidewalk and Mujahed Ali, a vendor here, says that the clothes are in a fine condition and that business is good. In 2011, the Ministry of Trade and Industry released a list of the specific types of second-hand clothes that can be imported into Yemen: women’s and men’s suits, abayas, jackets and ties. Other types of clothes—notably undergarments that would have been in direct contact with the previous owners’ skin—are not approved.

Art:
Safe space for art strikes a chord in Yemen
BBC — 9 April 2013
The Raufa Hassan Gallery is a breath of fresh air for local artists who see it as one of their few havens. Methal Hamadi, who attends the gallery’s artist camps and jam sessions with a pink guitar slung over her back, is grateful for a place where her creativity is celebrated – much to the dismay of her mother, who thinks she should focus on her medical studies at Sanaa University. For Ahmed Haidar, a scrawny 16-year-old who learned to play piano from YouTube and keeps a dusty Casio keyboard at the gallery, his improvisations are largely inspired by his trauma at Sanaa’s Change Square on the Day of Dignity when, on March 18, 2011, snipers loyal to pro-government forces opened fire on protesters and shot dead at least 45 people. Haidar says he watched an elderly man die and helped drag the dead and wounded out of the line of fire.

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