Weekly News Update 18 April 2013

Land disputes threaten south Yemen stability
Al-Jazeera — 13 April 2013
Unresolved land disputes are contributing to increasing discontent in the south. This month, UN special envoy Jamal Benomar warned the Security Council: “A civil disobedience movement is now attracting large numbers to the streets. The calls for secession have grown. “After nearly two decades of discrimination, repression, and unaddressed legitimate grievances, the people in the south are weary and skeptical of promises of reform.” But resolving land disputes in the region is highly complicated, explains April Alley, a researcher with the International Crisis Group (ICG). “Patterns of land ownership have dramatically changed several times over the past 50 years,” she told Al Jazeera. “There are usually multiple claims on the same property.”

Yemen’s Military Earthquake
Al-Monitor — 15 April 2013
Broad international support is perhaps one of the least discussed aspects of the recalibration of the political-military power balance. While Hadi’s decision bears little semblance to Saleh’s political domination of the country prior to the transition, there are concerns that Hadi’s newfound credibility may be used to delay the transfer of power beyond February 2014, when elections are scheduled to take place. According to the GCC plan, Hadi retains final say in any decision on the transition of power. Furthermore, the absence of viable competitors, Hadi’s background as a southerner unaffiliated with the northern tribes and widespread international support could translate into there being few obstacles to a proposal to delay elections. Today, postponement also seems more likely than ever given the slow progress by the Supreme Commissions for Elections and Referendum to prepare the country, not to mention the need for widespread voter registration and renewal programs.

Volatile Yemen risks economic false dawn
Financial Times — 15 April 2013
Yemen’s great economic hope is the more than $8bn in infrastructure and other investment promised by the unusually unified coalition of world powers backing its transition. But diplomats admit there is a danger that assistance will end up being skewed to the more stable and thus less needy areas because security there is better, widening the already large inequality between urban areas where the government is in control and tracts of the countryside where it is not. “It’s a huge risk,” said one diplomat, citing the power vacuum in the southern province of Abyan, after battles between government forces and Islamist militants there. “It all comes down to this question of the government being present in territories in a way they are not at the moment.”

Military Restructure:
Yemen: Military Changes a Major Transition Step
Human Rights Watch — 12 April 2013
President Abdu Rabu Hadi’s removal from military command on April 10, 2013, of senior figures linked to abuse was a key step in Yemen’s post-uprising transition. The president’s appointment of some of these key figures to posts in which they would have diplomatic immunity is a source of concern, however. “While shuffling these men out of the country’s security forces is a positive development, shuffling them into cozy diplomatic posts abroad where they may be immune from prosecution could take them away from justice,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If President Hadi is to break with the impunity of the past, he should ensure an independent investigation into the role of these men in the terrible crimes against his countrymen.”

Military Restructuring in Yemen: Exploring Transformation
Yemeniaty — 12 April 2013
The rise of Ali Mohsen was expected, and in fact slower than anticipated. Ali Mohsen’s defection in March of 2011 from Saleh was the catalyst that encouraged those who were loyal to the former president to oppose him publicly. Mohsen abandoned his life long friend after rumored disagreements on Ahmed Ali Saleh’s (Saleh’s oldest son) growing influence in Yemen. In this power struggle, Mohsen came out on top. Shortly after Mohsen declaration of “supporting and protecting the revolutionaries” Islah welcomed Mohsen as a freedom fighter, forgiving all his past sins. On the other hand, independent revolutionaries considered his role in the revolution as a clear indication that Yemen’s revolution was hijacked and doomed. Realistically, it would be near impossible to dispose of Mohsen. His influence couldn’t be shaken and now he is part of the new system. So today, we have the “March 21st Garden” in Mathbah (Sana’a) as a park for Yemenis in place of Mohsen’s former First Armor Division.

Military restructure moves ahead with fresh leadership
Yemen Times — 15 April 2013
Newly-appointed military leaders began work on Saturday following President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi’s Wednesday announcement of a military shake-up. In a meeting, officials said the leaders were eager to assume their roles and unite the army by its May deadline, dissolving former divisions. The Republican Guards—previously headed by Ahmed Ali Saleh, son of ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh—were integrated into the newly-created Spare Forces, under the command of General Ali Al-Jaifi. The Spare Forces are composed of six brigades and will continue to be “elite,” just like the Republican Guards, meaning they will be equipped and trained to a higher standard.

Praise as Yemen’s leader dumps old guard
The National — 12 April 2013
Mohammed Abulahoum, president of the opposition Justice and Building Party, hailed the moves. “A little over a year ago no one thought this would be possible,” Mr Abulahoum said. “But it is today and we have to work together to move Yemen forward. “We are one step closer to the Yemen we envision.” Tens of thousands gathered outside Mr Hadi’s residence and chanted “we are all united” after he announced that Mr Saleh’s son Ahmed, once tipped to succeed his father, had been relieved of his duties as head of the Republican Guard and appointed ambassador to the UAE.

Once the ‘statue’ of Yemen, a president comes of age
The National — 16 April 2013
That is why Mr Hadi’s moves towards centralising the military could have such far-reaching consequences. They make it possible – if not yet probable – that the central government could have something like a monopoly of power, allowing political structures to emerge that carry real political legitimacy. Were that to happen, it would have an impact on the other essential political question of modern Yemen, what happens in the south. The unhappy union of north and south Yemen in the 1990s still festers and the south has repeatedly pushed for more autonomy or indeed outright secession. Since the fall of Mr Saleh, those voices have increased and indeed some elements of Hirak, the southern secessionist movement, have refused to participate in the National Dialogue unless meaningful negotiations on separation are on the table.

The Social Transformation Of Yemen’s Youth Revolution
As-Safir via Al-Monitor — 14 April 2013
Social networking sites have garnered unprecedented participation from Yemenis recently. They have extended their reach even into far-flung villages, since the local inhabitants desire to preserve their new friendships, and Facebook and Twitter are the best available means for them to do so. These websites have also been an ideal method for spreading calls to convene in the central squares in the event of any future activity.

National Dialogue:
Southern grumps
The Economist — 13 April 2013
Even those from the south who have travelled to Sana’a for the dialogue conference stress that their co-operation with the central government remains conditional. “We may differ in strategy, but the movement’s unity is stronger than any divisions,” says another Southern Movement man, a delegate chatting with comrades at the grand hotel where the talks are taking place. “If this doesn’t work out, it will be easy to go back to Aden and join our people in the street.”

Proxy to appear for court case against president
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
Hadi is currently facing the first ever administrative court claim against him since he took over as president following the ousting of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. The court case was filed by eight recognized political parties who say they should have been included in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). The case is largely serving as a symbol of people’s ability to hold their government accountable, said Mohammed Al-Maqtari, the deputy minister of Legal Affairs.

NDC Update
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
The Central Security units assigned to protect the NDC premises are demanding to be paid more for their work. The secretariat has a set budget for paying the security, but security is not satisfied with their pay. The issue has been raised with the president and ministers of defense and interior.

NDC Update
Yemen Times — 15 April 2013
The Southern Issue working group has threatened to go on strike unless President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi  implements a list of 11 demands based on the 20 Points, an earlier list of demands that Southern representatives drew up and presented as stipulations for their involvement in the conference. Among their requests was an apology for the Civil War of 1994.

Yemen’s national dialogue is blossoming online
Al-Arabiya — 14 April 2013
Often, the most popular subjects of conversation were those that reflected Yemen’s divisions, such as the expulsion of Huthi representative Ali Naser Al-Bukhaiti on the first day of the dialogue. Users even vigorously debated the word choice of Yemeni president Abd Rabo Mansur Hadi’s scolding of Al-Bukhaiti. Users were similarly divided when commenting on conference spokesperson Amal Al-Basha’s sharp confrontation with tribal chief Sadeq Al-Ahmar over the role of women in the conference.

Presidential committee receives over 11,000 complaints from fired Southernern civilians
Yemen Times — 15 April 2013
The Fired Southerners Committee, which was created at the beginning of the year, just began operations for civil society employees and has received over 11,000 complaints over the last week in Aden. Complaints for fired military men were collected at the end of March.

Saudi diplomat kidnapped in Yemen in new video plea
AFP via Google News — 16 April 2013
A Saudi diplomat held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Yemen for more than a year has urged the kingdom to secure his release, in a new video published by the extremist network’s media arm. Abdullah al-Khalidi, Saudi’s deputy consul in the southern port of Aden, was dressed in a traditional black outfit and appeared to be in good health in the 19-minute video interview by Al-Malahem Media, apparently produced between February and March. He appealed to Saudi King Abdullah to secure his release by meeting his kidnappers’ demands, asking: “Will he release me and return me back to my family and children?”

Al-Baidha’a governor escapes alleged assassination attempt
Yemen Times — 15 April 2013
Investigations are underway to find the perpetrators of an alleged assignation attempt on Al-Baidha’a’s governor, Al-Dhahri Ahmed Al-Shadadi. On Saturday morning two bombs were launched at the governor’s house, according to Hussien Al-Rasas, the deputy governor of Al-Baida’a.

US drone strikes kill 4 al-Qaida suspects
AP — 17 April 2013
Two U.S. drone strikes Wednesday killed at least four suspected al-Qaida militants and destroyed the house of another in a mountainous area south of the capital, Sanaa, a Yemeni security official and witnesses said. The four were killed in the first strike while riding a vehicle in the desert area of Oussab al-Ali, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) south of Sanaa, the official said. The second strike targeted the house of a suspected jihadi, Hamed Radman, believed to be al-Qaida member, the official said. He said it was not known whether Radman was inside the house at the time. In Sanaa, Yemeni authorities have raided houses of suspected al-Qaida members in the past 48 hours, arresting more than 15, including a man whose brother was killed in one of the drone strikes in southern city of Abyan the past months, official said. The arrests are part of tightening security measures in Sanaa in the vicinity of the foreign embassies, companies and hotels.

Water dispute claims two lives in Ibb
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
Confrontations over access to a natural spring erupted on Sunday, in Al-Mashana district of Ibb governorate, killing two men from the local families of Bani Salah and Bait Dhawi. One bystander, unaffiliated with the feud, was also injured.

Organizations and advocacy groups want reproductive health campaigns directed at women to include men
Yemen Times — 15 April 2013
Some specialists in Yemen say that men dictate reproductive health—including family planning and birth control options—for women like Um Helal. They say it often comes at the cost of the well-being of women that men tend not to be targeted when it comes to reproductive health awareness. “All the services and education campaigns for [reproductive health] centers concentrate on women,” said Abdulla Al-Kamil, the coordinator of the reproduction health programs in the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Foreign Relations/International Support:
Nearly 75% of donors’ funds to Yemen allocated: report
Saba Net — 14 April 2013
The executive unit to accelerate the absorption of donor’s funds on Sunday said Yemen and donors have agreed until April 2013 to allocate nearly 75% of the total pledges announced in Riyadh and New York meetings held in 2012. A report of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation showed that over $6.101 billion of the donors’ grants to Yemen have been allocated out of the $8.142 billion announced in Riyadh and New York meetings.

Power struggle emerges over Yemen
Financial Times — 14 April 2013
While southern secessionists do not have a natural political or sectarian affinity with Iran, some say they would be comfortable with its backing, as they feel the west and its allies have shunned them. “We are willing to get supported and financed by any country in the world – as long as it’s for our cause,” said Abdullah al-Dhalehi, a senior Hirak official. Iran has rejected allegations that it finances activists in either Hirak or the Houthi movement, a Shia rebel group in the country’s north. Ali al-Bukiti, a Houthi spokesman, denied that the movement was directed by Tehran. He said he visited Iran for about five weeks last year and had meetings with senior political and religious leaders, but didn’t receive any money. He said a picture he posted from his trip on social media – holding a fistful of rials above the caption: “I arrived in Iran and received my salary” – was an ironic potshot against enemies who accuse him of being Tehran’s stooge.

Trapped between Iran, Saudi Arabia
UPI — 15 April 2013
“Yemen’s now open to all,” said Ali Saif Hassan, director of the Political development Forum, a think tank in Sanaa. “From America, from Europe, from Saudi Arabia, from Iran — and from Qatar.” That tiny gas-rich emirate, a longtime rival of its vast neighbor Saudi Arabia, has aspirations of becoming a regional power and has been conducting a quirky foreign policy critics say has heightened the turbulence that’s been sweeping the Arab world in recent years. Qatar’s pressing to boost its influence in Yemen, as much to undercut Saudi Arabia, which has long considered Yemen, its southern neighbor, to be within its purview. The emirate has established strong links with Yemen’s al-Islah Islamist movement, which makes it a player with the potential to block Saudi efforts to pacify the country.

Turkey looks to expand educational ties with Yemen
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
Yemen and Turkey are two countries that have deep historical and cultural roots.  Their histories have been intertwined for centuries as Yemeni land has gone in and out of Ottoman control. As diplomats from both countries continue to espouse the two nation’s growing ties, including a recent decision to remove visas for travel between the countries, a spillover effect has been increased educational opportunities for Yemeni students in country and in Turkey.  Turkey’s economy continues to outpace Yemen’s. According to the Turkish Council of Higher Education, Turkey has the 16th largest economy in the world and several economists predict it could move into the top 10 within the next decade.

Women compelled by employers not to cover but niqab provides self-assurance in the streets
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
Layla Mohammad, an engineering student from Sana’a, decided to take off her niqab  three years ago. The Islamic face covering, or veil, she says, was acting as a barrier between her and the outside world. It was preventing her from living a full life. Now, Layla says, because she can speak face-to-face with people, it’s easier to be understood. “People around me know whether I’m smiling, whether I’m sad, happy or upset.”

USA companies intend to invest in Yemen
Saba Net — 17 April 2013
The USA Shell Petroleum and other companies on Wednesday expressed their desires to hold enterprises in Yemen. This came during separate meetings held on the sidelines of the 17th International Conference and Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG 17) being taken place in Houston, USA, from 16-19 April, between Minister of Oil and Minerals Ahmed Dares with officials of these companies.

Yemen central bank reserves hit six-month low
Reuters via The Nation (Pakistan) — 17 April 2013
The Arabian peninsula state, which relies on crude exports to replenish its reserves and finance up to 70 percent of budget spending, has suffered from frequent bombings of its main oil pipeline since political turmoil started in 2011. Gross foreign assets held by the central bank fell to $5.8 billion in February, covering 5.9 months of imports, from $6.2 billion or 6.4 months of imports in January, central bank data showed. Net reserves, which factor in the central bank’s foreign obligations, stood at $4.5 billion in February.

Sheikhs negotiate repair of electricity
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
A group of 12 sheikhs from the Al-Syad tribe were in the middle of negotiations late on Wednesday to stop Al-Syad tribe members from blocking the repair of two electrical lines that were cut using chains on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The lines were attacked in the Khalaka area of Nihm district in Sana’a governorate, rendering the Marib power stations useless and leaving a majority of the country without power. The group of mediating sheikhs are currently requesting the imprisoned men be able to communicate with their families in exchange for clearing roads they have blocked with heavily-loaded weapons, prohibiting electrical repairs.

Mayor announces new city-wide infrastructure projects
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
At a press conference on Tuesday, Sana’a’s Mayor Abdulqader Hilal announced a number of new campaigns his office is undertaking in Yemen’s capital that are expected to be completed by the end of the year although no definite timetables have been set. Among the most important plans the mayor highlighted was the establishment of a joint company for Sanaa’a’s water and electrical services.

SEMC holds President Hadi responsible
Yemen Observer — 12 April 2013
The Studies & Economic Media Center (SEMC) held President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi  responsible for being late in appointing a commissioner for information as stated in the access of information law that was released last year in Yemen. SEMC clarified that since the law was released on April 2012, a commissioner of information has not been appointed yet despite many appeals to the President, especially because the information commissioner is one of the main tools of law implementation as he is responsible for  preparing the executive list of the law and the samples of demanding information.

Local youth organization turns trash into treasures
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
A group of young people in Sana’a were growing tired of seeing trash pile up all around them, on the street and in front of their homes. Fed-up and inspired by some online research, they decided to turn these items deemed worthless into practical household projects.  In the process, they made a small profit and have both directly and indirectly educated those around them.

In the early afternoon, checkpoint security can be hard to find
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
Dr. Aymn Ahmed, a 31-year-old dentist from the capital, says the traffic is annoying, but he also recognizes the importance of security, especially now. “I’m in support of them,” he says. But, Ahmed has noticed, security “procedures disappear in the afternoon,” normally between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. “[That’s when] soldiers go to chew qat,” he said.  Qat, the hugely popular and mildly narcotic leaf, is available at crowded markets throughout the city. It’s sold in bundles, wrapped loosely in plastic bags or cloth and usually chewed in the afternoon. Its initial effects include a surge of energy and attention, but critics of the drug say it also makes users lethargic and lazy.

Uncharged and abducted, Yemeni revolutionaries’ whereabouts unknown
Yemen Times — 15 April 2013
The General Council of the Abducted Revolutionary Youth estimates there are at least 70 individuals being held without charge by the Political Security Organization (PSO), Yemen’s primary internal security and intelligence-gathering force, and the Central Security Organization (CSO), a part of the Ministry of Interior which operates a paramilitary force. Both the PSO and the CSO are known for running extrajudicial detention centers across the country. Al-Otmi said he reached out to such high-ranking government officials as the Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basendwah and President Hadi, inquiring about his son, but he still does not have satisfactory information as to the whereabouts of Faisal.

Six revolutionary detainees set free after two-year imprisonment
Yemen Times — 18 April 2013
Six men who had been imprisoned in Sana’a’s central prison for the past two years were just released over the course of the past two days. They were suspected of being involved   in the explosion that struck the Al-Nahdain Mosque inside former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s presidential compound in June 2011.

Displaced People:
Urgent aid needed to help thousands of migrant victims of abuse in Yemen, UN says
UN News Centre — 16 April 2013
Thousands of destitute migrants from Ethiopia and Somalia are stranded in northern Yemen in deplorable conditions, victims of gross physical abuse and severe economic and sexual exploitation, a United Nations humanitarian official warned today, calling for urgent action to address their plight. “The international community urgently needs to work with and support the Governments in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf to strengthen the management of migration and national borders, combat transnational organized crime and uphold migrants’ human rights,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement.

Yoga being used for social change in Yemen, Kenya
CBS News — 12 April 2013
During the first week that Sara Ishaq began offering free yoga classes in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, only four women showed up. By the end of the week the room overflowed with more than 25 women. The Yemeni women in Ishaq’s class range from 20 to 50 years old, and many of them came to yoga with weight loss aspirations. Yet, after class many said they felt calm and possessed a new sense of ownership over their bodies. Yoga provided an outlet for physical and mental restoration that these women could not find anywhere else.


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