Weekly News Update 23 May 2013

Highlights:
Yemen seeks to answer southern grievances
Financial Times — 19 May 2013
There is pride here – at times shading into snobbery – at what people see as an education and sophistication that is in part a British legacy and compares favourably with Yemen’s “tribal” north. There is also a bitterness at perceived efforts by the north to stifle the south’s development, whether through mismanagement of Aden’s once world-renowned port, or the running down of basic services. “In Ta’iz [in the north] they don’t let the kids cheat in exams,” said 15-year-old Muataz Shamsan, one of a group of teenagers who saluted spontaneously for the camera in front of a southern flag in central Aden. “Here they let us cheat in class because they want us to grow poorer still.” In the cramped claims room of the assets tribunal – which officials say received more than 5,000 cases in its first 15 days – Yahya Hassan Yahya, a 39-year old former soldier, clutches a plan of the house he says was grabbed by the authorities in 1993. Some southerners are also unhappy that influential western powers view a united Yemen as axiomatic, even though the UK, for one, is allowing a referendum on Scottish independence to take place. “Our viewpoint is that a decision [on southern independence] has been made and we can’t keep revisiting settled issues,” one western diplomat said. Other independence sceptics point out that the south – though it has much of Yemen’s small oil reserves – is neither brimming with thriving industries, nor culturally homogenous.

Yemeni Houthi Leader Committed To National Dialogue
Al-Monitor — 19 May 2013
Mohammed Nasser Al-Bakhiti, the representative of Ansarullah (the Houthis’ movement) at Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference, told Al-Monitor in a phone interview about his group’s new religious-political approach for Yemen. Bakhiti asserted that his movement has a great interest in the success of the national dialogue, indicating that the regime’s old guard, the Islamic party of Islah (which combines Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood members) and the Al-Ahmar family don’t want the dialogue to succeed. He added that these powers promote the continuation of corruption in order to protect their interests. The Houthi official said that his group’s new approach for Yemen calls for building a civil democratic state. He added that this approach supports a federal parliamentary system in Yemen based on a “relative electoral Law,” because this system will be able to dismantle the former regime.

Yemen’s National Dialogue: Reshaping the Social
Atlantic Council — 22 May 2013
As for redefining the state-citizen relationship, significantly more engagement should be made with the general population about the Dialogue’s aims and how ordinary Yemenis can contribute to what should be a national reconciliation and rebuilding process not only limited to five hundred sixty-five people. Delegates from each of the working groups will conduct field visits to various governorates to raise awareness, listen, and convey citizens’ concerns, but the scope and reach of their outreach is far too limited. To be sure, there will be security problems that may limit delegates’ ability to travel, but a grassroots process that is locally led could be introduced to gather and transmit input from Yemenis outside the capital, Sanaa.

Tawakkol Karman:
The Optimist’s Case for Yemen
Foreign Policy — 22 May 2013
Karman protests that too many culprits from the former regime are involved in the National Dialogue. She also laments the lack of women, young people, and civil society leaders around the table. Nevertheless, she’s not at all pessimistic. She thinks the National Dialogue can succeed. I push her to explain her near pathological optimism for her country’s future, the work of the National Dialogue included. Karman keeps reminding me that all progress is relative and that her country has already made truly unimaginable advances in just a few years. She has a point.

Economy/Governance:
IMF urges Yemen to finalize economic program
Reuters — 21 May 2013
The IMF has also been in talks to provide a fresh loan to impoverished Yemen, of around $500 million, but Ahmed said the government there first needed to agree on its economic program, which he described as being at a quite advanced stage. “As soon as they are able to do so then our team is ready to finalize the discussions. I am hoping this can be done soon because the situation facing Yemen is the difficult one,” he said, adding the amount of aid would depend on the program.

Yemen inflation reaches 10-month high
Reuters via Gulf News — 20 May 2013
Higher food prices drove Yemen’s annual inflation rate to a 10-month high of 11.3 per cent in February, central bank data showed on Monday. Food inflation in the Arabian Peninsula state jumped to 14.3 per cent year on year and 1.8 per cent from January. Overall inflation had fallen from a peak of 25 per cent in October 2011 as political unrest eased, helping the economy recover. But it picked up again to 7.1 per cent in January.

Yemen oil exports rose 14%
Reuters via Arab News — 20 May 2013
Yemen’s oil export volumes rose 14 percent in the first quarter of 2013, earning the government $35 million more than in the same period of 2012, according to data published by Yemen’s central bank. Attacks on Yemen’s oil pipelines since 2011 cut the government’s oil exports from 6.4 million barrels in the first quarter of 2011 to 5.69 million barrels in the same period of 2012.

Security:
Five hostages freed in Yemen
AFP via Google News — 16 May 2013
Kidnappers in Yemen have freed three International Committee of the Red Cross employees, including a Swiss and a Kenyan, along with two Egyptian hostages, following tribal mediation, sources said Thursday. “We have managed to obtain the release of the five hostages kidnapped by the Al-Marakisha tribe,” who released them late Wednesday, said Abdellatif Sayed, a local commander with the military-linked Popular Resistance Committees.

Three Yemeni journalists and two other foreigners kidnapped by tribesmen
Yemen Times — 20 May 2013
Tribal mediations are ongoing in Marib, where on Thursday three journalists, two foreigners, and an employee of the Safer Oil company were kidnapped by tribesmen in the eastern governorate. Yahia Saleh Al-Masmi, a tribal leader, took responsibility for the kidnapping and told the Yemen Times that the capturing was part of a plot to take revenge on the government, for what he said were outstanding grievances—including the killing of locals and destruction of property, caused by the state around two years ago in clashes between local tribesmen and military brigades. In exchange for the release of the captives, Al-Masmi is demanding financial compensation for each tribesman killed in previous bouts of fighting which took place in 2011, asking for YR20 million (about $100,000) per head.

Wounds from last year’s attack still fresh
Yemen Times — 23 May 2013
A statue that carries the names of all those who lost their lives in the incident has been built in the past year and will be lit up in commemoration on Unity Day. Throughout the year, people have visited the place, praying for the soldiers, holding candlelight vigils. But, even with these commemorations, a sense of closure is elusive. There are too may unanswered questions, Salman Omar, a soldier from Ibb, says. “We did not forget. We will not be silent until the perpetrators receive punishment.”

Austrian Yemen hostage says feared execution – report
Reuters — 16 May 2013
At one point, Dominik Neubaur told Austrian magazine News, he was taken out for what he thought would be his execution – but believed he was spared after he recited verses from the Koran. “I heard a weapon being loaded and felt its muzzle on the back of my head,” he said his first interview since his release a week ago. The three hostages disappeared from view after their capture until a video appeared on YouTube in February in which Neubaur, with a rifle pointed at his head, said he would be killed if ransom money were not paid to a Yemeni tribe within a week.

Yemen general denounces ‘sabotage’ of air force
AFP via Google News — 18 May 2013
Yemen’s air force has been the target of “sabotage”, the country’s military aviation chief said in a televised interview, days after a fighter jet crashed in the capital Sanaa. “The air force is the target of systematic sabotage,” General Rashed al-Janad told the private channel Al-Saida in the interview broadcast late on Friday. He said the Sukhoi SU-22 that crashed in Sanaa last Monday, killing the pilot, was caused by “shots hitting the aircraft” as it prepared to land at a base next to the capital’s airport. He added that two other military aircraft, including a helicopter, had been fired on last November near Sanaa, although they had not been hit. Janad replaced a half-brother of ousted president Ali Abdallah Saleh as Yemen’s air force chief a year ago, as part of a restructuring of the armed forces.

Yemen a Major Part of Any Effort to Close Guantanamo
Forbes — 22 May 2013
In a speech on Thursday, President Obama is set to renew his efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Despite reports indicating some progress toward resolving the challenges associated with the Yemeni detainees, there are signs that significant obstacles lay ahead for the Obama administration.  A McClatchy report noted that Yemen’s human rights minister Hooria Mashour came to the U.S. this week expecting to lobby U.S. officials for the release of Yemeni detainees, yet she said “Unfortunately, I ended up with nothing.” U.S. officials claim Mashour left “in a huff” after finding that the officials she was scheduled to meet with “weren’t senior enough.”

Yemeni intelligence colonel killed by al-Qaida suspects
Xinhau — 18 May 2013
Suspected al-Qaida gunmen shot dead a Yemeni intelligence officer on Friday night in the southeastern province of Hadramout, a government official told Xinhua Saturday. Abdullah Rabaky, a colonel at the military intelligence agency in Hadrmout province, was gunned down when a militant on a motorcycle shot at his car, the local official said on condition of anonymity. The drive-by shooting attack, which bears the hallmarks of an al-Qaida operation, occurred in a main street in Mukalla, the provincial capital of Hadramout, according to the official. Witnesses near the scene told Xinhua anonymously that after killing the colonel, “a group of unknown gunmen attacked a military checkpoint in the same area and managed to escape.”

Officials say suspected US drone kills 2 militants in central Yemen
AP via Washington Post — 20 May 2013
Yemeni security and military officials say a suspected U.S. drone has killed two militants in a town in the center of the country. The officials said the Monday attack targeted the two men as they were riding a motorbike outside Radda in Bayda province. The officials said the two men were suspected of belonging to al-Qaida, whose Yemeni branch Washington considers the terror group’s most dangerous offshoot.

At least four suspected militants killed in Yemen drone strike
Reuters — 18 May 2013
At least four people were killed and a number of others wounded in a drone strike on a vehicle carrying suspected al Qaeda members in southern Yemen, a local official said on Saturday. The official said the strike took place at dawn on Saturday on a road to the north of Jaar in Abyan Governorate, near Aden. He did not say who was behind the strike, but previous drone strikes have been carried out by the United States.

Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia continues to deport Yemeni migrants
Yemen Times — 20 May 2013
A doctor in the Artificial Limbs and Physiotherapy Center in Sana’a lightly pushes on Mohammed Al-Muhya’s shoulder. The 27-years-old winces in pain as the doctor examines the joint that used to connect to Al-Muhya’s arm. The Yemeni man lost his right arm in December 2012 in a construction accident in Saudi Arabia where he was working as an illegal migrant laborer. He is now back in Sana’a as one of the estimated 30,000 Yemeni workers who have been forcibly deported from the Saudi Arabia as a crackdown on migrants without visas and a part of a new labor law that requires employers to sponsor their employees’ visas instead of allowing individuals to do so as was previously permitted. Al-Muhya was used to working at night so as to avoid Saudi deportation police. “I was using the [industrial] sand crusher that night,” he said. By accident Al-Muhya turned the machinery without taking proper safety precautions and the machine caught his right arm. Al-Muhya says he was treated inhumanely while in the hospital but he did received two surgeries at the expense of the Kingdom.

National Dialogue:
SCER say parliamentary elections will be held as scheduled
Yemen Times — 20 May 2013
The Supreme Committee of Elections and Referendum (SCER) said as far as they are concerned parliamentary  elections will go ahead in February 2014 as stipulated by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative, the internationally brokered deal that handed power from former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to current President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.  Representatives from the SCER said the committee has been working overtime in order to meet the deadline.

Protesters rally for south Yemen independence
AFP via Google News — 21 May 2013
Thousands gathered in Yemen’s main southern city of Aden on Tuesday to call for renewed independence for the south 23 years after it united with the north. Waving the flag of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen and portraits of exiled southern leader Ali Salem al-Baid, the protesters gathered at a square in the Khor Maksar district of Aden, an AFP correspondent reported. The protesters on Tuesday were responding to calls by Baid to commemorate mark the breakaway which he declared on May 21, 1994.

If Hadi wants Yemen whole, he must talk to the South
The National — 21 May 2013
The three R’s continue to animate the movement: genuine political representation (whether in an inclusive government in one country or as a separate south), reinstatement of lands and jobs, and redress for what southerners say was institutionalised discrimination. The best solution now on offer to Mr Hadi would mean a “grand bargain” of sorts with the south, offering some level of autonomy, perhaps, in return for dropping secessionist demands. Whether Mr Hadi can make such an offer – and whether he can find anyone in the south to listen, agree and deliver the deal – remains an open question. But Mr Hadi is running out of time. Whereas at the beginning of the year, he might have found factions within Hirak open to dialogue on greater inclusion in a Sanaa government, now public sentiment is hardening, moving towards autonomy and more.

Millions-strong protest in Aden calls for secession
Yemen Times — 23 May 2013
On Tuesday night, former-president Ali Salem Al-Beidh gave a televised speech from London, broadcast on Channel Aden Live, calling for an escalation of strikes and civil disobedience ahead of Wednesday’s Unity Day, the annual celebration of the joining of North and South Yemen in 1990. Earlier that day, in Al-Orodh Square in Aden, millions of members of the Southern Movement, or Hirak, gathered in the street, calling for regional secession.

Teaching Unity: Creating a unified country through school curriculum
Yemen Times — 23 May 2013
From the 4th grade the subject of patriotism is instructed in all public schools. From 7th grade to 12th, a separate class is dedicated to teaching patriotism, taught two days a week, in periods of 45 minutes.  But Fathi Al-Yusfi, a tenth-grade student in Al-Asha’r School in Taiz, said that the lessons go in one ear and out the other. “We’ve studied since primary school but we forget everything. We’re only thinking about exams,” he said. “All I know about unity is that it was achieved in May 22, 1990.”

Al-Qaeda takes a bite at the NDC
Yemen Times — 23 May 2013
A lecture by the Mamoon Hatem, an Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader from Ibb governorate has been uploaded to the popular website and has been receiving hundreds of views. This particular brand of radical Islamic ideology has now taken to targeting the National Dialogue Conference, or NDC. The lecture, produced by Al-Malahim Foundation, was originally presented in Ibb governorate and uploaded to Youtube on April 9, 2013. Hatem’s claims are this: the participants in this dialogue are “enemies of sharia,” Islamic law, and “supporters of the devil.” Some “naive Yemenis” have fallen into this dialogue “trap,” Hatem says. It calls on those participating in it to repent, otherwise they will cement their status as “infidels.”

NDC Update
Yemen Times — 23 May 2013
NDC participant Mohammed Salem Akkosh is still being held by Nihm tribe despite ongoing tribal and official mediation. Akkosh was taken in 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday by the tribes while he was on his way to Al-Mahra. He was supposed to be with the National Dialogue team visiting Al-Mahra but missed the flight so decided to catch up with them on his own. He was taken in by the tribe while he was driving through the outskirts of Sana’a.

NDC temporarily adjourns sessions to condemn murder of two boys
Yemen Times — 20 May 2013
The entire assembly of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) shut down for an hour  on Sunday to condemn the killing of two young Southerners in Sana’a, who were shot dead by armed men on Thursday. NDC sessions were suspended on Saturday in protest of the killings but resumed on Sunday with the exception of the brief protest.

Humanitarian Crisis:
Humanitarian crisis could sink Yemen transition: UN
AFP via Google News — 16 May 2013
Yemen’s near-forgotten humanitarian crisis could sink its Arab Spring political transition, with a new constitution and elections expected by next year, a senior United Nations aid official warned Thursday. “In Yemen today, stability is threatened by the drastic humanitarian situation,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN’s Yemen aid coordinator. He reeled off the stark data, saying that more than half of Yemen’s 24 million people needed aid. Of those, 13 million lack access to safe water, 10 million go hungry, six million miss out on even basic healthcare, while farmers have shifted from growing food to producing the drug khat.

U.N. says there is hope for Yemen if aid forthcoming
Reuters — 16 May 2013
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, also told reporters at a briefing in Geneva that poverty, unemployment and scarce water supplies meant its recovery was still precarious. “This is a situation that is full of hope,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said. “It is often quoted as an example. People say: ‘Why don’t we use the model of Yemen for the region?’ “The problem is, I’m saying to the world it could collapse today because many of the Yemenis, half of the population, need food assistance, need medical assistance. There is no water access. The youth cannot find jobs.”

For Yemeni children, stopping the cycle of malnutrition
UNICEF — 16 May 2013
In 2011, stunting affected more than a quarter of children under 5 around the world. It leaves them at risk for complications from common illnesses that a healthy child could easily recover from. Children with SAM are nine times more likely to die than well-nourished children. In Yemen, where 58 per cent of children under 5 are suffering from stunting, many people are unaware of the signs to look for and how serious it can be to ignore them.

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