Weekly News Update 6 December 2013

Juan Herrero/TIME/http://world.time.com/2013/11/30/yemens-new-ways-of-protesting-drone-strikes-graffiti-and-poetry/

Juan Herrero/TIME/http://world.time.com/2013/11/30/yemens-new-ways-of-protesting-drone-strikes-graffiti-and-poetry/

Highlights:
Yemen’s Economic Agenda: Beyond Short-Term Survival
Rafik Hariri Center — 5 December 2013
What has been glaringly absent from most conversations about Yemen’s delicate transition is the need to focus on transforming the economic environment and actually implement the short-, medium-, and long-term plans that were put on paper. In an effort to stop the economic bleeding, the transitional government developed a fairly comprehensive Transition Plan for Stabilization and Development (TPSD), with considerable input from the World Bank, in advance of the Riyadh donors’ conference in September 2012. The document outlines priority areas for the government, with the objective of matching donor assistance according to the framework. By design, the TPSD has a short-term orientation and stops short of laying out a full economic agenda for the country to move forward. When pressed on this point, ministers in the transitional government reply that their mandate is limited to implementing the GCC agreement and does not extend to charting a course for Yemen’s economic future. But even if the benchmark is the plan set forth in the TPSD, one is struck by how little has been achieved.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry Is Attacked on 2 Fronts
New York Times — 5 December 2013
Assailants carried out a two-pronged attack on Yemen’s heavily guarded Defense Ministry headquarters in the center of the capital, Sana, on Thursday, ramming a car packed with explosives into one part of the complex as attackers on foot opened fire with automatic rifles on another, witnesses said. News reports quoting Defense Ministry officials said 20 people had been killed, including militants and Yemeni soldiers, and dozens wounded. But other accounts put the death toll higher. Several foreign medical workers were also reported to be among the dead after the attackers stormed into a hospital within the complex.

Yemen’s New Ways of Protesting Drone Strikes: Graffiti and Poetry
TIME — 30 November 2013
“We [have] tried to be a little bit more creative on ways [that] we can really combat the fact that drones are hovering over our cities and villages,” said Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist and project coordinator for the British-based organization Reprieve, which advocates for the rights of prisoners to receive a fair trial. Taking their lead from Yemen’s reputation for recitation, the group organized an anti-drone poetry contest earlier this month. The top prize: $600 or, in Reprieve’s words, “1% of the cost of a hellfire missile.” A panel of Yemeni poets whittled the more than 30 submissions down to six finalists and a winner. Frontrunners gathered on a recent Tuesday afternoon to share their work. One by one, contestants read their poems aloud. Some delivered their verse – containing lines such as “From above, Death descends upon us,” “Drones are the friend of our enemy” and “Do you fight terrorism with terrorism?” – more fluently than others, but the small audience of mostly friends and fellow activists greeted all of the contestants with equally boisterous applause. The winner: Drones Without Rhyme, a catchy free verse poem with a familiar theme. The winning poet, Ayman Shahari, beamed as he walked on stage.

Security:
Does major attack in Yemen point to Al Qaeda?
Christian Science Monitor — 5 December 2013
Unidentified militants launched a brazen attack in the heart of Yemen’s capital Thursday morning, targeting the country’s defense ministry in a car bombing and ground assault that left dozens dead. According to various reports, the assailants attacked the gate of the ministry first with gunfire and a suicide car-bombing, before breaking into the ministry compound and occupying a hospital within. A brief statement from the ministry said at least 20 people were killed, though many reports suggest the death toll was higher.

Yemen bomb-makers ‘working on new devices’
BBC News — 3 December 2013
Bomb-makers in Yemen are determined to develop ever harder-to-detect devices to smuggle on board planes bound for Western countries, according to Whitehall officials. The number of British airports with security body scanners is now being doubled, from 10 to 21, in response.

Yemeni lawmaker killed, UN envoy reportedly fired upon in separate attacks
CNN — 22 November 2013
“Abdul Karim Jedban was on his way home when he was shot by gunmen on a motorcycle,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The officials said in a separate incident but in the same area of Sanaa, a United Nations convoy was shot at, although the U.N. envoy who was traveling to his hotel was not injured. But according to state news agency SABA, an official source at the office of U.N. envoy Jamal Benomar denied that the convoy came under fire, saying reports of such an incident were unfounded.

Speculation grows following assassination of parliamentarian and NDC member
Yemen Times — 27 November 2013
In the aftermath of Friday’s assassination of the parliamentarian and National Dialogue Conference (NDC) Houthi representative, Abdulkareem Jadban, people are scrambling for explanations for the man’s murder, which many are saying was politically motivated. Jadban was shot dead last week as he was leaving the Al-Shawqani Mosque, located on Al-Qyada Street near the general leadership headquarters for of the armed forces in Sana’a. Eyewitnesses say men on motorcycle fired at Jadban and fled the scene.  “Jadban’s assassination was politically motivated because of his stance and affiliation,” said Hassn Al-Humran, the foreign relations officer for the Houthi group.

Landmine Ban: Yemen Admits Using Mines
Human Rights Watch — 2 December 2013
Yemen should investigate the allegations that its Republican Guard forces laid thousands of antipersonnel landmines in 2011, Human Rights Watch said today at the opening of an annual meeting of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. A November 2013 public communique from the prime minister’s office admitted that a “violation” of the Mine Ban Treaty occurred in 2011 during the popular uprising that led to the ouster of then-President Ali Abduallah Saleh. The admission followed reports by Human Rights Watch and others that the former government’s Republican Guard forces laid thousands of antipersonnel mines at Bani Jarmooz, near Sana’a. It was the first admitted use of antipersonnel mines by a treaty member since the ban went into effect in 1999. To comply with its obligations, Yemen should mark the hazards, educate the population to the dangers, clear the affected areas, and provide assistance to victims.

Security officials: chaos in Abyan
Yemen Times — 27 November 2013
Although security officials say they are working to control what they are calling a resurgence of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Abyan governorate, they say intermittent clashes between state forces and alleged militants are ongoing.  “Al-Qaeda affiliates have spread in the Al-Mahfad and Ahwar districts,” said Shakir Al-Ghadeer, an officer in Brigade 111 stationed in Abyan. “They set a military vehicle on fire in addition to seriously wounding a soldier on Tuesday.”

Son of Salafi leader killed in Dammaj fighting
Yemen Times — 27 November 2013
Ongoing armed clashes between the Houthis and Salafis in Dammaj on Tuesday led to the death of Abdulrahman Al-Hajouri, whose father is the head of the Dar Al-Hadith Center and a Salafi leader in Dammaj. Three others were reportedly injured on the same day, including a woman. The Dar Al-Hadith Center is a theology school hosting students from all over the world, training them according to Salafi doctrine, a conservative Sunni sect. The Houthis are a group of Zaidi Shiites who have completely controlled Sa’ada governorate, which includes Dammaj, since 2011.

Al-Shihr remains on edge as shelling dies down
Yemen Times — 25 November 2013
While confrontations between militants alleged to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have quieted in the city of Al-Shihr in Hadramout governorate, the town remains surrounded by security forces and under an enforced curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. While state security forces say they have proceeded with the siege of the city, which began on Wednesday, according to a plan to rid it of alleged AQAP operations, locals say security is haphazardly accusing them of militant affiliations.

The US killed my brother with a drone. I want to know why
Al-Jazeera America — 5 December 2013
Ali believed in reform. He was one of the first in our village to join the Yemeni revolution in 2011. Participants organized protests that called for equality, an end to political corruption and the resignation of President Ali Saleh. Ali pitched a tent in Sanaa’s Change Square and encouraged family members, colleagues and friends to join the movement. I remember our father begging him to return to the village, fearful that he would get hurt, but Ali insisted on carrying on. He believed in the revolution and refused to leave. When asked why he spent day after day protesting against the government, he often said, “the Yemeni people want to enjoy freedom and democracy.” So when Saleh stepped down in early 2012 and President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi took over, Ali was excited. He supported Hadi because he believed that it was the best way to get Yemen out of its suffering.

Instability in Hadramout continues unabated
Yemen Times — 5 December 2013
New reports of armed clashes between state forces and alleged Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) emerged Wednesday morning in the Ghail Bawzeer district in Hadramout, according to officials.  There were no reported deaths or injuries.  There are security personnel stationed all over the governorate, the Interior Ministry previously told the Yemen Times.

Motorbike ban after spate of drive-by shootings
BBC News — 2 December 2013
A number of security and military officers have been killed by gunmen riding motorcycles, Al-Sahwah newspaper says. Al-Qaeda militants battling the government frequently target security forces, taking advantage of the weakening of government authority since a popular uprising toppled veteran president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011.

Gunmen kill two Belarus military instructors in Yemen
Reuters — 26 November 2013
Gunmen on a motorcycle killed two Belarussian military instructors in Sanaa on Tuesday, police and defense ministry sources said, in a shooting similar to other attacks the Yemeni authorities have blamed on al Qaeda. The sources said the experts, attached to a presidential security force, were shot as they left a hotel where they had lived for nearly a year near the president’s office in southern Sanaa.

U.S.-Yemen Political-Military Strategic Dialogue
U.S. Department of State — 3 December 2013
On December 2, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Tom Kelly hosted Yemeni Minister of Defense Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed Ali for the second session of the U.S.-Yemen Strategic Dialogue at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. The Dialogue built on the success of last year’s inaugural session, which was held last December in Sana’a, Yemen, and underscored the United States’ firm commitment to strengthening the broad bilateral partnership and supporting Yemen throughout its transition. Civilian policymakers and defense and security officials came together for a broad discussion to promote bilateral political-military relations, advance Yemen’s political transition and efforts to restructure the military and security services, and coordinate on security issues and assistance.

Confusion over reported arrest of AQAP deputy leader’s widow
Asharq Al-Awsat — 26 November 2013
Confusion continued on Tuesday over media reports claiming that Wafa Al-Shihri, widow of the late Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) deputy commander Saeed Al-Shihri, had been arrested in Yemen. Local media were reporting that Wafa Al-Shihri had been arrested along with Arwa Al-Baghdadi, a Saudi Al-Qaeda suspect who fled to Yemen in 2010.

National Dialogue:
South Yemen leader pulls out of reconciliation talks
Reuters — 27 November 2013
A south Yemeni separatist leader on Wednesday walked out of national reconciliation talks meant chart a new constitution for U.S.-allied Yemen, setting back efforts to keep the fragile country together. The move could prompt other politicians to quit the talks and deepen instability in a country afflicted by Sunni Islamist militants, Shi’ite Muslim rebels and a southern separatists.

State ministries’ complaint boxes lose favor with citizens Yemenis grow increasingly confident to confront officials
Yemen Times — 27 November 2013
Yemen’s 2011 uprising and the fall of former President Ali Abdulla Saleh altered Yemen’s political landscape, including the politics of “complaint boxes” used in state ministries. The use of complaint boxes in the majority of ministries dates back to the establishment of their offices in the country. Complaint boxes were created as a mechanism for citizens to provide feedback on government functions in both the form of suggestions and flat out grievances. But now, the majority of the boxes sit collecting dust, which many attribute to a lack of trust between Yemenis and their public servants in regards to bureaucratic inefficiencies. While some officials recognize that the boxes still invite useful anonymous complaints, they also say post-uprising Yemenis have become increasingly bold in voicing their complaints via other means, including online social networking sites and in person.

UN Security Council welcomes progress in political transition
UN News Centre — 27 November 2013
Welcoming progress thus far in Yemen’s ongoing political transition, the Security Council today pledged to support the Government’s efforts to rebuild the economy and promote national dialogue while warning all those intent on derailing the exercise that it is ready to consider “further measures in response to any actions by individuals or parties that are aimed at disrupting the transition process.” Ambassador Liu Jieyi of China, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for November, said its members also welcomed the Yemeni Government’s efforts to safeguard security, “including the National Dialogue Conference which has generated a peaceful, inclusive and meaningful dialogue about the country’s future amongst diverse actors, including youth, women, civil society representatives, the Houthi Movement and the Hiraak Southern Movement.”

Yemen’s Federation Dilemma
Asharq Al-Awsat — 4 December 2013
The key question now is to determine how many regions will form the federation and which governorates will be included in each region. Most representatives oppose the idea of a two-region federation of North and South based on the 1990 borders, which they fear would open the way for Southern secession spearheaded by Al-Hirak and the Yemeni Socialist Party. Instead, a federation with four or five regions is gaining ground. The push by representatives of the eastern governorates of Shabwah, Hadhramout and Al-Mahrah, formerly constituent parts of South Yemen, for the creation of an eastern region separate from the South also works against the idea of a two-region federation.

Authorities must rein in security forces ahead of protests
Amnesty International — 29 November 2013
Yemen must ensure security forces refrain from using excessive force during protests planned this Saturday or risk further bloodshed, Amnesty International said. Protests are planned in the southern sea-port city of Aden on 30 November to mark the 46th anniversary of South Yemen’s independence from British occupation. Tensions in Yemen have escalated in recent years as large numbers of southerners continue to demand independence from the north.

Postponing problems?
Yemen Times — 5 December 2013
Political components within the National Dialogue’s 8+8 Subcommittee have called for the number of regions in a federal state to be determined after the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) ends, according to NDC youth representative and 8+8 Subcommittee member, Nadia Abdulla. The subcommittee, formed in September, is tasked with solving the Southern Issue. It includes eight members from the North and eight members from the South. Abdulla told the Yemen Times that the subcommittee has achieved all of its tasks except for determining the number of regions.

Thousands rally for south Yemen independence
AFP via France 2430 November 2013
Thousands demonstrated in south Yemen’s main city Aden on Saturday to demand a return to independence a day after President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said only autonomy was on the table. The rally in Aden’s central Parade Square came as southerners marked the anniversary of the end of British colonial rule in 1967, which created an independent state that lasted until union with the north in 1990. Demonstrators waved southern flags and banners proclaiming: “Yes to Freedom and Independence,” and: “Our Goal is the Reclamation of Statehood.”

Yemen’s national reconciliation government lacks ‘reconciliation’
Al-Tagheer via Al-Monitor — 25 November 2013
Today, we learned exactly the true meaning of opposition, after [tribal groups in Marib] bombed electricity towers, swamping the country in darkness. Oil tankers were also plundered and pipelines were bombed. Also, the meaning was rendered clear after the increase in the number of assassinations targeting high-ranking security, military, cultural and parliamentary figures; the attacks on military aircraft; the smuggling of weapons in depots and camps outside the country; the bombing of ammunition and weapon depots; the theft of oil fields and the selling of this oil on black markets; the increase in weapon and drug smuggling into the country; the upsurge of al-Qaeda activity in all its different names; and the instigation of war in Saada and the expansion of its scope. I am not one to randomly level accusations, yet let us ask the following question: What does it mean for all of this to happen under the reign of the national reconciliation government, while we never heard of anything similar happening during the pre-2011 rule? What’s more, how can one interpret the fact that after every incident, direct accusations are leveled by the office of the president directly against the government of Mohammed Basindawa and not against the ministries led by members of the General People’s Congress? Where are the vandals getting their weapons and ammunition from?

‘Handcuffs Must Break’ campaign: Free Yemen’s revolutionary detainees
Yemen Times — 3 December 2013
The “Handcuffs Must Break” campaign is continuing to organize awareness festivals and protests  in a bid to increase pressure on the government to release detained revolutionaries still imprisoned from 2011. Interim President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi issued orders in late 2012 to suspend the trial of a group detainees being held in Hajja governorate. Later, the case was put on the agenda of the Transitional Justice Working Group at the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). However, Hadi retracted his orders after being handed in the general prosecutor’s report. The detainees’ trial resumed in the middle of this month.

Asking for remembrance
Yemen Times — 27 November 2013
Yemen’s transitional government has made attempts to honor those who killed or injured in the uprising, calling them martyrs. President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi established a fund for victims and their families via a presidential decree in 2012, though it has not yet dispersed funds. Tawakul Karman, who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the role she played in 2011, donated her prize money to the trust, called the Revolutionary Victims Fund.   Cynical criticisms aside about the timing of the fund, for many youth who participated in the uprising, they say this is not enough and now they are asking for the city of Sana’a to name streets after their fallen friends as a way of recognizing their contribution to Yemen’s history.

Education:
Education minister: millions of students without chairs
Yemen Times — 5 December 2013
About 2 million Yemeni students are without school chairs, the Education Ministry revealed this week. Minister of Education Abdulrazaq Al-Ashwal told Maeen TV channel on Monday that 660 schools in the country are nothing more than tarp and rods and that 444 principals have had no formal schooling.  The total cost of 100,000 school chairs is YR1.85 billion ($1.6 million), Al Samawi said.

Qat:
Yemen’s green currency
Yemen Times — 27 November 2013
Members of the NDC Development Working Group, many of whom are admittedly qat chewers, were forced to contend with the variety of interests at play. At the end of October, they put forward a plan to curb Yemen’s dependence on qat in their final report that was then approved by the conference’s 90 percent requisite vote.   The working group has praised the plan, which includes the regulation of locations where qat can be sold, how much of it farmers can grow and new tax rates. “These outcomes combat qat but in a moderate manner,” said Mohammed Abu Talib, the working group’s rapporteur. While he calls it far from perfect, economic analyst Wiza Al-Sharabi, is just happy the government is making headway in regards to concerns with qat consumption.

Economy/Migration:
Struck by a love story
Economist — 25 November 2013
FOR days Yemen has been abuzz with talk of Huda and Arafat. The 22-year-old Huda al-Niran, a Saudi, fell in love with Yemeni Arafat Muhammad while he was working in Saudi Arabia. In October the couple fled to Yemen after her parents refused their request to marry, but Ms Niran was detained for entering the country illegally. She seemed set for a quick trial and deportation. Then their love story became a cause célèbre for young Yemenis, who view it as a modern version of Romeo and Juliet in the southwestern Arabian Peninsula. On November 24th, the UN called on Yemen to grant asylum to Ms Niran.

Living with construction City promises quick delivery of bridge services but residents remain skeptical
Yemen Times — 5 December 2013
At the best of times, Yemen’s traffic in Sana’a can be frustratingly chaotic with jams, angry drivers and a general everyman for himself mentality. But when the city—in an effort to make good on promises to build infrastructure—sectioned off a large portion of Hadda Street, a main throughway, about two months ago for bridge construction, people grew a bit more irritated than usual.  The city is also working on bridge construction projects in the Bait Baws, Taiz Street, and Dar Salm areas, all located in southern Sana’a. These projects began eight months ago and in a short amount of time have raised the ire of local businesses, which say they appreciate the projects but are doubtful they will be done in the provided time frame. In the meantime, construction is  crippling their business.

Qatar gives $350 million to Yemen compensation fund
AFP via Daily Star — 29 November 2013
Qatar has donated $350 million to a fund to compensate civilians and security force members in south Yemen who were forced from their jobs, the U.N. special envoy said Sunday. “The south was marginalized under the former regime, its residents discriminated against and its resources plundered,” Jamal Benomar said at a ceremony marking the donation. “Southerners have been made several false promises, but this is the first time concrete action has been taken to recompense them, which means we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

New member of WTO, experts debate long-term effects
Yemen Times — 5 December 2013
A study released in August by the Social and Economic Development Research Center said that Yemeni businessmen have little knowledge of WTO policies. The majority of Yemeni businessmen support the accession, according to the study, and believe the move will improve the quality of local products, boost technological capabilities and consolidate the exportation process for crops. In a previous interview with the Yemen Times, legal expert on trade, Sami Al-Siri, said that whether Yemen benefits from the accession will depend on the country’s capacity to negotiate with other member states and its ability to comprehend conventions.

Tribesmen blow up Yemen’s main oil export pipeline
Reuters — 29 November 2013
Tribesmen blew up Yemen’s main oil export pipeline on Friday, officials and tribal sources said, in the latest attack on one of the country’s main sources of foreign currency. The attackers struck east of the capital Sanaa, state news agency Saba said in a text message, without saying whether it stopped oil flows. The pipeline carries crude from the Maarib fields in central Yemen to the Ras Isa oil terminal on the Red Sea.

Grasshoppers invade Yemen, farmers expected to sustain big losses
Yemen Times — 5 December 2013
Mohammed Al-Ghashm, the head of Agricultural Services at the Ministry of Agriculture, said the locusts have damaged 90 percent of sesame, millet and grass crops that are used to feed animals. A similar committee was able to control a similar locust outbreak in 2007 in Thamood, Hozr, Manokh, Sayoun and Shabwa. The grasshopper locusts surprised and confused farmers by emerging in Yemen’s eastern and northern governorates despite  cold winter temperatures, said Wajeeh Al-Mutwakil, head of the Research and Guidance Authority at the ministry. “We have received complaints from farmers in Hajja, Al-Jawf and Sayoun,” he said. “They have attacked all crops except qat.” Consuming up to 100,000 tons of crops a day—enough food to feed half a million people for an entire year, locusts munch on leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds and sprouts. Their combined weight can be too much for trees, breaking their branches.

Breadwinners return empty-handed to Yemen, Arab world’s poorest country
Christian Science Monitor — 22 November 2013
A surge in the number of cash-strapped families and competition for already scarce jobs appears inevitable. An uptick in the number of unemployed men provides fertile ground for militant recruitment – a cause for concern far beyond the Arabian Peninsula. The way Saudi officials spin it, it’s simply a matter of closing loopholes in laws governing guest workers and streamlining bureaucracy. But as streams of deportees continue to be sent home, they’ve inflamed longstanding resentment of Yemen’s northern neighbor.

Mass returns from Saudi risk instability in Yemen
IRIN — 2 December 2013
Around 200,000 Yemeni expatriate workers have returned from Saudi Arabia since June, according to estimates from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), amid a sharp escalation in deportations as Saudi authorities crack down on those breaking labour laws – developments that risk increasing poverty and destabilizing the transition in Yemen, say analysts. The Yemeni government says it expects at least another 400,000 jobless returnees in coming months.

Yemen to join World Trade Organization this week
Asharq Al-Awsat — 25 November 2013
Yemen will officially join the World Trade Organization (WTO) as of Wednesday, December 4, following 13 years of negotiations. The 9th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization, which opens today Tuesday in Bali, Indonesia, is expected to approve Yemen’s accession to the organization. The meeting will last until December 6.

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