Weekly News Update 13 December 2013

Highlights:
Down and out
The Economist — 10 December 2013
For decades, the kingdom turned a blind-eye to the millions of illegal and migrant workers who quietly took on the manual labour jobs that Saudis didn’t want. But facing an unemployment rate of 12% and growing pressure to create opportunities for its own citizens, in March Riyadh ruled that illegal workers would no longer be tolerated. Yemenis have been among the worst affected. The International Organisation for Migration, a UN body, says nearly 8,000 were sent back through al-Tuwal in a single day in early November. Yemeni officials say the monthly total of 71,000 brings the number of returnees to between 300,000 and 400,000 since the beginning of the year. Both deportees and critics of the Saudi policy admit the kingdom has a right to enforce its laws and that most of the Yemenis being expelled were not there legally. But concerns rest over the way that the deportations are being carried out and the effect they will have on Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world where at least a third of citizens live in poverty.

Yemen unlikely to join GCC if union is formed
Yemen Times — 12 December 2013
Yemen’s chance to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be slashed should the organization  decide to form a union, political analysts say. But the move has not been embraced by all members of the GCC, who are unlikely to trade in sovereignty for integration. Earlier this week at the Manama Dialogue, held in Bahrain, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Kirbi reiterated that Sana’a is wiling to join the GCC and “now the decision is up to the council.”  Given the sectarian conflict between Salafis and Houthis and the weak security and political situation in the country, the odds of Yemen being accepted into a union are dismal, said political analyst Adel Al-Sharjbi. As for joining the GCC, pre-union status, Qatar and its allies support the move while Saudi Arabia and its allies oppose it. The Saudi influence is stronger in the GCC, he said.

Attack fears close UN offices as Yemen condemns ‘smear’
AFP via Yahoo! News — 12 December 2013
The United Nations closed its offices in the Yemeni capital on Thursday over fears of possible car bomb attacks, although Western embassies remained open. Despite official denials of an alert, most shops in Sanaa were shuttered and little traffic ventured out onto the streets as rumours swirled among the city’s residents of the risk of an imminent attack. State television on Wednesday aired horrific images of the defence ministry assault, taken from surveillance cameras, showing the assailants executing civilians and medics in cold blood. The images show a car packed with explosives detonated at the gate to the complex, sending soldiers, medics and civilians gathered inside the compound running for cover. After the blast, heavily armed militants dressed in combat fatigues are seen wandering through the corridors of the complex, shooting anyone they see, including a wounded female nurse who appears to be looking for help. Another gunman in military uniform calmly approaches a group of people huddled in a corridor after the initial blast, before pulling a hand grenade from his jacket and hurling it at them.

National Dialogue:
Yemen’s National Dialogue is running out of time
Al-Hayat via Al-Monitor — 6 December 2013
Only six of the nine dialogue teams have completed their reports. The transitional justice team, the “southern issue” team, and the nation-building team failed to complete their tasks due to disputes over the number of provinces in the forthcoming federal state, the issues of political isolation, transitional justice and national reconciliation, and the safeguards that ensure that the dialogue decisions are implemented. Some want to have a new constituent phase, during which the term of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is extended. The political parties represented in the mini-committee emanating from the southern cause team (which consists of members from the North and the South and is known as the 8+8 Commission) are expected to meet in the next two days. Jamal Benomar, the adviser to the UN secretary general and envoy to Yemen, is expected to return to Sanaa on Dec. 26 to resolve the dispute over the number of provinces, amid efforts ​​by Hadi and the UN envoy to persuade the Southern Movement wing that withdrew from dialogue to return and resolve that issue.

‘Why should we call for separation?’
Yemen Times — 10 December 2013
As part of the transitional process that was internationally-sanctioned to end Yemen’s popular protests in 2011 and usher in President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, the issue of restoring land and jobs in the South was meant to be addressed.  About two months ago, Hadi issued a presidential decree to reinstate 700 men, who had been ripped of their military jobs following unity.   Many, including National Dialogue Conference (NDC) representatives—the 565 people tasked with providing solutions for questions of unity—have praised the president’s initial actions.  “These practical steps taken by President Hadi in addition to implementing the NDC’s outcomes will restore Southerners’ confidence,” said Nadia Abdullah, a member of the Southern Issue Working Group at the NDC. “We do not blame Southerners for their demands because they have suffered. They lost their jobs and their property. They need things to restore their confidence.”

Federalism forum hosts discussion on successful federal states
Yemen Times — 10 December 2013
In preparation for the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) outcomes that are likely to recommend a federal state structure for Yemen, a two-day forum on federalism was held at the Movenpick Hotel in Sana’a. The Forum of Federations organized the workshop to discuss federal states around the world. Muamar Batweel, the program coordinator for the Forum of Federations in Yemen, said the deliberations among workshop trainees were frank and transparent, as participants openly shared their views on federalism.

Yemeni political, religious movements divided over nation’s future
Al-Monitor — 6 December 2013
The other camp is represented by the Salafists who belong to a Sunni religious group espousing Wahhabism, the official Saudi Arabia doctrine. The country supports its members outside, such as Salafists in Yemen, especially since it denounced its alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood and following the establishment of the Rashad Union Party in March 2012. This is not to mention the different political stances about what is happening there. Both Salafists and Houthis participate in the political process in Yemen as part of the National Dialogue Conference. However, each camp calls the other names that primarily have religious connotations. For Houthis, Salafists are takfiris, while Salafists perceive Houthis as “Rafida” [defectors]. These are terms that have been employed by the warring religious and political factions since the beginning of the 17th century, although the term takfiri is of recent origin.

Security:
Yemen wedding hit by deadly air strike
BBC News — 12 December 2013
At least 13 people have been killed by an air strike on a wedding convoy in southern Yemen, say officials. The attack happened near the town of Radda in al-Bayda province, a known stronghold of al-Qaeda. It was unclear what aircraft carried out the attack, though local people said it was a drone.

Yemen’s presidential adviser survives attack
Al-Jazeera — 8 December 2013
An adviser to Yemen’s president has survived an assassination attempt, the country’s government said. An unidentified sniper fired shots with a weapon equipped with a silencer on Sunday at Yassin Said Noman’s car, according to the official Saba news agency. The incident happened when the vehicle was driving through the capital Sanaa, but the bullet did not hit Noman as the car was armoured, the agency reported. The attack was the third attempt to kill Noman, who is vice president of the National Dialogue Conference and secretary general of the Socialist Party.

Who is to blame?
The Economist — 7 December 2013
SPORADIC violence is common in Yemen, but the attack, a car bomb followed by an armed assault, on the ministry of defence on December 5th left many Yemenis in shock. The ease with which the building’s security barriers were breached backed up complaints that the Yemeni government is unable to guarantee security in the capital Sana’a, let alone other parts of the country. While the ostensible target was the headquarters of the Yemeni military, it was a hospital inside the compound that bore the brunt of the attack. The bulk of the 56 people killed were doctors and nurses, heightening the sense of outrage.

Top government officials targeted in assassination attempts in Yemen
Deutsche Welle — 8 December 2013
Among those shot and killed over the weekend were the head of the security of the presidential palace in Taiz, Brigadier General Saddam Hussein al-Dahiri, and police chief Abdullah Gaithallah. Sources told the Reuters news agency that gunmen in a car shot al-Dahiri as he left work, while Gaithallah was ambushed in his car in the southern province of al-Baida. The Yemeni government confirmed on Sunday that an attempt on the life of Yassin Said Noaman, an adviser to President Hadi, was made a day earlier in the capital, Sanaa. A sniper targeted Noaman’s car, but the vehicle was armored. Initial information indicated the shots were taken from the roof of a mosque near Noaman’s home. As well as his position close to Hadi, Noaman is secretary general of the Socialist Party.

U.S. drone strike kills three in Yemen: local official
Reuters — 9 December 2013
Missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen on Monday, a local official said. A Yemeni news website said the car was driving on a main road in the al-Qatan district of Hadramout province. “The vehicle and its occupants were completely burned,” the official told Reuters, giving no details on who the victims were.

Dutch hostages ‘treated very well’ by Yemen kidnappers
BBC News — 11 December 2013
Speaking to reporters at Sanaa airport before boarding a flight home, Dutch journalist Judith Spiegel said she and her partner Boudewijn Berendsen were “treated very well… the Yemeni way”. Ms Spiegel said they had probably been held by “tribes” rather than al-Qaeda. The couple were taken from a house in Sanaa on 8 June and released in recent days close to the Dutch embassy.

Government committees leave conflict-stricken Dammaj
Yemen Times — 10 December 2013
Both the presidential and parliamentarian committees assigned to negotiate peace talks in Dammaj returned to the capital on Saturday in a helicopter after failing to secure a ceasefire in the conflicted area.   The same day, fighting between the Houthis, a group of Zaidi Shi’ites and the Salafis, conservative Sunnis, resumed in the small town in Sa’ada governorate. According to a Salafi spokesperson, five Salafis were killed and 22 injured in the fighting on Saturday.

Hadramout tribes give government deadline, call for withdrawl of troops
Yemen Times — 12 December 2013
Tribes in Hadramout gave the government 10 days from Tuesday to withdraw military camps and checkpoints from the governorate, threatening to overthrow the government if their demands are not met. The threat was in response to the killing of a tribal sheikh at a checkpoint in Sayoun city last week. Hundreds of tribal sheikhs from the governorates and thousands of residents met in Wadi Nahb of Ghail Bawazeer district on Tuesday to discuss the killing of Sheikh Sa’ad Bin Hamad Bin Habrish of the Al-Hamoum tribe and head of the Hadramout Tribal Federation. Three of Habrish’s bodyguards were killed along with his at a checkpoint when the vehicle refused to stop for inspection at an entrance to Sayoun.

Death toll reaches 260 in northern Yemen clashes
Gulf News — 11 December 2013
The death toll in weeks of sectarian fighting between rival sects in northern Yemen has reached 260, days after a new ceasefire brokered by the government crumbled. Fighting erupted on December 30, 2012, between Sunni Salafists and Shiite Al Houthi rebels when rebels tried to storm a religious school in the northern province of Sa’ada.

Dammaj war threatens future of Yemen
Gulf News — 12 December 2013
In a country that already suffers from problems that are extremely difficult to overcome, the current conflict in Saada puts the very fate of Yemen at question. Six previous rounds of conflicts between the Al Houthis, on one hand, and the state and the tribes on the other have led to bloodshed, propelling Yemen into more chaos, and misery. Perhaps it is time for all the parties to accept a comprehensive national settlement that is built upon the principle of coexistence in a state of citizenship and law. This can only be achieved through the National Dialogue Conference that everybody must strive to make successful.

Economy:
Yemen’s forex reserves slip as oil exports drop
Reuters via Arab News — 13 December 2013
Yemen’s foreign currency reserves slipped to $5.6 billion in October, their lowest since August 2012, as oil exports fell again, adding to the impoverished nation’s fiscal problems, central bank data showed. Yemen depends on oil exports to replenish its currency reserves and pay for up to 70 percent of its budget. But frequent attacks on pipelines by disgruntled tribesmen have squeezed the state’s income.

Putting the best idea forward Sana’a hosts exhibit for inventors
Yemen Times — 10 December 2013
The majority who participated in last year’s inaugural exhibit returned this year, Al-Ghabiri said.  While he praised the event, he also says the government has a long way to go if they will want to nurture a spirit of innovation. If [the government] funded inventors and researchers just as it funds tribal sheikhs, our situation would better,” he said.  About five percent of last year’s participants signed contracts and agreements with investors and companies, something that Abdu Abdulla Al-Hudaifi, the general manager of property protection at the ministry, is proud to say.

Small change
The Economist — 7 December 2013
WORTHLESS currency is not necessarily useless. It can be a pointed way of shaming someone who asks for a bribe. That is the thinking behind zero-rupee notes, an Indian anti-corruption gimmick now attracting worldwide interest. They look roughly like 50-rupee ($0.80) notes; people are encouraged to hand them to corrupt officials, signalling resistance to sleaze. Vijay Anand, founder of 5th Pillar, an anti-bribery campaign that launched the notes, calls them a “non-violent weapon of non co-operation”. His group has distributed more than 2.5m since 2007. The idea is catching on: campaigners from Argentina, Nepal, Mexico and Benin have been in touch asking for details. Malaysia is mulling a similar project. And a worthless note will be launched in Yemen next year. Yemen is usually reckoned to be one of the world’s most corrupt countries. But Mariam Adnan, an activist there, says a new generation may be amenable to change. Her group is handing out 5,000 “honest riyals” in schools and universities. “You have to change minds before you can change laws,” she says.

Yemen natural gas complex was hit by explosives last week –operator
Reuters — 10 December 2013
Yemen’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant complex was targeted with rocket-propelled explosives last Friday, the Yemen LNG Company said in a statement on Tuesday. Yemen’s largest industrial facility was partially evacuated after a small explosion at the gas export terminal at Balhaf on Friday afternoon. “Yemen LNG can confirm that a rocket-launched explosive device landed on the ground inside the Balhaf Plant at the extremity of the process area,” the company said after investigating the explosion at the multi-billion dollar complex.

Government ‘incapable’ of dealing with attacks on electricity
Yemen Times — 12 December 2013
In a speech delivered on Sunday at the Ghalib Al-Qurshi Forum, a weekly event that gathers leaders to discuss a myriad of issues in Yemen, Saleh Sumei, the electricity minister said the absence of state security has directly led to increased attacks on electricity infrastructure.   He said the ministry has a list of names of culprits that have been handed over to the Ministry of Interior.  “The two ministries agreed one month ago to try the accused without them being present in court,” Al-Qurshi said.   “There will not be punitive measures against the saboteurs prior to the end of the National Dialogue Conference [NDC],” he said. “But after the conclusion of the dialogue, you will see another face of the state.”

Yemen fulfills promise to create supervisory body for donors’ pledges
Yemen Times — 12 December 2013
Yemen may finally be able to more quickly and effectively have access to large sums of money that have been pledged as aid for a nation in the middle of a political transition.  On Monday in the presence of Mohamed Al-Sadi, Yemen’s planning and international cooperation minister, along with the British minister for international development, Alan Duncan, Yemen’s government officially established an Executive Bureau to accelerate the donors’ pledges.

Press:
Charity sets up Yemeni training centre for journalists
The Guardian — 12 December 2013
A training centre for journalists has been set up in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, which pledges to offer free courses. It is being funded by a London charity under the wing of Saudi Arabian businessman Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber. Established ahead of Yemen elections in 2014, the central aim of the MBI Al Jaber Media Institute is to promote free and non-partisan reporting through encouraging high journalistic standards. The centre is supported by the Yemeni journalist and Nobel peace prize laureate, Tawakkol Karman. At a London launch party for the centre (on 4 December), she greeted the press freedom initiative.

Education:
Rewriting Yemen’s history in school books and curriculum
Yemen Times — 10 December 2013
As the nation attempts to move forward with a political transition that salvages unity, many Southerners are insisting on secession. Grievances include land theft and unjustified dismissals from military, security and civil positions, as well as complaints of cultural dominance. Photos of Ali Salem Al-Beidh, the former President of South Yemen, were removed from school books, despite the fact the Al-Beidh reached a unity agreement with former President Ali Abdulla Saleh. Pro-unity achievements are credited to one party only, Al-Anisi says. In an eighth grade textbook describing unification of the North and South Yemen, the textbook told students that “whose who call for secession are backwards and defeated forever.”

Iran:
The Houthis and outside assistance: Is Iran playing games in Yemen?
Yemen Times — 12 December 2013
While the central government has been relatively welcoming of their presence at the dialogue and in the political scene, they have made it clear that the group’s possible connection to Iran is worrying.   Yemen’s minister of foreign affairs, Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, interim President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and Gen. Ali Hassn Al-Ahmadi, the head of Yemen’s national security, have all on separate occasions accused Iran of meddling in Yemeni affairs. In 2012 and at the beginning of 2013, ships carrying war weapons including guns and missiles were intercepted off the coast of Yemen. Yemen accused Iran of being behind the multiple shipments, although concrete evidence has never been made public.

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