Weekly News Update 27 December 2013

Highlights:
Government Sits Idle as Dammaj Conflict Widens
Yemen Times — 26 December 2013
As ongoing clashes in Dammaj in Sa’ada governorate between the Houthis and the Salafis enter their third month, the expansion of the conflict into surrounding areas is worrying to both the central government and locals.  While tension between the Houthis, who are Zaidi Shiites, and the Salafis, who are conservative Sunnis, first began to emerge late last summer, at the end of October intense fighting between the groups picked up, with casualties on both sides being hard to track. Estimates have been as high as in the hundreds. Due to roadblocks and lack of security, the assistance of aid organizations in the area has been extremely limited.

Yemen wastes time
Al-Monitor — 23 December 2013
According to the best estimates and personal experience, Yemeni government employees waste three hours a day (out of the seven-hour work day, according to the civil service laws). So public offices are effectively open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., minus the time for breakfast, of course. With no accurate statistics about the number of state employees, there are deep administrative imbalances. Many think it is about one million for the civil and military corps. Given that the annual working days per employee number 302 — after excluding weekly, national and religious holidays — about 906 million work hours are wasted annually in the Yemeni government sector. There are also no criteria for evaluating worker performance, except for teachers, who have specific lecture schedules. Business hours are uncontrolled. A worker requires one signature for showing up and one for leaving, but both are often signed at the same time.

There is no common GCC vision on Yemen
Asharq Al-Awsat — 26 December 2013
The most effective way to help Yemen’s economy would be to allow Yemenis to work in the GCC. Unfortunately, the GCC appears to be adopting the reverse policy because it seeks to create employment opportunities for its own citizens. GCC citizens, however, will never take up the lowly jobs that Yemenis occupy. The present policy of expelling Yemenis will create more suffering and frustration in Yemen and lead to the exacerbation of an already dire situation. It is urgent that the GCC sees its own fate as being linked to that of Yemen—before a rude awakening takes place when Yemen implodes and proceeds to export its problems to its neighbors.

National Dialogue:
Parties Agree to Federalism
AFP via New York Times — 24 December 2013
Yemeni political parties have signed a document pledging a “just solution” that would grant some autonomy to the once-independent south, the state news agency reported. The agreement, signed late Monday, was hailed as a breakthrough in a long-stalled national dialogue between political parties and the government aimed at drafting a new constitution for Yemen and preparing for elections in February.

Several Political Parties Withhold Support of Subcommittee Agreement
Yemen Times — 26 December 2013
Several Yemeni political parties on Tuesday rejected the Southern Issue Resolutions and Assurances document that was signed late Monday by the National Dialogue Conference’s (NDC) Southern Issues’s 8+8 Subcommittee. Members of political parties including Islah, the Southern Movement (Hirak), Ansar Allah (the Houthis) as well as youth representatives all signed the agreement, which is supported by the U.N. and the Group of 10 Ambassadors in Yemen—who represent the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.  However, representatives from the General People’s Congress (GPC), headed by former President Ali Abdulla Saleh, refused to sign the document presented by the U.N.’s special  envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar.

New Coalition of Southern Leaders Seeks Peaceful Change
Yemen Times — 26 December 2013
About 40 sheikhs, influential figures, and academics belonging to several southern governorates met in Sana’a on Tuesday to form an alliance called the Southern People’s Movement (SPM). The group has emerged as a means to address current tension in the South, while condemning the ongoing violence that is taking place between military forces and armed citizens in the region. Not to be confused with the Southern Movement, a group of loosely aligned political factions calling for the secession of the South, the SPM says they are opposed to using violence as a way to achieve demands.

Yemen on lockdown as protests continue
Al-Jazeera — 21 December 2013
At least two people have been killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces in the city of Mukalla in southern Yemen, sources have told Al Jazeera. Security measures have been tightened in Yemen on Saturday after thousands of people demonstrated in Hadramout, Aden and other areas south of the country.

Parliament to Retain Positions for Another Two Years
Yemen Times — 24 December 2013
The Reconciliation Committee at the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) agreed on Saturday to a two-year extension for Yemen’s current Parliament to  follow the conclusion of the conference at the end of this year. “An agreement was reached where the Parliament will be maintained, a national partnership government will be established and the Shura Council will be reformed,” said Dr. Ahmed Sharaf Al-Deen, a member of the Reconciliation Committee.

Security:
17 killed in continuing violence in south Yemen
Gulf News — 26 December 2013
At least 17 people were killed in two days of escalating violence in south Yemen provinces. Local sources in the province of Shabwa said on Tuesday that at least four soldiers and two secessionists were killed in clashes between policemen and protesters in the provincial capital of Attaq.

Tribesmen seize oil ministry building in east Yemen
Reuters — 26 December 2013
Tribesmen seized an oil ministry building in Yemen’s eastern Hadramout province on Thursday and exchanged gunfire with a pro-government tribe seeking to regain control of the premises, tribal sources and ministry employees said. The tribesmen were responding to the killing of a tribal leader earlier this month in fighting at an army checkpoint after his bodyguards refused to hand over their weapons to soldiers.

U.N. experts urge U.S., Yemen to explain erroneous drone strikes
Reuters — 26 December 2013
United Nations human rights experts told the United States and Yemen on Thursday to say whether they were complicit in drone attacks that mistakenly killed civilians in wedding processions this month. The independent experts questioned the legitimacy of drone attacks under international law and said the governments should reveal what targeting procedures were used.

South Reaches Fragile Calm, Hadramout to Be Handed Over to Local Security Personnel
Yemen Times — 26 December 2013
Fighting in Hadramout and several other Southern governorates has abated following numerous protests and confrontations between armed locals and the army that began on Friday in the region. The government in Hadramout has agreed to largely hand over security duties to local personnel at the beginning of January at the request of area tribes.

Three killed in Yemen secessionists clashes
Al-Jazeera — 23 December 2013
Two Yemeni policemen and a civilian were killed in a gunfight in the southern city of Daleh, security sources and  witnesses said. The clash on Monday erupted when southern secessionists attempted to storm the governorate building to hoist a flag of the former South Yemen, which was an independent state until it was united with the north in 1990.

Yemen Deaths Test Claims of New Drone Policy
New York Times — 20 December 2013
The Dec. 12 strike by the Pentagon, launched from an American base in Djibouti, killed at least a half-dozen innocent people, according to a number of tribal leaders and witnesses, and provoked a storm of outrage in the country. It also illuminated the reality behind the talk surrounding the Obama administration’s new drone policy, which was announced with fanfare seven months ago.

Al Qaeda: We’re sorry about Yemen hospital attack
CNN — 22 December 2013
It’s something you don’t often hear from the leaders of a terrorist group known for violence: We’re sorry. But that’s just what the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said in a video message Sunday, apologizing for a hospital attack in Sanaa earlier this month that left dozens of people dead. The attackers were directed not to assault the hospital or mosque in an attack against a Yemeni Ministry of Defense compound on December 5, but one fighter made a mistake and attacked the hospital, leader Qassim Al-Raimi says in the video.

Government-Citizen Security Alliance Announced in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 26 December 2013
The mayor of Sana’a, Abdulqader Hilal, announced on Monday that President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi approved the gifting of a house to a citizen who assisted last week in the arrest of a motorbike driver. The driver is suspected of assassinating several military and security officials. The mayor also announced that informants who provide valuable intelligence about terrorist activities are eligible to receive rewards from the national government in the amount of YR5 million (about $23,000).

Yemen cleric denies US terrorism charges
Gulf News — 25 December 2013
A Yemeni cleric, who was accused by the US of funding a terrorist organisation, denied any ties with Al Qaida in Yemen, challenging the US bring evidence to his involvement. Abdul Wahab Mohammad Al Humaiqani, the secretary general of the Yemeni Al Rashad Union, told Gulf News that the US charges are “baseless and unjust.” “The US has two choices, either to drop accusations or bring evidence to substantiate allegations and I am ready to stand before a Yemeni court to defend myself.” The US Treasury Department recently put Al Humaiqani and the Qatari head of a Geneva-based human rights organisation, Abdul Rahman Bin Umair Al Nuaimi, on a list of global terrorists having ties to Al Qaida.

Economy/Governance:
Yemen cabinet approves 4 pct spending rise in 2014 budget
Reuters — 26 December 2013
Yemen’s cabinet approved a draft budget for 2014 that would raise state spending about 4 percent to 2.88 trillion rials ($13.4 billion) from the original 2013 budget plan, state news agency SABA reported. The impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation came close to economic collapse after a popular uprising in 2011 forced former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

Bombing of Yemen’s main oil pipeline halts crude flows, officials say
Reuters via Al-Arabiya — 26 December 2013
Tribesmen bombed Yemen’s main oil pipeline and it will take several days to repair it and resume crude pumping, oil and local officials said. The attack, in the Wadi Obaida area of the central oil-producing province of Maarib, halted oil flows from the Maarib fields to the Ras Isa oil terminal on the Red Sea, they said. Yemen, which relies on crude exports to finance up to 70 percent of budget spending, has suffered frequent bombings of its main pipeline in recent years.

Yemen shuts airports amid strike
Al-Jazeera — 23 December 2013
Yemen has shut its international airports after workers at its civil aviation authority went on strike, officials at the transport ministry and airports said. Monday’s strike was due to a dispute with the finance ministry over the independence of the civil aviation authority, an official at the transport ministry said. The finance ministry froze the authority’s funds, he said.

Yemeni Airports Reopen After Half-Day Strike
Yemen Times — 24 December 2013
Airports across Yemen resumed operations on Monday at 1:30 p.m. after a half-day strike by the Civil Aviation Union over a financial dispute with the Ministry of Finance. The strike suspended all international and local flights, beginning at 8:00 a.m. The union called for the strike after the Finance Ministry froze the union’s funds a month ago. The union says it is  unable to continue paying workers’ wages, Mohammed Al-Suraihi, the air transportation manager at Sana’a Airport, told the Yemen Times.

Rap:
Stepping into the Spotlight
Yemen Times — 26 December 2013
But now, Yahia is a rising rap star, using her past experiences to fuel her push to succeed in Yemen’s largely underground rap scene.  In a few short years, Yahia has established a reputation as a girl challenging gender stereotypes and conservative values in Sana’a’s youth circles. Her music has aired on the Yemen TV channel as well as YouTube. While the songstress originally began exploring her creative energy through poetry “mostly filled with anger and animosity toward the people who used to hate” her, Yahia says she now has a different direction.  “I began to focus on expressing love, and my dreams and hopes through my poems,” she said.  Her poetry—written in English despite a lack of formal education in the language—soon made its way to the stage thanks to the encouragement of some friends.

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