Weekly News Update 14 February 2014

Money up in the air? Corruption in Yemen’s gas sector
Transparency International — 13 February 2014
Hundreds of Yemenis protested on the streets of Sanaa against the government’s ongoing negotiations with French oil company Total about the pricing of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is one of the main sources of the country’s wealth. Protestors claimed that Yemenis have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of potential earnings from the country’s resource wealth, which could have been injected into the state’s budget to provide basic services. Current gas market prices hover around US$14 per million metric British thermal units (MMBtu), yet Total, as part of an international consortium that has a 39.6 per cent stake in the US$4.5 billion LNG plant located on the strategic Gulf of Aden, has been buying LNG at the much lower rate of US$1.50/MMBtu. The 20-year sales contracts with Total, Kogas and GDF Suez were signed in 2005 under the leadership of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh at prices below the global standards.

West grows wary of Yemen’s Houthis as Shia group’s profile increases
Financial Times — 13 February 2014
Washington and Sana’a are convinced the Houthis are backed by Iran. Ali al-Bokhaiti, a spokesman for the group, pointed out that the nature of Zaydi Shia, which is in many ways closer to Sunni than the Twelver Shia practised in Iran, make the Houthis and Iranians natural rivals. According to Mr Bokhaiti, the Houthis are defending themselves against militias backed by rival tribes, which are exploiting sectarian divisions, and Islah, Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist party, both of which formed an integral part of Mr Saleh’s former power base before splitting from the regime in 2011. “The traditional powers fear the spread of Houthi ideology,” said Mr Bokhaiti, countering that the group’s Sunni rivals are financed by Saudi Arabia. Many analysts in Yemen agree. Domestic tensions, “including the post-uprising political power struggle between Houthis and their various adversaries” are behind the fighting, said April Longley Alley, an analyst at International Crisis Group. Part of the Houthis’ success has been their ability to take advantage of longstanding divisions between neglected tribes, she added.

Process Lessons Learned in Yemen’s National Dialogue
United States Institute of Peace — 7 February 2014
While the extension of the transition process presents some risks, it was likely the best course available. Forcing a constitutional referendum and new round of elections with so many critical issues left unresolved would have been a recipe for renewed conflict. The ability of the Yemeni actors to adjust the timeline and process but largely stay on track has so far been the major strength of the Yemeni transition process. In fact, though the focus of comparative discussions has been on the NDC, the more patient timeline of the Yemeni transition may be the aspect worth modeling. Whereas other countries (such as Egypt and Tunisia) moved rapidly into elections, a new regular government, and constitution, this rapid progress was soon undone as the results became contested, in some cases violently. The slower, more deliberative model in Yemen might be a better way to work through the complex political and structural conflicts inherent in transition.

National Dialogue:
Yemen federation deal gives autonomy, not independence, to south
Reuters — 10 February 2014
Saba said a federal state comprised of six regions garnered the “highest level of agreement” against another proposal to divide the country into two regions, one in the north and one in the south. Southern Yemeni leaders rejected the accord. “What has been announced about the six regions is a coup against what had been agreed at the dialogue,” said Mohammed Ali Ahmed, a former South Yemen interior minister who returned from exile in March 2012. “That is why I pulled out of the dialogue,” he told Reuters. Some southerners fear that having several regions would dilute their authority and deprive them of control over important areas such as Hadramout, where some of Yemen’s oil reserves are found.

Constitutional Drafting Committee to be established in coming days
Yemen Times — 13 February 2014
President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi is expected to announce names of representatives for the Constitutional Drafting Technical Committee either this week or early next week, according to Yasser Al-Ruaini, the deputy secretary general of the now-concluded National Dialogue Conference (NDC). Al-Ruaini told the Yemen Times that once the committee is formed, it will begin drafting Yemen’s new constitution according to the timetable outlined in the NDC Outcomes Document.

Start Moving on National Dialogue Proposals
Human Rights Watch — 10 February 2014
Yemeni lawmakers should act on recommendations by the National Dialogue Conference on Yemen’s future constitution. In particular, the lawmakers should address recommendations that promote justice for abuses during the 2011 uprising, defend women’s equality, and promote other basic rights.

Revolutionary Youth Council calls for ‘second revolution’
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
The Revolutionary Youth Council is organizing events nationwide on Tuesday, in coordination with several revolutionary components to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of the 2011 youth revolution under the slogan, “People Want to Eradicate Corruption and Enforce the Rule of Law.” The council called on all revolutionaries in Yemen to consider the 3rd anniversary a new phase of the revolution, one that would finalize the achievement of the revolution’s aims, according to a statement released by the council on Sunday.

Yemenis commemorate 3rd anniversary of 2011 uprising
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
Hundres of thousands of Yemenis on Tuesday celebrated the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising that led former President Ali Abdulla Saleh to step down.  Yemenis gathered at squares in governorates around the country. Tens of thousands gathered on Al-Siteen Street in the capital, Sana’a. The Supreme Coordinating Committee of the Youth Revolution organized a festival to mark the occasion.

Civil society organizations come together to sign code of conduct
Yemen Times — 13 February 2014
Roughly 150 civil society organizations from five governorates signed a code of conduct to regulate their work. This took place during a conference held last week and was organized by the Humanitarian Forum Yemen a local non-government organization.  Civil society organizations are non-government organizations that aim to serve the public. Singed by civil society organizations in Sana’a, Hadramout, Hodeida, Taiz and Aden, the code of conduct stressed the importance of these organizations’ independence from political parties or tribal groups.

In Yemen, questions and anger over U.S. drone targets after civilian deaths
Washington Post — 8 February 2014
As the strikes continue, public outrage is rising in Yemen, where many people, including government officials, argue that the attacks increase sympathy for al-Qaeda. In December, after a drone attack killed more than a dozen people in a rural wedding convoy, Yemen’s parliament passed a non-binding motion to ban the strikes. Drones are “a tool for killing outside of the law,” said Ali Ashal, a member of parliament who represents a district where U.S. cruise missiles killed 41 people in 2009 but missed their alleged target, a high-ranking al-Qaeda officer who Ashal said was “moving freely throughout the area and would pass by checkpoints.”

Al-Qaeda inmates freed in Yemen jail attack
Al-Jazeera — 14 February 2014
At least 14 inmates, mostly from al-Qaeda, have escape from a prison in Yemen’s capital after heavily armed gunmen mounted a bomb, grenade and gun assault on the main jail in Sanaa. Eleven people died during the attack, a security source said. Seven policemen were killed, two policemen and two gunmen were wounded, and one of the attackers was captured, the interior ministry said. Officials said the assault started with a car bomb that exploded at the gate of the Sanaa Central Prison, which is located along the main road leading to the airport.

Attack on prison in Yemeni capital kills 11
Reuters — 13 February 2014
Eleven people were killed when attackers mounted a bomb, grenade and gun assault on the main prison in Yemen’s capital on Thursday to try to free inmates, security sources and witnesses said. Explosions and gunfire could be heard several kilometers away from the prison in northern Sanaa, which has al Qaeda members among its inmates. The biggest explosion rattled windows in the area. “A terrorist group attacked the central prison,” an Interior Ministry official said, according to comments published by the state news agency, adding there had been a car bomb followed by a gun attack on the facility.

Two killed in attack on security checkpoint in Aden
Yemen Times — 13 February 2014
Two soldiers were killed and another injured when unidentified armed men attacked a security checkpoint at the entrance of Al-Buraiqa district of Aden governorate on Monday, according to local officials. Sadeq Haid, the security manager of Aden governorate, told the Yemen Times that one of the militants was killed during the attack, but declined to elaborate on the identity of the attackers.

British teacher ‘kidnapped’ in Yemen
The Telegraph — 13 February 2014
A British teacher has been reported missing in the Yemeni capital Sanaa and is believed to have been kidnapped, according to official sources. A Yemeni security source told Reuters a woman had reported to a local police station that her husband, a Briton who teaches English at a language centre in Sanaa, had not returned home on Wednesday night. AFP quoted an official as saying that the teacher was captured by an unidentified gunman as he returned from work. A Western diplomat confirmed the kidnapping, it said.

Political security officer assassinated near Ministry of Oil and Minerals
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
A political security officer was killed and two pedestrians wounded when a bomb planted in a political security officer’s car detonated on Sunday on Al-Zubairi Street around the corner from the Ministry of Oil and Minerals in Sana’a. Yahia Al-Srori, an eyewitness, said the explosion blew off part of one passerby’s leg and that another passerby who owned a shop nearby sustained minor injuries in the blast. The first passerby has had his leg amputated at the Abdugader Al-Mitwakil Hospital on Baghdad Street, according to Al-Srori, who accompanied the injured to the hospital.

Hadramout tribesmen capture more soldiers
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
The Hadramout Tribal Federation took eight Special Security Forces hostage on Friday, bringing the total number of soldiers in the federation’s captivity to 15. The Special Security Forces have arrested seven of the federation’s members in the past two days. During the clashes, a disputed number of casualties have been reported. “We are holding the soldiers captive until our demands are met, which includes the evacuation of all military camps in the governorate and the transfer of military leadership to [soldiers who are from Hadramout],” said the spokesperson for the federation, Saleh Molla.

Website: Yemen Hands 29 al-Qaida Militants to Saudi Arabia
Reuters via Voice of America — 11 February 2014
Yemen has handed to Saudi Arabia 29 al-Qaida militants who were wanted by the Saudi authorities, the Yemeni Defense Ministry website said on Tuesday, citing informed sources. The website quoted the sources as saying the militants had Saudi nationality and that they had been handed over to the Saudi security apparatus in the past few days.

The rise of Yemen’s Houthis
Al-Jazeera — 12 February 2014
Last October the Houthis launched ferocious attacks on areas south of Saada, their usual stronghold. They showed up in possession of more heavy and sophisticated weapons than ever before. They were able to defeat and displace thousands of non-Shia people in the town of Dammaj. In January Houthi fighters marched further south and succeeded in defeating one of the major tribal formations, the Hashid Federation, before reaching Arhab, another important tribal area just some 50km north of Sanaa.

Military to deploy in Arhab
Yemen Times — 13 February 2014
Yemen’s military forces began on Tuesday to deploy to areas and checkpoints previously controlled by pro-Houthi tribesmen and their opponents in Arhab district near Sana’a, according to the state-run Saba News Agency. After about 45 days of bloody clashes, the two warring parties signed a ceasefire agreement on Saturday in the presence of a Presidential Committee assigned to resolve the conflict. Both sides agreed to end clashes and to remove unofficial checkpoints and barricades from the Sana’a-Sa’ada road.

Displaced people from Amran to return if ceasefire holds
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
Dozens of displaced people started returning to their homes in different areas of Amran governorate, a week after a truce was brokered by the government and local tribal leaders, a local security official told the Yemen Times. “The situation is currently calm and many people have returned home,” said Ali Al-Ufairi, security chief of Al-Qofla district. The recent fighting in Amran governorate between the Houthis and armed tribesmen affiliated with the Hashid tribe displaced roughly 42,000 people between October 2013 and Feb. 6, according to a new report published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).

Yemen’s Remarkably Resilient Oil Business
Wall Street Journal — 11 February 2014
Yemen’s oil infrastructure is spread across the country, making it an easy target for anyone with a grievance against the government. A quick look online shows the scale of the problem; “Yemen Pipeline Attack” is a recognized search term. For all that, foreign firms are willing to do the dirty business of exploring and producing in Yemen—these include such major names as France’s Total and Austria’s OMV. That is good news for a government that is majorly reliant on oil revenues; with its fuel-import bill having exceeded oil-export takings in 2013, revenue from those remarkable 3 million barrels will be most welcome in San’a.

Solar power—a growing trend in rural Yemen
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
Due to chronic power outages and otherwise inadequate or nonexistent electrical service in many areas of Yemen, a small number of Yemenis are resorting to the use of solar energy. “People in rural areas began to use solar energy earlier than those in urban areas due to inadequate public electricity service in rural areas,” said Emad Al-Saqqaf, the director of Sehab Tech for Green Technology, a Yemeni company that supplies and installs solar energy systems. Al-Saqqaf has installed solar energy systems in sports clubs and homes in several governorates.

Yemen grills officials over ‘corrupt’ gas deals
Gulf News — 11 February 2014
Yemeni judicial authorities have begun questioning officials over allegations that they sold undervalue liquefied natural gas (LND) to foreign firms during the reign of the former president, Saba news agency said on Wednesday. “Many officials at the ministry of oil, who are related to the famous gas deals, and other officials at Total in Yemen have been questioned in the continuing investigations” the agency said, quoting a judicial source at the Public Property Prosecution, which is responsible for examining corruption-related cases. Yemen is now trying to to renegotiate the contracts, and has had some success.

Despite uprising, Muhamasheen continue to struggle
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
Throughout Sana’a and other cities, ramshackle cement-block shanties roofed with plastic tarps exist amid old tires and other debris in neighborhoods called mahwas—or slums. A population of Yemenis derogatorily referred to as “akhdam,” or slaves, reside in the mahwat. The Muhamasheen, or marginalized, as they call themselves, are dark-skinned Yemenis of disputed origins. Folklore says they are the descendents of Ethiopians who invaded Yemen in A.D. 525. and ruled until A.D. 819, when a branch of the Abbasid caliphate took over and captured the former rulers, subjecting them to slavery.

Changes in Yemen’s media landscape
Yemen Times — 11 February 2014
Lack of media control, chaotic reporting, and the rise of mostly biased private media characterize today’s media scene as a result of Yemen’s 2011 Arab Spring. The good news is a greater presence of women in online media,  the Access to Information Act and the increased professionalism of state-run media. The best news of all is Yemen’s nascent film industry, which is taking off internationally.  Yemen’s Ministry of Information has been trying without success to catch up with the explosion in unlicensed broadcast media in Yemen. In the last three months alone, five private radio stations have begun operations, three of which are affiliated to political parties.


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