Weekly News Update 28 March 2014

Highlights:
Taiz’s Freedom Square: past its expiration date?
Yemen Times — 27 March 2014
Taiz’s Freedom Square was an epicenter of the 2011 revolution and a fount of national change. But, following the success of the National Dialogue Conference, there have been calls to evict protesters from the square, as has happened in other governorates. Abdulrahman Mohammed Ali, a welder at a workshop near Freedom Square, said, “I have been working here for 15 years but I lost most of my customers following the 2011 revolution. I owe the landlord YR800,000 ($3,720) as well as YR200,000 ($930) for electricity and water bills. I had to lay off six employees because we don’t have enough work.” “I wonder why this square hasn’t been evacuated yet like other squares across the country. What is the benefit of [the protesters] staying here?” asked Ali.

Where Yemen is at: Donor pledges vs. government action
Yemen Times — 25 March 2014
In 2012, Yemen requested assistance from the donor community to cover a deficit of $11.7 billion to fund the Transitional Program for Stability and Development (TPSD) for the years 2012-2014. The same year donors pledged $7.9 billion for the years 2012-2015, more than half coming from GCC countries, to help cover this funding gap. By Jan. 30, 2014 more than 90 percent of these pledges have been allocated, which means they have been reserved by the donors to specific projects in the TPSD. However, it goes downhill from there. Less than 60 percent of the pledged money has been approved by donors to begin the implementation of projects, and only around 35 percent has actually been disbursed.

Districts prefer to join Tehama region
Yemen Times — 25 March 2014
Three districts in Dhammar, 100 km south of the capital, Sana’a, have held several marches to protest their inclusion in the Azal district as decided by the Regions Defining Committee on Feb. 10. The three districts are Ottoma, Wesab Al-Ali, and Wesab Al-Safel. The latter two districts are of called Wesabain, or “two Wesabs”. The Regions Defining Committee created a federal state of six regions, four in the north and two in the south. The demonstrations have been held in Sana’a and Hodeida city. Because there are no direct routes to Dhammar city from any of the three districts, which are in a heavily mountainous area of the country, residents who need legal or other services from the governorate must first travel through Hodeida to get to Dhammar city. Some residents must travel through Hodeida and Ibb governorates, before making it back to Dhammar.

Security:
Yemen security forces free Western hostages soon after kidnap
Reuters — 25 March 2014
Yemeni security forces freed two Westerners unharmed on Tuesday shortly after they were kidnapped by gunmen in the capital Sanaa, police sources said, in an incident highlighting the growing security threat in the country. Kidnapping is common in U.S.-allied Yemen, where the government is struggling to contain an insurgency from Islamists linked to al Qaeda, a southern separatist movement, fighting in the country’s north and sporadic conflicts with armed tribes.

Yemen attack on military checkpoint ‘kills 20 soldiers’
BBC News — 24 March 2014
Twenty Yemeni soldiers have been killed in an attack on a military checkpoint in eastern Yemen, reports say. Yemen’s state-run Saba news agency reports the attack took place in the province of Hadramawt. Security sources earlier said eight had died and six were wounded in an attack that one source attributed to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Drone-shy U.S. to give Yemen 10 modified planes for ‘targeted killing’
Washington Times — 25 March 2014
The Obama administration is poised to give the Yemen Air Force a fleet of two-seater propeller planes — akin to what’s used to dust crops — that have been modified so they can carry laser-guided missiles and a high-tech intelligence system. Why? The White House is tired of dealing with concerns and criticisms about its quiet drone war that’s ongoing in the nation, and so instead will provide the Yemeni military with “targeting killing” gear of its own, BuzzFeed reported, citing documents and three sources that were listed as familiar with the administration’s effort.

Hadramout tribes flock to Ghail Bin Yameen, brace for standoff with army
Yemen Times — 25 March 2014
Armed tribesmen from various parts of Hadramout have been mobilizing in the Ghail Bin Yameen district—the center of the anti-government Hadramout Tribal Federation—after the federation on Thursday requested allied tribes to send fighters to the area. Various tribal groups in Hadramout have been involved in armed confrontations with the military over the past three months and have claimed responsibility for several oil pipeline bombings in protest against the killing of tribal leader Sa’d Bin Habrish at a security checkpoint in December.

Fragile peace holds in Al-Dhale
Yemen Times — 25 March 2014
Fighting between the 33rd Armored Brigade and armed supporters of the Southern Movement has finally died down, according to Sadeq Al-Hakami, the spokesperson of the brigade. Earlier this month a presidential mediation committee brokered an agreement between the two sides.

Landmines continue to maim and kill
Yemen Times — 25 March 2014
Saeed Abdu Mahiob, a father of seven, lives in a small house in a rural village in Taiz governorate, located 256 kilometers from Sana’a. Naif, age 10, is the youngest member of the family. In late 2011, Naif was sent by his father to collect something from a neighbor and on the way he came across a strange object on the ground.

Tensions flare up in Amran
Yemen Times — 25 March 2014
Military and tribal forces and Houthi rebels in Amran, northern Yemen are bracing for renewed fighting after seven Houthi gunmen, a soldier and three civilians, including two children, were reportedly killed on Saturday, according to Mohamed Al-Raee, the security chief of Al-Asha district. Parts of Amran were turned into a battlefield amid clashes between Houthi rebels and the army in 2004 and 2010. During the popular uprising against former President Ali Abdulla Saleh in March 2011, the rebels took control of Sa’ada, their main stronghold near Amran.

Snatched from the street
Economist — 26 March 2014
The kidnapping of foreigners has long been a hazard in Yemen. But since the uprising of 2011 that unseated President Ali Abdullah Saleh after 33 years in power, it has sharply increased. A range of foreigners, including diplomats, students of Arabic, aid workers and journalists, have been abducted from once-secure quarters of Sana’a. Four Europeans were nabbed last month alone, three of them still captive.

12 killed as Yemen army clashes with Shia rebels
AFP via Ahram — 22 March 2014
Twelve people were killed Saturday in clashes between Yemeni forces and Shia rebels on the outskirts of the northern city of Amran, a local official and tribal sources said. The rebels, known as Huthis or Ansarullah, had travelled to Amran to take part in a demonstration, but shooting erupted when they insisted on crossing a checkpoint to the northern entrance to the city with their weapons, an official said.

Economy:
Critics raise alarm over privatization policies
Yemen Times — 25 March 2014
A new wave of privatization has is causing widespread concern among public sector employees. The growing concern began to surface after Yemen’s national agreement to join the World Trade Organization, which obligates Yemen to liberalize 11 service sectors within a maximum of five years starting from January next year. The reconciliation government considered the signing of the protocol for Yemen’s accession to the World Trade Organization at the beginning of December to be a pivotal move that would enhance Yemen’s economic development. However, the government is facing internal challenges to the move. Critics argue that the concerned sectors are not prepared to compete in the free market.

Yemeni tribesmen blow up Marib oil pipeline, stop crude flows
Reuters — 26 March 2014
Yemeni tribesmen bombed Yemen’s main crude export pipeline on Saturday, forcing oil flows to be stopped, industry sources told Reuters. Yemen’s oil and gas pipelines have repeatedly been sabotaged by insurgents or angry tribesmen since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the impoverished country.

Bananas add to Yemen’s water woes
Yemen Times — 27 March 2014
Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation last week called on farmers growing bananas to use modern irrigation systems instead of traditional ones in order to reduce water consumption. According to a report released by the ministry in late 2013, bananas constitute four percent of Yemen’s agricultural exports, with the majority going to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. The report said that banana cultivation is so water-intensive because bananas themselves are 60 percent water. The average consumption of a hectare of bananas is 26,000 cubic meters using the traditional irrigation method of inundating land. This figure is equivalent to the amount of water consumed annually by 216 people, according to the report.

Diesel crisis continues in Sana’a
Yemen Times — 27 March 2014
Vehicles continue to form long queues at diesel stations in Sana’a as the capital city witnesses an acute diesel shortage which has continued for over a month now. Ali Bakhakh, the driver of a water truck, said that although the diesel shortage in the capital actually started two months ago, it has worsened over the last month, leading to the emergence of a growing black market.

Strike halts oil production in Hadramout
Yemen Times — 27 March 2014
French energy giant Total on Monday halted oil and gas production at Block No. 10 in the Hadramout valley after its employees went on strike. Ahmed Al-Odaini, the head of Total’s employee union, said the workers have legitimate demands which they first presented in 2010. He said that the workers want a raise, given that their wages are below those employed at other petroleum companies in Yemen.

Yemen suffers from ‘institutionalised’ problems
Gulf News — 21 March 2014
The UK ambassador to Yemen said that Yemen has “clear” institutionalised problems that stand in the way of reforms which could make the country “a thousand times better” than it is now. Jane Marriott, told Gulf News, in her office at the highly fortified embassy, that Yemenis will enjoy a better life if the government implemented policies like removing ghost workers and lifting fuel subsidies. “The World Bank can free out about 2.5 billion dollars every year by doing these things and within a decade you can have a better country than it is now,” Marriott said. The last time the Yemeni government decided to lift fuel subsidies was in 2005, a move that sparked a bloody nationwide riot. But as she was talking about the advantages of lifting fuel subsidies, the Yemeni government swiftly denied media reports that it was moving to lift subsidies amid a chronic fuel shortage in the capital and other cities.

Judiciary:
Yemen’s judges strike after kidnapping of Hajja justice
Yemen Times — 27 March 2014
On Wednesday, judges embarked on a nationwide strike after a call on Tuesday by the Yemeni Judges’ Club to strike in protest against the abduction of a judge by tribesmen in Hajja governorate. On Tuesday, armed tribesmen abducted Judge Mohammed Al-Sorori from the Penal Court in Hajja after he issued a verdict against 23 suspects in the assassination of a military officer in 2011.

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