News Digest 26 December 2014

Highlights:
Yemen: What next?
IRIN — 22 December 2014
Unsurprisingly, the deteriorating security situation and the withdrawal of Saudi support means there is little optimism about 2015 either economically or politically. The UN envoy to the country has warned that the state may be unable to pay its civil servants within months. ECFR’s Adam Baron summarized the scale of the crisis. “It is difficult to overstate the economic challenges facing Yemen: roughly half of all Yemenis are below the poverty line, and the government is on the brink of financial collapse. The economy is in tatters, the government’s control over much of the country borders on nonexistent, and planned parliamentary and presidential elections appear to be postponed indefinitely,” he said.

To build an entrepreneurship ecosystem in Yemen
Yemen Times — 18 December 2014
The challenges faced by entrepreneurs in Yemen, as Jamal Al-Mutareb pointed out in his interview, mainly result from an underdeveloped entrepreneurship ecosystem. There is a lack of well-rounded entrepreneurs in Yemen who understand the market and are able to identify and include local demands in formulating business initiatives. Entrepreneurs who can accurately assess the potential of their startups and understand investors’ interests and expectations are equally rare. There is a lack of supportive governmental policies and regulations that recognize the fragility of startups and their need for special care to grow into fully productive companies. The legal system is not transparent and fails to ensure the rights and duties of all contracting parties, including the protection of copy rights. Importantly, moreover, there is a lack of capital and willing investors in Yemen, which effectively blocks the creation of startups.

Malnutrition Hits Millions of Children in Yemen
New York Times — 18 December 2014
Yemen is the most impoverished country in the Middle East, and among its grim distinctions is having one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world. Political turmoil since the 2011 uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh has left an already feeble government even less able to care for its indigent citizens. Chronic challenges have become emergencies as the state’s presence in much of Yemen has started to dissolve. One million children younger than 5, roughly a third of the age group in Yemen, are suffering from life-threatening malnourishment, according to Daniela D’urso, the head of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid office in Yemen. About two million children are chronically malnourished. Nearly 60 percent of Yemeni children suffer from stunted growth, according to public health workers, who in the past few months have noticed other worrying trends, including cases of malnutrition giving rise to other maladies like tuberculosis. The crisis is “unprecedented,” Ms. D’urso said.

Politics:
Yemen’s rising faction
Al-Ahram Weekly — 19 December 2014
Controlling Hodeidah could give the Houthis leverage in any future deal, but the city is unlikely to be do-cile if the Houthis decide to throw their weight around. The city is predominantly Sunni, and its population may not be supportive of the Shiite combatants. But at least for the duration that the Houthis retain control of this port city the Shiite group will be able to receive any assistance it needs from Iran unhindered. It is highly unlikely, however, that the Houthis or the Iranians will interfere with international shipping across Bab Al-Mandeb. The strategic importance of this waterway to world trade is such that any challenge to navigation would incur immediate action by the major powers, something that the Houthis are smart enough to recognise.

GPC accuses Hadi of inciting party division
Yemen Times — 23 December 2014
A GPC official accused President Hadi on Sunday of funding GPC meetings in Aden governorate in order to “encourage defiance” within the party. Abdulmalik Al-Fuhaidi, a member of the GPC Media Committee and head of the party’s mouthpiece almotamar.net, said President Hadi was funding the GPC sessions in order to divide and weaken the national party.

Yemen PM ‘could resign’ as Al Houthis tighten grip
Gulf News — 18 December 2014
Yemeni Prime Minister Khalid Bahah on Wednesday suggested his government could resign, expressing exasperation after Al Houthi rebels who control the capital Sana’a raided state institutions and sacked public officials. The rebels, who became the de facto power in Yemen when they captured Sana’a in September, portray their movement as a revolution against corruption and embezzlement which is emptying state coffers.

Yemeni Parliament approves Bahah government
Yemen Times — 18 December 2014
Yemen’s Parliament unanimously granted a vote of confidence on Thursday afternoon to the new Cabinet formed by Khalid Bahah that was formed on Nov. 9. Ali Al-Ansi, an Islah party member of Parliament (MP), said that the vote was necessary because of the extreme instability in Yemen. “We had no solution other than to grant a vote of confidence in order to help stabilize the country.”

 
Civil disobedience campaign held in southern governorates
Yemen Times — 16 December 2014
A number of employees working in government institutions in Yemen’s southern governorates participated in a campaign of peaceful civil disobedience on Monday, lasting from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. The campaign came in response to a statement issued by the Southern Movement’s Supreme Supervisory Committee, calling for workers in all government facilities including those working in the education and transportation sectors, corporations, factories, and in all parts of the commercial sector, to take part in an eight-hour strike. It exempted those working in hospitals, pharmacies, electricity and water emergency crews, and all sea and airports as well as oil refineries.

Al-Houthi refers to Hadi as “an umbrella for corruption”
Yemen Times — 18 December 2014
Al-Masira channel aired a speech of Houthi leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi on Monday morning, in which he accused President Hadi of being, “an umbrella for corruption.” The speech came several hours after an announcement was made by Minister of Defense Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, which ordered Houthi popular committees stationed outside the ministry be removed. Jamal Al-Qeiz, chairman of the Security Department within the Ministry of Defense, said that President Hadi ordered military reinforcements from the Strategic Reserve Forces to station themselves outside the ministry shortly after Al-Subaihi’s announcement. Orders were given to the soldiers to be on high alert in the event that any clashes take place, he added.

GPC withholds vote of confidence
Yemen Times — 18 December 2014
The parliamentary bloc of the General People’s Congress (GPC) refused in Tuesday’s parliamentary session to give the new cabinet a vote of confidence, accusing it of ignoring the reform recommendations put forth by the Parliament. “The head of the GPC parliamentary bloc, Sultan Al-Barakani, said [in Parliament on Tuesday] that his party will not give its backing to the Cabinet because it failed to take parliamentary recommendations into consideration,” said Anwar Al-Taj, who was present at the session.

Houthis condemn G10 Statement
Yemen Times — 18 December 2014
Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, have condemned a Group of Ten Ambassadors (G10) statement released on Monday that calls for the full implementation of the GCC Initiative and Peace and National Partnership Agreement signed on Sept. 21. The official Arabic translation of the statement put out by the G10 specifically opposes any integration of Houthi popular committees into the armed forces that have not undergone an “agreed upon” disarmament process. The English version does not make any mention of Houthis or Ansar Allah.

Culture ministry employees call for removal of minister
Yemen Times — 25 December 2014
Over 50 employees from the Ministry of Culture held a protest on Wednesday morning demanding the dismissal of Arwa Othman, the new minister of culture, after she refused to meet all of their demands. According to the director of public relations for the ministry, Nabil Al-Kurmudi, who organized the protests, Othman’s staff are calling for her dismissal because she has refused to meet their requests since taking office 40 days ago.

Security:
Yemen security forces kill prominent separatist leader
Reuters — 15 December 2014
Yemeni security forces shot dead a prominent leader in the southern separatist Herak Movement in Aden on Monday, residents said, ratcheting up tensions in the city where residents have been observing a weekly protest to push for independence. Rising demands for separation by southern separatists have been one of several challenges facing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi since he took office three years ago after mass protests forced his predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down.

NGO claims 652 people killed between Sept. 16-23
Yemen Times — 23 December 2014
A Switzerland-based NGO published a report on Sunday claiming it documented the deaths of 733 people in Sana’a between Sept. 16 and Oct. 10 as a result of political violence. The NGO, known as the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights, said that aside from the killings, it also documented human and civil rights violations committed in that period. The Houthis, an armed Shia group that was mostly based in the northern governorate of Sa’ada, has expanded its presence since 2011 and recently took-over the capital on Sept. 21.

Aid worker in Yemen: ‘Kidnapping is seen as a very easy way to make money’
Guardian — 15 December 2014
The risks are increasingly high for us in Yemen now. Kidnapping of international staff is seen as a very easy way to make money, and getting people safely released is difficult. There are more US drone strikes going into Yemen than any other country at the moment. Being perceived as an American or being associated with the US enhances risk in some areas of the country. Western staff in general – but not exclusively – are often seen as people for whom their governments will pay a great deal of money to have released if they are kidnapped, although this is frequently not the case. Even if no payment is made, criminal gangs can sell hostages to groups like al-Qaida who will exploit them for political reasons anyway.

Five bombs explode in Yemeni capital, killing one
Reuters — 23 December 2014
Five bombs exploded on Tuesday in Sanaa’s old quarter, where many supporters of the Shi’ite Muslim Houthi movement live, killing a member of the group and wounding another person, a senior security official said. One of the bombs was placed near the home of Ismail al-Wazir, a professor at Sanaa University, state news agency Saba quoted the director general of the Sanaa police, Brigadier General Abdelrazzaq al-Mo’ayad, as saying. Wazir, who is close to the Houthi group, escaped an assassination attempt in April when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle, killing two of his security guards.

Fact-finding committee to investigate Al-Junaid’s death
Yemen Times — 18 December 2014
The Security Department in Aden established a fact-finding committee on Tuesday to investigate the death of Khalid Al-Junaid, a southern political activist who was shot dead on Monday. The committee was established one day after he was killed by security forces. Najeeb Al-Mughalis, the deputy head of Aden’s Security Department and a member of the committee, refused to reveal the total number and names of the committee’s members. He only stated that the committee includes representatives of the Southern Movement and the Criminal Investigation Bureau.

Houthi militants face guerrilla campaign in Arhab
Yemen Times — 22 December 2014
Two Houthis were killed and four others injured on Sunday after they stormed the booby-trapped house of a tribal figure in Al-Makarib village, Arhab district. Abdualjaleel Sinan, a local sheikh, was able to confirm the number of casualties. He said the owner of the house is Yahya Al-Makroob, a prominent tribal figure with ties to Islah. Houthi militants entered the building as part of ongoing efforts to clear the area of Al-Qaeda affiliates following their withdrawal from Arhab on Dec. 13.

AQAP claims responsibility for assassination of GPC leader in Marib
Yemen Times — 16 December 2014
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility on Sunday for the assassination of leading GPC figure Salim Ghufaina that morning. Ghufaina was chairman of the General People’s Congress (GPC) branch in Marib governorate, and chairman of the Majzar district Local Administrative Council.

Yemen intelligence official abducted
Al-Jazeera — 25 December 2014
Yemen’s second highest ranking intelligence official has been abducted in Sanaa by suspected Houthi fighters who have been in control of the capital since a September offensive, security sources said. “General Yahia al-Marrani was kidnapped this morning by armed Houthis from his home in Sanaa,” a source told the AFP news agency. Another source said that about 20 fighters had stormed Marrani’s residence and taken him to an unknown location on Thursday.

Al Qaeda car bombs target Houthi fighters in Yemeni port city
CNN — 18 December 2014
Violence wracked Yemen yet again Thursday — this time in the form of dual car bomb attacks purportedly carried out by al Qaeda militants targeting fighters from the minority, albeit powerful, Houthi group. At least nine Houthi fighters died in the attacks on a strategic Houthi camp at the airport of western Yemen’s port city of Hodiedah, a local Interior Ministry official and medics told CNN.

Houthis blow up homes of alleged AQAP members
Yemen Times — 16 December 2014
The Houthis allegedly blew-up four homes on Sunday belonging to individuals they claimed to be members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the town of Hamat Bani Sarar in Rada’a. The Houthis declined to comment on the allegations. Renewed clashes between Houthis and tribesmen with alleged links to AQAP broke out in the village of Hamat Bani Sarar Saturday evening and lasted until Sunday morning. The clashes started after Houthis submitted a list of 14 names Saturday morning to the village’s tribal leadership. All men on the list were living in the area and wanted by the Houthis due to their alleged links to AQAP.

Yemen kills ‘al-Qaeda militants disguised as veiled women’
BBC — 18 December 2014
Several suspected al-Qaeda militants, disguised as fully veiled women, have reportedly been shot dead by Yemeni security forces near the Saudi border. The militants were killed after one of them opened fire on a soldier who was checking their vehicle, officials say. One report quoting a Yemeni official said three militants were killed – while another put the number at five.

Whose Law?
Al-Jazeera — 21 December 2014
Yemen is often described as a lawless country, a borderline failed state where the government’s authority does not stretch much further than the outer limits of its major cities, and where even then, that authority is fragile at best. The inaccessibility of its rugged interior, where tribal law trumps government writ, has created space for groups like AQAP to operate, analysts say. But Yemenis are increasingly asking whether or not the state has any interest in upholding the laws that protect their basic rights – and what, exactly, current counterterrorism strategy is doing to improve domestic security.

Houthi fighters killed in Yemen attack
CNN — 14 December 2014
At least 14 Houthi rebels have been killed in fighting with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the country’s central province of al-Bayda. Al Jazeera has learnt that AQAP and tribal fighters attacked positions held by the Shia rebels in the Qalala mountains in Radaa district of al-Bayda early on Sunday. The clashes came amid claims by the Houthis that they had defeated rival tribesmen and taken control of Arhab – a district of greater Sanaa – on Saturday, expanding their control over the capital city.

Bomb meant for militants kills 20 children in Yemen, officials say
CNN — 16 December 2014
Two car bombs killed at least 31 people, including 20 children, in central Yemen’s Radaa city when suspected al Qaeda fighters targeted Houthi militants Tuesday, senior security officials and locals told CNN. One car bomb struck a Houthi gathering point, but the other did not make it to the target and instead blew up next to a bus that was carrying children home from school, officials said.

Yemeni police blamed for separatist’s killing
Al-Jazeera — 16 December 2014
Yemeni police have been accused of killing a prominent southern separatist in what human rights group Amnesty International called an “execution”. Khaled al-Junaidi, 42, a prominent figure in the Southern Movement, was shot in the chest on Monday when masked security officers in Aden opened fire on his car, AFP news agency said. He was inspecting protests in the south, organised to press for southern secession, a spokesman for his movement said.

Yemen: Investigate killing of activist at peaceful protest
Amnesty International — 15 December 2014
The Yemeni authorities must investigate the killing of a political activist shot dead by security forces during a peaceful protest in the southern city of Aden today, Amnesty International said. Khaled Al-Junaidi, a leading activist in Yemen’s separatist Southern Movement, was leading a strike in the district of Crater when he was ordered out of his car by five masked security officers and shot in the chest.

Media:
Yemen halts distribution of state-run paper taken by Al Houthis
Gulf News — 24 December 2014
Yemen’s minister of information has ordered the suspension of the circulation of the biggest state-run newspaper in protest against the Al Houthi intervention into the editorial policy of the newspaper. While tightening grip on government’s institutes in the capital and many other provinces, the Al Houthis stormed Al Thawra daily on September 17, dismissed its editor over corruption allegations and replaced him with an allied journalist.

Economy:
Houthis take control of Central Bank of Yemen: sources
Asharq Al-Awsat — 18 December 2014
Yemen’s Houthi movement seized control of key government institutions in Sana’a on Wednesday, including the Central Bank and the Department of Civil Status and Civil Registration, directing a new blow to the already floundering authority of the central government headed by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Militants from the Houthi-affiliated Ansar Allah group stormed the Central Bank headquarters in Sana’a following clashes with security forces positioned in the area. Dozens from both sides were injured and killed during the fighting. Militants sealed off the Central Bank, preventing employees from entering or leaving the premises, sources from the bank, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Corruption and used clothing
Yemen Times — 23 December 2014
As Yemen’s economy continues to crumble, the country’s second-hand clothing markets have watched as business has boomed. Outdoor markets in neighborhoods such as Bab Al-Yemen, Shumaila, others throughout the country have seen an uptick in sales of used coats and jackets from abroad, according to vendors. They sell from anywhere between YR100 ($.50) to thousands of riyals. But the journey of used clothing imported to Yemen is often one mired in corruption and bribes. Health professionals say the smuggling of such clothes, which often do not meet health and safety regulations, puts public health at risk.

A story of entrepreneurship: From chemistry class to make-up manufacturer
Yemen Times — 16 December 2014
Following graduation in 2011, Al-Mashhari took what she had learned in her studies and began creating her own line of organic cosmetics. Al-Mashhari says she has two “weapons” at hand to help her achieve her goals: Science and perseverance. Keen to provide trusted products that can compete with their global competitors, her makeup is not traditional in any sense but relies on the technical and scientific knowhow she acquired at university. Establishing her own business and purchasing the necessary equipment does not come cheaply. The production process involves heating, mixing and testing phases, and machinery she uses in this process cost her approximately one million Yemeni Ryal (almost $5000). In Sept. 2013, Al-Mashhari was awarded a grant of $20,000 in recognition of her work, giving her the morale and financial boost she needed to kickstart her company, “Dina Foundation for Natural Cosmetics.”

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