Yemeni government vows to confront southern rebellion

Yemen's internationally recognized government pledged to respond to any attacks from the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council in the country's south.

al-monitor Southern Yemeni separatist security members patrol a street during a campaign to seize unlicensed motorcycles in Aden, Yemen Dec. 10, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Fawaz Salman.

May 12, 2020

The Yemeni army will “do everything necessary” to thwart a separatist “insurrection” in the country’s south, the government said on Tuesday.

In April, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) declared a state of emergency and autonomous rule in the key port city of Aden and other southern provinces. The separatists, who are supported by the United Arab Emirates, accused Yemen's internationally recognized government based in Aden of corruption and mismanagement.

The government then accused the UAE of sending an armed unit of separatists to Socotra, a remote island located off the coast of Somalia in the Arabian Sea. Abu Dhabi, which backs the separatists, is also nominal allies with the government and is part of the Saudi-led military coalition that is fighting Iran-aligned Houthi rebels. 

Fighting in Socotra’s provincial capital between government forces and the separatist militia ended with a de-escalation agreement reached in early May between the two sides. 

“Yemen’s National Army will maintain firm posture & heavy deployments to respond to attacks from insurgent [STC] militias,” Yemeni Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdo Majali said Tuesday. 

In a statement, Yemen’s Foreign Ministry described the separatists’ recent declaration of self-rule as a “reckless move” that has destabilized the strategic Socotra, as well as Abyan province.  

“The responsibility of a national army is to defend its homeland, to protect its security and territorial integrity, to confront every armed rebellion and to restore any undermined government institutions and their legitimate authority,” the ministry said. “The National Army of Yemen will do everything necessary to preserve the state, its institutions and the security of its citizens.”

The southern rebellion threatens to unravel a Saudi-brokered power-sharing agreement signed in Riyadh between the Yemeni government and the separatists in November 2019 that ended months of fighting in Aden. Al-Hadhrami called on the STC to adhere to the agreement, or “bear responsibility for everything that will follow.” 

The Foreign Ministry also accused the separatists of undermining government institutions, including the Ministry of Health as it attempts to combat a deadly coronavirus outbreak. The Arab world’s poorest country has so far registered at least 65 cases and 10 deaths.

Yemen’s health infrastructure is already stretched thin after more than five years of war between the Houthis and the coalition. Since Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of the government in 2015, Yemen has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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