Threat of Somalization haunts Yemen

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The conflicting parties in Yemen are clinging to their demands, which may lead to the failure of the peace and partnership agreement signed by the Houthis.

The Peace and Partnership Agreement — which is the second agreement signed by the disputing Yemeni parties since 2011 — is threatening to fail yet again. Meanwhile, there is no distinction anymore between the young politicians and the old elites, especially regarding the lack of reliability in respecting agreements and the inability to ensure a minimum consensus that circumvents the collapse of the state in the poorest country in the Middle East.

There are fears that the obstinacy of the fighting parties and the attempt of each to impose its choices might result in uncontrollable civil strife, amid the spread of weapons.

The suicide attack, which targeted a Houthi gathering in Sanaa on Thursday, Oct. 9, demonstrated that none of the parties can impose itself outside the state’s framework. The attack happened only a few hours after the Houthis rejected the decision to appoint Ahmad Bin Mubarak as prime minister. It also coincided with the assassination of at least 20 soldiers in Hadhramaut, in an attack committed by militants who were thought to be members of al-Qaeda.

Sanaa is currently under the control of two powers. The first power rules theoretically and is represented by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who was elected through the public referendum stipulated by the Gulf Initiative. The second power rules in practice and is represented by the Houthi militia (Ansar Allah Movement), which has been controlling the governmental institutions since Sept. 21 and replaced the army and police.

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The fragmentation and conflict of interests have been putting spokes in the wheels of implementing the written agreements. Moreover, the deployment of al-Qaeda in the South and the Houthis’ seizure of Sanaa have contributed to widening the divisions. As a result, Yemen is drawing nearer to Somalization and to the repetition of the Iraqi scenario.

Analysts are saying that the Shiite Ansar Allah Movement has been undermining the state’s institutions and presenting itself as a substitute. Such environment is socially conducive to the advancement of Islamist movements. Once again, al-Qaeda attacked the army in al-Bayda town — which the organization considered the northern geographic boundary of the Sunnis — at a time when the Shiite Houthis were advancing to the Sunni east coast. These two groups, which are the most radical in the Zaidi and Shafii sects, meet on one point. They are both fueling their members with jihadist ideas that honor martyrdom and self-sacrifice, and they are both recruiting children and clinging to their enmity with the United States and Israel.

Political sources have been linking the fall of Sanaa in the hands of tribes supporting Houthis and former president Ali Abdallah Saleh to the accusations directed at the consensual president Hadi, alleging that he is appointing southerners in the state’s key positions and marginalizing northerners.

Leaders in Saleh’s party described the document of guarantees to solve the crisis in the south — which was approved by the National Dialogue Conference — as “discriminative.”

The Houthis and supporters of Saleh have a problem with the document’s text, which specifies that the wealth and public positions should be equally divided between the North and South, although the North has a higher population density. The document also forbids the candidacy of northerners to the position of president in the first electoral phase, following the referendum on the new constitution.

The Peace and Partnership Agreement, which is the second agreement signed by the disputing Yemeni parties in the National Dialogue Conference, is threatened to fail, yet again. The Houthis and Saleh’s party refused the appointment of a prime minister from the South. They considered Mubarak’s appointment a breach of balance between the North and South.

Mubarak is considered among the youth of the February 11 Revolution, which, although it failed to topple the regime, forced the former president and his family to leave the government.

Abdul Malik al-Houthi, leader of the pro-Iranian armed Shiite Ansar Allah Movement, justified his rejection of Mubarak by saying that he was the candidate of the US Embassy. This allegation was faced with sarcasm from many Yemeni youth who were skeptical about Houthi’s patriotism, after his militias looted the state’s arms and houses and almost burned down Sanaa to release the crew of the Iranian arms ship Jihan 1 who was already condemned by the Yemeni judiciary.

The disputing parties have been exchanging accusations, while reiterating they have the utmost national interest at heart. However, they are not practicing what they preach on the ground, but on the contrary. Ever since the peaceful youth revolution reached a dead end in 2011, the political, military and tribal elites have been reigniting the violent conflicts and sapping any chance of peaceful political action.

The dialogue rounds between the Yemeni parties indicate that the lack of trust, superiority policy and the wait will persist and impede the creation of a social and political environment based on the values of coexistence, dialogue and peaceful transition of power.

Contrary to the polished speeches of political forces, the practices are often bloody, and the lessons of the past are rarely learned. Since the end of the civil war in summer 1994 and up to the moment when Houthis seized Sanaa and looted arms from the army’s warehouses in September 2014, the demand of partnership in power remained on the table as the most efficient choice to reach stability. However, experience shows that partnership can be more calamitous than one party’s monopolization of power.

Despite signing the Gulf Initiative in 2011 and forming a unity government that includes all parties, the Southern Movement and the Houthis, the partners in rule have practiced unprecedented corruption and waged an indirect and direct conflict that only exacerbated the violence and chaos and sapped the chances of building a state that is initially fragile.

Observers say that if Ansar Allah continues to dictate its conditions on the national dialogue and on the Peace and Partnership Agreement that they imposed after seizing Sanaa with the power of arms, the door to consensus will be completely shut and the country will turn into a ticking time bomb.

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Found in: yemen model, yemen, sunni-shiite conflict, national dialogue conference, iran, houthis
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