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Yemen's secessionists to 'halt Socotra escalations' during Ramadan

The STC in late April declared self-rule [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 May, 2020

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The Southern Transitional Council has vowed an end to escalations during the holy fasting month of Ramadan just days after rising violence.
Yemen’s southern secessionists have pledged to halt escalations on the country’s Socotra island to honour the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) said in a statement issued on Thursday.

The STC warned it would respond to hostilities and renewed calls to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to dismiss the island’s governor Ramzi Mahrous.

The announcement came following tensions on the archipelago between UAE-backed STC forces and government militias.

Days later, Saudi Arabia abruptly withdrew its forces from the island, despite capturing control of the local authority’s headquarters in the capital Hadibo.

Saudi soldiers had intervened in early May to mediate a truce between the conflicting parties, which have been at loggerheads in recent years despite fighting in an alliance against the Houthi rebels.

The escalation follows a STC announcement in late April that declared an "irreversible"  declaration to self-rule, despite widespread rejection of the controversial move.

The UAE-backed STC said it was "prepared to face the worst and irreversible possibilities of self-governance", according to a report by Arabi21, citing a leader in the group.

"We have a great responsibility ahead of us to implement the decision as required, and we are prepared for the worst," Abdullah Mahdi Saeed, head of the STC's Al-Dhale governate said.

"Today we are facing many enemies from multiple directions and we have a duty to our people," he added, noting the decision to self-govern came after number provocations by Yemen’s internationally-recognised government against "the southern people".

Read also: Saudi Arabia's faltering divide and rule strategy in Yemen

Hadi’s government has been "intentionally starving and subjugating southerners by degrading public services", in a move that he described as "torture".

The announcement came as a result of "the government's delay and its evasion of the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, as well as the lack of positive engagement regarding calls to improve living conditions", he added.

The accusations followed a statement by the Saudi-led coalition in which it condemned the STC for its actions, which the ally described as "escalatory".

The United Arab Emirates, a pivotal player in the Saudi-led coalition, has also distanced itself from the move despite backing, funding and training STC forces since the conflict erupted in 2015.

Yemen's separatists signed a power-sharing deal in Riyadh last November that quelled a battle - dubbed a "civil war within a civil war" - for the south that had in August seen them seize control of the second city of Aden.

The Riyadh pact had been hailed as averting the complete break-up of the country, but with a lack of implementation, observers have said it is effectively defunct.

Yemen’s internationally-recognised government has also condemned the move and said the separatists - who have long agitated for independence in the south - would be responsible for the "catastrophic and dangerous" outcome. 

The breakdown between the one-time allies comes as a Saudi-led coalition, which backs the internationally recognised government in a battle against the Houthi rebels, has extended a unilateral ceasefire aimed at fending off the coronavirus pandemic - a move rejected by the Houthis.

The political landscape in the south is complex, and despite the STC's declaration some southern cities, including Socotra, Al-Mahrah and Hadramout, said they did not recognise the call to self-rule and would remain aligned with the central government.

More than 100,000 have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition intervened five years ago to back the internationally-recognised government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against the rebels.

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