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Faris al-Jalal

Yemen's south looks for a two state solution

Seperatist demonstrations have taken place on the streets of cities in south Yemen [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 January, 2015

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Separatist sentiments are at fever pitch this week, as the Houthis take over vital government institutions and President Hadi resigned. The prospect of the south separating from the north is becoming a likely end to Yemen's political crisis.

When the Houthis from the northern highlands laid siege on Yemen's capital on Wednesday, in the south thousands took to the streets to announce their opposition to the new order in Sanaa.

Separatist sentiments remain high here, and memories of an independent south Yemen, the Arab world's only Marxist state, are not such a distant memory.

Yet with the resignation of Yemeni president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi on Thursday, a southerner, a nerve had been twisted. When the news was announced, the streets of the south erupted in anger and calls for solidarity were made. Quickly a sense of dissociation with their countrymen in the north became apparent.

Departing from the north

Southern popular committees took control of various security, civil, and economic facilities saying they would defy all instructions from Sanaa. Airspace over Aden was also reported to be closed.

On the streets of the south, images of Abdul Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, were burnt, particularly as he made it clear his group rejected any plans for the division of Yemen into regions. Be that six, as was planned by lawmakers, or two – north and south. 

Feelings of betrayal

Much of the anger is also that there is a feeling in the south that they have been betrayed by Houthi. Some groups in the south had previously allied with the Houthis, believing that the insurgents were their best chance for fulfilling their legal and political ambitions.

     Some southerners feel used by the Houthis as a Trojan horse to seize power.


Some southerners feel not just betrayed but also used by the Houthis as some kind of Trojan horse to seize power.

Others believed that the Houthi take over simply pulled the mask away from the Houthis and northern political parties, showing that none can be trusted.

Seperating the south

On Thursday morning, in Hadhramaut, a security committee announced the closure of the airspace, the sea ports, and border posts on the pretext of securing the area from the "terrorist" and "criminal" Houthi group.     

The group said they backed the constitutional legitimacy represented by Hadi and accused the Houthis of terrorism, by laying siege on the Hadi's home.

This decision has far-reaching implications for the country.

A source at the Yemeni Petroleum Company told Al-Araby al-Jadeed that the decision of southern leaders to halt oil production in protest of the Houthis, means that the whole economy of Yemen could very soon crumble.

Stranded citizens

Most international airlines have suspended flights to airports in the south, leaving hundreds of Yemenis stranded overseas. Mazen Ahmed Ghanem, director general at the Air Transport Authority, said that the closure of the airspace is unjustifiable and called on the president to intervene.

Following an agreement reached between the Yemeni presidency and the Houthis on Wednesday evening, on Thursday morning it appeared that sea and air routes were reopened.

Yet all is not well on the southern streets, and some are in despair believing that the southern voices are being snuffed by political parties chasing their own interests. 

It leaves the idea of a separate state in the south an increasingly likely scenario. All of the events in the north, southern separatist leaders have said, has bolstered the ranks behind their cause and made people see that unity with the north is no longer a possible option for the future.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Al Araby Al Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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