Interviews

Thu - 07 Mar 2019 - 06:19 PM ،،،


 Peace in Yemen is impossible without acknowledgement of southern Yemen’s calls for independence from the north, President of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), Major General Aidroos Al-Zubaidi told British MPs and officials as they step up efforts to be involved in the peace talks.

The south of Yemen was united with the north in 1990 and southern separatists were then beaten militarily when they tried to secede in 1994. Continued southern resentment at the north’s control of the country’s resources, including by the rebel Houthis, is a large undercurrent in the civil war.

The head of the 24-member STC, Maj Gen Aidroos Al-Zubaidi, told the Guardian that his movement represented the bulk of the people in the south, and had far greater control of the south’s eight governorates, including the port city of Aden, than the UN-recognised Yemen government.

“To ignore the will of the people is a recipe for only more instability,” al-Zoubaidi said. “The UN-recognised government has no influence in the south, its role is non-existent and, but for the support of the Saudi coalition, it would have entirely collapsed, plunging the country into complete chaos.”

He said the STC wants to hold a independently monitored referendum to secede from the north and restore the status quo before unification.

Speaking through an interpreter, al-Zubaidi said: “It is not a case of a breakaway. It is two states that became one state, and one of the constituent parts wishes to revert to separation […] It was a unification imposed by two totalitarian regimes, and no one asked the will of the people.”

He added: “After the British left Aden in 1967, we in the south inherited a civil society with systems and structures. It was a diverse, tolerant, cosmopolitan, open society […] After the imposed unity, we faced a society ruled by tribalism, sectarianism, corruption and all the recipes of a failed society. There was a serious political and cultural collision between the south, a fully functioning state, and the north, which was based on tribalism. It was always going to lead to failure.”

Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, has met leaders of the STC four times, al-Zubaidi told the Guardian, but has been reluctant to agree to demands to be formally allowed into the talks at this stage. The task of trying to reconcile the UN-recognised Yemen-wide government and the Houthi forces in charge of the north is his immediate task.

The injection of Yemen’s status as a unified entity would only complicate what is proving to be an uphill negotiation, it is argued. Moreover Griffiths cannot be sure that the STC represents all the Southern governorates.

Al-Zubaidi contended that part of Griffiths’ difficulty is that he is negotiating with a Yemen government that exists only in name. Al-Zubaidi said, by contrast, “we exist on the ground and we are part of any solution”.

Al-Zobaidi told the Guardian: “After the coup and the Houthi occupation of the South, the Arab coalition including the UAE intervened and we supported that because it was necessary. They have played a role in helping the reconstruction of the south. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”

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Originally published by The Guardian on Tue 5 Mar 2019.