Thu - 18 May 2023 - 04:12 AM

written by : * Bassam Al-Qadi Writer Archive -

From May 4th to May 8th, 2023, a consultative meeting was held in Aden, where 230 delegates from all eight governorates came together to engage in intense discussions. The attendees represented over 30 political, social, tribal, military, and civil society organizations. The result of the meeting was the signing of the Southern National Charter and other significant documents, such as a political vision for the current phase, guidelines for future political negotiations, and principles for establishing a Southern Federal State in the future.

During the Southern Consultative Meeting, the attendees emphasized the importance of honoring the Southern people's desire for independence, freedom, and the re-establishment of their own sovereign state. They called upon Arab nations, the regional community, and the international community to acknowledge and respect these aspirations.

According to Yahya bin Afrar, a member of the Southern Dialogue Team abroad, the current meeting is a continuation of discussions that have been taking place for the last two years. He emphasized that the Aden consultative meeting, which concluded with the signing of the Southern National Charter, is just one stage in the dialogue process. This was reiterated by the President of the Southern Transitional Council and Vice President of the Political Leadership Council, Aidarous Al-Zubaidi during the opening and closing sessions.

The gathering was deemed as a hopeful occasion that united different groups by Dr. Aidarous Al-Yahari, the leader of the Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation and Independence of Southern Yemen. He expressed his positive outlook toward the future of Southern Yemen and its cause. Dr. Al-Yahari, who is also a respected professor at the University of Aden, stressed the significance of solidarity in attaining a liberated South and urged the attendees to make the most out of this opportunity.

In the interviews with conference leaders, they revealed a common aspiration to restore the former state of South Yemen within its pre-1990 borders. Their main goal in attending the conference was to develop a unified vision for achieving this objective, which includes the establishment of a future federal state. They plan to take the lead in negotiations with the regional and international community to demonstrate the unity of the Southern cause and the joint demand of the Southern people against local and regional forces that claim the Southerners are divided.

A statement from prominent southern politician and president of the Southern Democratic Assembly (Taj), Galal Abbadi confirms that all factions share a common goal: liberation and independence. He urged Southerners from all factions to seize the current opportunity, as this phase is a sensitive one with international and regional changes. Abbadi hopes that all factions, including those who did not participate in the dialogue, will join in building the foundations of their future state. "These are historical moments that must be utilized well", he added.

Abadi, is optimistic that the consultative meeting will mark the start of a new chapter, leading toward fresh ideas and new horizons. The goal is to reduce the amount of time we've lost in our struggles and in our lives. Currently, our top priority is to address the citizens' concerns and ease their dire situation. This work takes precedence, and we aim to participate and contribute to it, according to Abadi's statement.

Aidarous Qasim Al-Zubaidi, the President of the Southern Transitional Council and Vice President of the Presidential Leadership Council attended the Southern National Charter's signing ceremony. His speech emphasized the significance of that day, saying, "This day will be remembered as a significant milestone in the Southern people's struggle to regain their state. The dialogue will remain open for anyone interested in joining the ranks and contributing to the desired Southern Federal State's development and it's essential to recognize that this phase is critical, filled with significant events and changes that will shape the future of our region. To meet its magnitude and challenges, we must remain vigilant against any attempts to scatter efforts and waste energy in marginal disagreements. The Southern Transitional Council reaffirms its support for the efforts of its brothers in the Arab coalition led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the international community led by the United Nations, in their pursuit to end the war and achieve peace."

Al-Zubaidi also emphasized the crucial importance of the Southern community in finding a solution and maintaining long-lasting peace. However, he also made it clear that the Southern people will not tolerate any political, economic, or military actions that compromise their cause and national interests.

The President of the Southern Peaceful Movement and former Minister of Justice, Ali Haitham Al-Ghareeb, affirms the unity of Southerners in their cause. Although there are factions with distinct visions and programs, they are all eager to present their ideas at the dialogue table. He stresses that the consultative meeting was inclusive, with no discrimination among the attendees. Some expressed their inability to attend, but there are common grounds that we should build upon to achieve unity within the Southern front.

Al-Ghareeb encourages everyone who was previously absent or unable to participate to come together to the same table. It's important to leave the past behind and move forward toward a better future. By interacting and setting goals, we can send a message to both present and future generations emphasizing the importance of living without violence or exclusion.

The recommendations made by the participants and included in the new Southern National Charter stressed the importance of preserving the culture and heritage of Al-Mahrah and Socotra governorates, as well as recognizing the authenticity of Mahri and Socotri languages as official southern languages. Emphasis was also placed on empowering and prioritizing the youth and women sectors, as they are viewed as the foundation of society and its future. The charter will uphold women's rights and give them the right to equally participate in all aspects of life. Moreover, achieving national partnership in political decision-making and in the institutions and facilities of the federal southern state, taking into account population, territory, and economic capabilities, was highlighted as significant.

Ahmed Al-Tarbahe, the spokesperson for the General Council of the Sons of Mahra and Socotra, said that southern factions and residents are committed to achieving unity and resolving disputes. Together, they are working towards a shared vision of progress. Al-Tarbahe emphasized the importance of all Southerners, both within and outside South Yemen's borders, participating in this journey towards a safe and prosperous future. He likens the South to a single ship in need of collective effort to reach its destination.

He stated that the diversity and variation within the southern cause actually benefit it rather than harms it. The wide range of opinions reflects the culture of the southern people, who are accepting of each other regardless of their positions of power, opposition, or political affiliations. It is crucial to note that progress is being made, and it is hoped that those who are falling behind will eventually join in on the ongoing dialogue.

When asked about the current status of the southern issue, Amr Al-Bayd, the Special Representative for the President of the Southern Transitional Council for Foreign Affairs, and recently appointed as a member of the newly restructured STC presidency leadership, stated that there has been significant progress made internally due to a strong consensus among various factions towards a specific and defined objective. He highlighted the collective vision and unity among Southerners who were present at the conference and are committed to the idea of establishing a southern state. He emphasized that disagreements and minor details can be resolved through the National Charter and other agreements.

The leader of the internal Southern National Dialogue team, Abdulnasser Al-Ajari, has declared that the primary goal of the Southern gathering, which includes different factions, is to establish a common vision among all Southerners to bring together their national objectives. This gathering aims to showcase to the world that the Southerners are united in their pursuits. Although Mr. Al-Ajari acknowledged that there are forces attempting to create division and conflict between southerners but he remains resolute in advancing toward the formation of a federal southern state.

"We share a common goal and that's why we have joined forces under this framework to communicate to the public our unified vision. Our Southern National Charter is supported by all political forces and components. It's important to note that in addition to the charter, there are three key elements that should be considered. First, the major guidelines for establishing a federal southern state. Second, the negotiation strategies for the South. And finally, managing the current phase and its objectives until we achieve liberation and independence. The events unfolding in the capital, Aden, validate the Southern Transitional Council's dedication to dialogue and its commitment to partnering with all Southern forces and components to safeguard our people's rights and preserve their accomplishments. Our call for ongoing dialogue with all parties, without exception, remains steadfast and unwavering, as we firmly believe in this approach. We trust that everyone involved is equally responsible and willing to engage in constructive dialogue. Furthermore, the Southern Transitional Council has dedicated significant efforts and extensive activities across various levels and domains over the past five years. It has achieved numerous accomplishments and established a solid institutional structure to carry the aspirations of our people, manage their affairs, and protect their gains. We are committed to fulfilling their aspirations."

The draft of the Southern National Charter was signed by more than 30 political factions, Southern tribal, social, and military forces, syndicates, and civil society organizations. The prominent signatories included the Southern Transitional Council, the Council of the Southern Movement, the Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Movement, the Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of the South, the General Council of Mahra and Socotra, the Bloc of Hadramaut Tribes for the South and Hadramaut, the Southern National Council, the Hadrami Uprising, the Comprehensive Conference of Shabwah Sons, the Cairo Conference Group, the Southern Popular Assembly, the Alliance of Popular National Forces, Sheikhs, and Sultans, the Southern Democratic Assembly "Taj," the Arab Southern Crown "Taj Al-Janoub," the Union of Southern Youth, the Liberation Front Party, the Organization of Martyrs' Children and Fighters of October 14th, the Sons of the Arab South, the Supreme Military Council, the Leadership Committee of the Southern Socialist Party, the Abyan Gathering, the Youth and Student Movement, the Southern Judges Club, the Southern Resistance Council, the Supreme Coordinating Council for Associations, The Forced Retirees, Military, Civil, and Creative Individuals organization, the Southern Popular Movement Assembly, the Comprehensive Aden Conference, the General Union of Southern Syndicates, the Preparatory Committee for the Southern Popular Conference, Southern Reconciliation and Tolerance, the Southern Lawyers' Syndicate, the Union of Southern Writers and Authors, the National Independence Committee, the Southern Shariah Council, and the Southern Green Party.

The Southern National Dialogue Team's official spokesperson, Mr. Nasr Harharh, reported that over 225 delegates attended the Southern Consultative Meeting for Southern Political and Social Forces. The selection of attendees was based on national representation, taking into account the area and population of the eight southern provinces. The Hadhramaut Governorate was represented by 66 delegates, while Aden Governorate had 60 delegates due to their geopolitical importance and density of political leadership. Moreover, there were 25 delegates from Abyan, 22 from Shabwah, 22 from Lahj, 16 from Al-Mahra, 7 from Socotra, and 5 delegates from Al-Dhalea.

The Southern Consultative Meeting released a final statement, urging southern factions who did not attend the meeting to join the signatories of the Southern National Charter. The statement highlighted the need for a language of dialogue in southern society to bridge political differences and promote civility. It called for reconciliation, tolerance, and continued dialogue among all parties, while recognizing the sacrifices made by their people and the Southern Armed Forces. The statement recommended strengthening capacities and providing care and attention to the families of martyrs and the wounded. It emphasized the importance of rejecting revenge, tribal conflicts, and foreign influences that are not compatible with southern society. The statement stressed the need for precise and balanced media discourse to enhance unity and cohesion within the southern social fabric.

While Southerners celebrated the Southern Consultative Meeting and National Charter as a momentous occasion in the South's history for the first time since the North Yemeni forces' invasion of the South in 1994, various individuals from political, and civil groups in North Yemen voiced their opposition to the meetings. The Houthis called it "an STC coup against the Republic of Yemen", while Islah media and activists called it "a Saudi-Emirati supported coup by the transitional government in Aden against the battle to restore the state".

On May 22, 1990, the Republic of Yemen was formed through the voluntary unification of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen in the South and the Yemen Arab Republic in the North. However, the unity agreement was short-lived as North Yemen went back on its commitment, prompting the South to withdraw from the union. War broke out between Sana'a and Aden, ultimately resulting in a northern military occupation of Aden and the South in July 1994.

* Bassam Al-Qadi is a scientific researcher and journalist covering environmental, humanitarian, and political issues in South Yemen.

This article was originally published by the American Center for South Yemen Studies. The views expressed in the article represent the author alone.