South Yemen: De Facto Secession on the Ground

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Yemeni supporters of the separatist Southern Movement take part in a demonstration following the Friday prayers on January 23, 2015 in the southern city of Aden to demand renewed independence of the South. AFP

By: Salah al-Saqladi

Published Friday, January 30, 2015

The deteriorating situation in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, has increased the determination of southern Yemenis to reclaim their former state, South Yemen, which collapsed in 1990. The southern state sought by the southerners is gradually becoming a de facto reality on the ground. This is occurring irrespective of foreign support from regional forces, which some consider a factor and others consider insubstantial.

Aden — Since the end of the war that foiled the unity project in the summer of 1994, the South has tirelessly demanded its independence from the North, which won the war, excluding the South from the political process in Sanaa. The South expressed its demands through a peaceful uprising known as the “Southern Movement.” These demands were stepped up after the deterioration of the situation in Sanaa, followed by an almost complete political deadlock there.

After the recent events in the Yemeni capital and the resignation of Yemeni President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi and his government, the South began to threaten secession from the North. Manifestations of the southern state started to appear in Aden and other cities. All institutions in Aden, al-Makla, and other southern governorates now have local administrations independent from the decision center in Sanaa. Also, Aden International Airport has now come under the jurisdiction of the local authorities in the city, who decide on its closure and control local and international air traffic, despite the complicated administrative process and its technical interdependence with the capital.

The city’s main port — the free-trade and investment zone, run by southern figures for almost two years — is no longer under the authority of Sanaa. This was achievable because the port, like other vital facilities in Aden, has a database and extensive expertise passed on from the former southern state, in addition to a highly experienced and competent administration and staff. The local authorities and the port’s administration began negotiations with international operating companies, after the withdrawal of DP World — an Emirati marine terminal operator — a year-and-a-half ago. The local authorities are starting to behave like an independent sovereign state.

To reinforce their position and control over this vital resource, the heads of oil and gas companies in Aden and Hadhramaut announced on Wednesday that citizens in Aden, Hadhramout, and the neighboring governorates have no reason to worry about a potential gas crisis. The presence of Aden Refinery Company (ARC), the renowned oil refinery in Aden, is reassuring to oil and gas companies in the South. ARC continues to operate normally, despite the fuel shortages suffered in some governorates, a week after the tribes of the southern governorate of Shabwa were informed that oil pumping would cease in solidarity with the former president, according to a tribal statement.

In other major facilities in Aden and al-Makla — the largest cities of the southern governorate of Hadhramout, which is rich in resources — the situation is similar and moving toward the establishment of an independent state. Over the period of two months, state-owned and private banks have accumulated large financial and investment reserves. Moreover, the salaries of government employees have become largely independent, although many resources still go to Sanaa, in addition to other bank transactions. As for schools and universities, they have become locally administered, at least at the elementary and secondary levels.

It is evident that the South is laying the foundations for an independent state at the political and security levels. This is accompanied by diligent activity by the popular security committees (affiliated with former president Hadi) in the capital of the South, Aden, and in al-Makla, where these committees now have the upper hand in matters regarding security administration. The committees patrol the roads and streets with light and medium-sized weapons, and took over the main security headquarters in the city and its suburbs. This comes amid an almost complete absence of official security and military units.

Serving as further evidence that security is being handled solely by the southerners, and that the security and even military bodies support the southern demand for independence, southern flags were raised over security and government headquarters, and over some military bases, most recently Brigade 201 Mika in Lahaj Governorate (north of Aden) in the Radfan region, as a sign of support for the “Southern Movement.”

On the political level, and in a similar move, it was announced on Sunday that the Southern Movement factions formed a broad national southern committee in Aden. They elected Abdul Rahman al-Jafri, head of the League of Southerners Party, as president, and a number of figures representing components of this committee as members, to coordinate the management of the upcoming political phase in the South.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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