By Owei Lakemfa
YEMEN was the most developed part of the Arab region about 630 AD when Prophet Mohammed (SAW) sent his cousin Ali to its capital Sana’a. Today, it is not only the poorest in the region but perhaps the most devastated and certainly, the deadliest place on earth.
The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, ACLED, which has compiled the most detailed figures of deaths in the country showed that in 2015, when the Saudi Arabia-United Arab Emirates, UAE, dominated Arab coalition began its invasion of Yemen, 17,100 Yemenis were killed. The following year 15,100 were murdered while in 2017, 16,800 were killed. In 2018, which the Acled described as “the war’s deadliest and most violent year on record 30,800 were massacred” while by July this year, 11,900 had been sent to early graves.
This makes it a total 91,700 Yemenis killed within the last four years! The report showed that 67 per cent of the fatalities were from the Saudi-UAE Coalition which bombs markets, social gatherings, hospitals, schools and buses; while 16 per cent is by Houthis and those aligned to them.
The war has led to 22 million Yemenis or three-thirds of the population is malnourished and in need of food assistance, and between eight and 10 million going hungry daily. All efforts by the same part of the world to bring the conflict to an end or at least protect the civilian population has failed. For the invaders, food is a potent weapon of war, and the Yemeni populace can be starved to submission.
Contemporary Yemen until 1990, was two countries: Northern and Southern Yemen. After the merger into a united republic, it was led by Ali Abdullah Saleh as President. In 2011, mass protests broke out against hunger, poverty, mass unemployment, corruption and attempts by Saleh to make himself life president. He was forced to step down in 2012 and Vice President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi replaced him.
The protests were fertile grounds for the Houthis (Shiites) who had fought against their repression. In September 2014, with the assistance of fighters loyal to former President Saleh, they seized Sana’a. President Hadi, who was detained in the aftermath of the coup, escaped south and established a government in Aden.
The supposed goals of the Saudi-UAE invaders included the reunification of Yemen, restoration of the so-called “internationally recognised government” of Hadi and the return of the Sunnis to power. But in a turn of events, the supporters of the invading forces turned the guns on themselves. While Saudi Arabia still seems to hold onto those goals, the UAE has other ideas: to split the country and replace Hadi with a pro-UAE government.
On Wednesday, August 7, former Minister Hani Bin Braik who is deputy leader of the Southern Transitional Council, STC, ordered his troops to remove President Hadi. Three days later, the Security Belt, part of the estimated 90,000 separatist militia trained and funded by the UAE, made a bid for power, seizing public institutions, military barracks, including the Fourth Brigade and the Tarek Military Camp and the Presidential Palace.
With that, the pro-Saudi President Hadi was once again, on the run. His government issued a statement that: “What is happening in the temporary [government] capital of Aden by the Southern Transitional Council is a coup against institutions of the internationally recognised government.”
The objective of the coup plotters is to separate the South from the rest of Yemen, not to reunite the country. So they will have no basis to fight the Houthis and other Yemeni groups in the North unless the latter seek to reunite Yemen.
The unyielding Arab coalition that has led to the loss of almost 100,000 lives in Yemen, is in disarray and would need to first seek out itself before continuing the genocide. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are very close allies who had funded the establishment of the Islamic State, ISIS, before that body took a life of its own, and like a mad dog, had to be put down. They are allies in wrecking Syria and funding the terrorist and rebel groups there.
They were united in suppressing the mass pro-democracy movement in Bahrain and ensuring that the minority monarchy continues its dictatorial rule. In this instance, Saudi Arabia sent troops to physically eliminate demonstrators in Bahrain. Both countries are at the forefront of trying to squelch tiny Qatar, including imposing food embargo on the people.
The two countries are allied with Israel in the Middle East to check countries that may not fall in line with them. Both are strong allies of America and perhaps the biggest importers of arms in the region. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have so many secrets and common traits that they will strenuously avoid a conflict. But that is not to say, in the Yemeni matter, the former does not feel quite hurt.
Already, ousted President Hadi is in that country, and the Saudis would have to decide what to do with him, especially if they cannot readily get him reinstated.
Meanwhile, the UAE is trying to mollify its big brother. On Monday, it sent Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to meet Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Nahyan, after the meeting, “affirmed that the UAE and Saudi Arabia called on conflicting Yemeni parties to prioritize dialogue and reason for the interest of Yemen and its people”. He also said both countries will “adamantly confront any and all powers that threaten the safety and security of the region”. I am sure the Saudis are not taken in by the UAE’s antics in Yemen.
The rich Emirates’ steps are quite predictable: they want land, especially to expand their tourism base, and eye the lands in South Yemen just as they want to buy up part of Somalia. The first indication of the UAE’s territorial ambition in Yemen was on April 30, 2018.
On that day, without prior consultation, it landed troops and military hardware in the Yemeni archipelago of Socotra, forced the Yemeni administration out, seized the airport and seaports and hoisted its flag. The Aden coup may be a prelude to taking over other Yemeni lands. It appears the UAE’s preference is to promote conflict as it is presently doing in Libya, and seek to benefit from it.
While the UAE is busy playing with fire across the world, it may irritate the huge crocodile in the Arabia Peninsula which may react. Whatever the case, the actions of the UAE may give the rest of Yemen a rest from the ceaseless massacres it is being subjected to. Much would-be praying in prostrate Yemen that the Saudi-UAE coalition should no longer enjoy peace so the Yemenis can live.