30 years after unification, Yemen slides into fragmentation

By Jaled Abdala

Sanaa, May 21 (efe-epa).- Thirty years after the reunification of north and south Yemen, the Arab country is sliding into fragmentation and chaos as a result of a bitter, multifaceted armed conflict riddled with regional interference.

In April, southern separatists declared self-rule, breaking the fragile pact with the Yemeni government, which is based in the coastal city of Aden, ousted from the capital Sana’a by Houthi rebels.

“We’re making every effort to re-establish the state and put an end to the coup and the rebellion in all its forms, in the north and in the south,” Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the internationally- recognized president said in a speech from the Saudi capital Riyadh on Thursday.

Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia when the Iran-aligned Houthis took over the capital and much of the country’s northeast in 2015. His government moved to Aden, headquarters of the secessionist Southern Transitional Council, which tried to take over the city’s institutions last year.

“We will not let anyone lead the country towards partition, division, chaos, violence or terrorism,” he said.

On May 22, 1990, pro-Western North Yemen and pro-Soviet South Yemen merged to form the Republic of Yemen.

But tensions between the two regions continued to simmer, with leaders in the south alleging marginalization by the central government. It boiled over with an unsuccessful attempt by southern leaders to split from the north, sparking a civil war in 1994.

The movement had a resurgence in 2007 but it was not until 2015, when it got the backing of the United Arab Emirates, that it started operating in Yemen under the leadership of the Saudi-led coalition, the main backer of the Hadi government.

“The one Yemen that we knew over the past 30 years is no longer present, but there is another Yemen that is forming and until this moment its features are still not complete, will it be one Yemen or more?” Nabil al-Bukairi, the director of the Istanbul-based al-Mandab Center of Regional Studies, told Efe.

For him, neither a return to unity in its old form nor separation are good options.

“A united cultural identity is still standing and will not end, but the problem now is political identity, which is being contested,” he added.

Ahmed bin Daghr, a southern politician and former prime minister, agrees.

He said in a statement marking the unity anniversary that a federal Yemen could survive.

“There is one way that we restore our right to survival as a people, a community, an identity and one country, which is to reject partition,” Bin Daghr, who is now an advisor to president Hadi, said

“For Yemen to remain united can correct all the imbalances, including those that we could inherit from these wars,” he added.

The armed conflict and human suffering crisis of the last five years has overshadowed any unification celebrations today in Yemen.

According to the United Nations, Yemenis are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world.

Amid a fragile ceasefire between Hadi’s troops and the Houthis and fresh calls for southern separatism, some Yemenis are clinging onto the idea of unity.

Nasser Abdu-Rabbeh, a shop owner who is originally from al-Baydha province bordering the southern Abyan province, says the Yemeni reunification was the greatest achievement for Yemenis.

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