Political Analysis

Briefing on Yemen by Special Adviser Benomar

National Yemen

United Nations envoy Jamal bin Omar speaks to the press.

Today (20 June), Council members will be briefed by Jamal Benomar, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen. Benomar, who was in Yemen earlier this month, is expected to brief members on the worsening security situation, the implementation of the national dialogue outcomes and the economic challenges facing Yemen.

With the security situation continuing to deteriorate, Council members will be looking for an assessment from Benomar of whether recent incidents are a sign of serious political instability. According to media reports, on 14 June President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi ordered the removal of heavy weaponry from the outskirts of Sanaa and had troops stationed outside a mosque controlled by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh due to fears of a coup attempt. Earlier, on June 11, Hadi partially reshuffled the cabinet and also ordered the closing down of a television station operated by his own party, the General People’s Congress, yet closely associated with Saleh.

Benomar is also likely to cover the fuel crisis and the blackout on 10 June after armed men in Mareb province sabotaged the power station there. This led to protests in Sanaa the next day. The government has had difficulties paying for the highly subsidised fuel for some time and suggestions that it plans to reduce fuel subsidies has sparked protests in the past. The IMF has offered a $500 million loan if there are cuts to subsidies and spending. While the government has agreed in principle, there are concerns that price hikes could lead to further instability. Some members are likely to focus on the importance of meeting the IMF’s conditions and accelerating economic reforms.

Members will also want to hear more about the attacks over the last two days on military posts in the northern provice of Amran by Shi’a Houthi rebels which broke a ceasefire mediated by Benomar on 4 June. The attack on 18 June killed seven soldiers and 18 rebels according to media reports. Council members may be interested in an assessment of the actions needed for a sustainable ceasefire and in getting a better understanding of the state-within-a-state erected by the Houthis in Saada province. They may also be looking for more information on the government’s campaign against Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula militants in the south of the country which began in April.

Benomar is expected to update Council members on progress in the political transition process in line with the outcome of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC). Members may be interested in Benomar’s views on the Constitutional Drafting Commission’s preliminary text on the economic, social and cultural foundational principles for the new constitution and his impressions of the constitutional drafting process.

There may also be interest in news that a leader of the Southern Movement (Hirak), Brigadier General Nasser Al-Nooba, will meet with representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the coming days. (Hirak is an affiliation of groups which has pushed for greater autonomy in the south.) Although the government on 25 April appointed a national authority for the implementation of the NDC final outcome and a commission was appointed to carry out the NDC recommendation into six federal regions, buy-in from Hirak has been uncertain. Council members will therefore be particularly interested in hearing about Benomar’s meeting with Al-Nooba during his visit to Yemen in early June and his assessment of the prospects of a compromise between the government and the secessionist movement.

Human rights issues and the bleak humanitarian situation might also be discussed. Some Council members may raise the government’s continuing reluctance to address past human rights violations and examine lessons learnt despite prior commitments to do so. These members may urge Benomar to convey the need for the government to form the commission originally intended to address the 2011 human rights violations and set up a Transitional Justice Commission as stipulated in the NDC final document. Accountability regarding past crimes potentially attributable to Saleh, however, has been a difficult issue for the Council, which in resolution 2014 of October 2011, urged all parties to commit to a political settlement on the basis of the GCC implementation initiative notwithstanding the fact that it grants Saleh immunity from prosecution. In addition, some members may want more information about human trafficking in Yemen and detention camps where, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report, African migrants are tortured with the complicity of local officials. Humanitarian issues such as widespread food insecurity and challenges for IDPs, returnees and refugees may also be covered.