Local News Political Analysis

Dreams of South Yemeni Separation Remain Far-Fetched


Events in Yemen reached an unprecedented extreme, and the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has repeatedly said that any ideas for  complete separation will not feasible, because the of South will be likely be divided into several states.

The first three years of unification witnessed arguments as well as political assassinations of southern and northern leaders. There were   military tensions during that period and former president Ali Salem al-Beidh refused to form a meaningful part of a unity government in Sana’a and started acting as he was representing an independent state.
These events led to total war, which ended with the victory of forces of the so-called legitimacy, headed by Saleh, and the escape of al-Beidh to neighboring Oman.

After achieving  reunification on July 7th, 1994 Saleh became Yemen’s president after he was the Chairman of the Presidency in October 1994, and Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the new vice-president of Yemen.


Ali Abdullah Saleh adopted the choice of quasi-democracy relatively early and became the first President of the Yemen to be elected by the Yemeni people in 1999.

Saleh enrolled in elections in September 22, 1999 against a single candidate after the parliament rejected all other candidates before finally Najib Qahtan the popular son of southern president’s Qahtan al-Sha’abi, who was a member of the General People’s Congress and split to run against Saleh.

Despite the amendments to the constitution in 2003 and considering Saleh current as his first term, which gives him the right to run for a second term of seven years, president Saleh announced in a ceremony marking the anniversary of the twenty-seventh year of his power that he would not run for the upcoming presidential election on 22 September 2006, and his declaration resulted in state of high tension.

Massive protests and campaigns came out to collect signatures for him to run, as part of what the opposition considered a political theater designed to mobilize popular support for Saleh.

Also, opposition demonstrations looked with doubt at his professed intention not to run for a new term, but the issue remained delicate, where he could at any moment reverse his decision, especially since his party expressed its strong attachment to his candidacy for the presidency of the forthcoming elections and the opposition did not provide any candidate.

In the Extraordinary Conference of the GPC Saleh announced on June 21, 2006 that his decision was not a political theater, and he is serious in its intention not to run for the forthcoming elections and his party has to find a candidate as his replacement.

This announcement created a state of temporary shock, as elections would be held in three months, and the Yemenis do not yet know who their presidential candidates were to be.

Saleh were not just to his elusive allies

After almost thirty-three years of governance, Saleh has lost one of the most important and most prominent allies and pillars of his rule.

Two years ago, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmar, the most prominent ally of President Saleh died, during a falling out with Saleh in which the latter attacked him and his sons in a famous article in the al-Mithaq newspaper, accusing the al-Ahmar family of being an “empire” and of being agents for Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar, who stood by him along his presidency, did not forgive him until he came and apologized personally at the sheikh’s home, but after al-Ahmar’s death his ten sons shifted and became the political opponents of the President.

At the end of nineties a number of military commanders were killed in a vague incident, among them Major Mohammed Ismail, as a helicopter taking them to Hadrmawt exploded minutes after it takeoff.

Major General Ahmed Faraj, another of the victims, had been appointed commander of the Eastern region, and Ismail Abu Houria who was a popular figure in the Eastern Province and South.

Also former President Ali Nasser who had sought asylum in the North after the events of 1986, suspected that the Sana’a and Baghdad regimes were most likely involved in a coalition with al-Beidh in 1989, who was expelled from Yemen and isolated from his allies.

He was subjected to two assassination attempt especially after his rising popularity in the southern streets and after becoming their symbol after his initial calls for reconciliation and tolerance.

Some believe that President Saleh has involved Major General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in the Sa’ada wasr against Houthis in six battles to get rid of him politically and to show that he is responsible for the excessive bloodshed during the war.

Ali Mohsen was known as a strong man and through his control of the armored division, and it was widely speculated that the recurring wars were a means of exhausting his strength and that of his fellow, sympathetic officers.

It is said that Saleh to leaked information to the Americans that Ali Mohsen sponsored terrorism through his history and relationship with  Salafi groups, much as he did through rumors about Sheikh Tareq al-Fadhli as a member of al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad in Yemen.