Southern identity and new concepts of fragmentation

National Yemen

Yaseen Al-Tamimi

By Yaseen Al-Tameemi

In a meeting between southern Yemeni leaders and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Abdulatif Al-Zayani in Riyadh on December 18th, a new political fissure and concept appeared. More recently, the concept has seen wide usage in political speeches and in the Yemeni media. The concepts concern the notion of a separate Hadhrami nation, one which inevitably pits Hadhrami identity against the separatist Southern Movement.

These new concepts have shocked those involved with the southern cause, and Southern Movement (or ‘Herak’) followers in particular. The Southern Movement had fancied that its case for separation would be resolved by way of achieving separation from north Yemen. It now faces a new push for separation among its ranks: that of the push for a Hadhrami nation.

It’s not about sanctifying concepts and constants; unity, if it’s not associated with the complete satisfaction and acceptance of all Yemeni people, will be a source of problems. If there is satisfaction and acceptance on all sides, nothing will hinder unity.

It hasn’t been surprising to hear what certain southern political leaders have said. As a result of military force, and following the uniting of north and south Yemen, a number of political entities disappeared. These entities have not given up the possibility of returning Yemen’s geography to what it was five decades ago. Yemen was brimming with chiefdoms and sultanates – and even British protectorates, as was brought up at the Riyadh meeting. Nothing but Yemen’s unity and faith in a single nation hindered the will of sultans and chiefs.

Unity is now under discussion and demands for separation from the north have meanwhile escalated. These demands have taken on new, distinct dimensions in southern governorates; in some areas, demands have taken on a fierce tone. Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh succeeded in using authoritarian means to destroy the foundation of unity: as a result, the South’s legacy continues to be full of bad memories which could be employed to fragment southern geography.

Southern leaders shouldn’t fancy that they are at a political picnic which will end with the flag of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen flying in the sky, meanwhile bathed in the light of conflicts between southern leaders and in the presence of the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Yet there is no picnic to attend, and southern leaders do in fact face challenges, fragmentation and numerous ruptures, exposed by the spectacle of conflicts between southern leaders and yes, in the presence of the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council. At the same time, now is hardly the time for northern leaders to take national unity for granted.

The only assurances of unity’s protection are dependent on a stimulation of goodwill of the part of benevolent citizens in both south and north Yemen. In addition, efforts to maintain unity should be supplemented with genuine fraternal support by neighboring countries. Abdulatif Al-Zayani has expressed that it is still possible to reestablish Yemen’s unity, by forging a nation based on an equal partnership. The nation should also adopt the precepts of a civil state, based on freedom, equal citizenship and, most importantly, the sovereignty of the law.

What we are witnessing today is nothing but a bitter harvest of bad practices which dominated the actions and mentality of ruling political elites in Yemen over the last five decades. Then there’s the elite’s dependency on regional and international powers. It’s time to re-establish Yemen as a responsible, citizen-central country, with guarantees of dignified lives for all Yemen’s people.

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