By Fernando Carvajal
Attempts to merely appease parties involved in the armed conflict of 2011 fail to address root causes of ongoing conflicts and completely ignore the plight of southerners, said Mr. Qassem Askar, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of the Peaceful Southern Movement, in Aden.
During a brief interview with southern activists in Aden, Mr. Askar and Radfan Saeed Saleh expressed their dissatisfaction with Sana’a’s approach to restructuring of the military, a central issue for southerners since the start of their uprising in 2007. The Southern Movement (Hirak) merely see a reshuffle of northern military officers in order to maintain a balance among northern centers of power, tribes or political parties. While some officers are of southern origin, Hirak dismisses their inclusion as mere window dressing, since real power remains in hands of commanders loyal to the main stake holders, Gen. Ali Muhsin and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Radfan Saeed Saleh, a young member of Hirak from al-Dhalae, warned that continued neglect of southern grievances by Sana’a will simply add to the list of reasons people continue demanding secession under the banner of “Liberation and Self-Determination”. Presidential decrees remain ill received in the south as they fail to address any issue other than the power struggle between northern centers of power. Divisions within Hirak in turn are blurred when the street rallies against Sana’a under one voice. As people rally together under one slogan, leaders begin to feel the pressure to escalate beyond calls for demonstrations and weekly sit-ins. A failure to address this situation may increase occurrences of armed clashes in southern cities.
In Sana’a, many still remain pessimistic about the aftermath following implementation of presidential decrees. One Yemeni expert insider questioned the wisdom behind creating seven new regional commands as the National Dialogue conference begins. He asked “how can the country be divided into seven military regions if we don’t know how the State will look like after the Dialogue. Has it already been decided?”. This question referenced the ongoing debate over constitutional reform as part of the transition period, and comes at a time when the idea of establishing a federal system gains momentum among the political elite. How will the seven military commands fit a political entity different than the existing Republic?
Other questions rise from analysis of the presidential decree of April 10th concerning security and order nationwide. Does the reshuffling of military officers contribute to stability or increase insecurity in vulnerable areas around the country? Yemeni political observers fail to see the long-term contribution of such moves to stability around the country. Also, gains in popular support granted to president Hadi may be lost if more bold decisions are deferred while traditional centers of power secure their long term interests. In the mean time ordinary people experience deteriorating security and a deepening economic crisis.