By National Yemen Staff
The sixth months of protests by southerners calling for secession are going to end without the achievement of their desires, shouted since 2007.
Actually, the southern issue is still caught in an ebb and flow on the ground. It has also become a stumbling block obstructing the conclusion of the national dialogue, now nearing its final ending.
One reason that the southern issue has become so sticky is that fundamental issues related to the question of the south also impact other key questions of the state: determining the form of the state and the terms of the new constitution are two such examples.
The al-Harak movement currently suffers from internal divisions in its ranks in the national dialogue. These divisions have led to the withdrawal of the President of the Southern Conference, Mohammed Ali Ahmed, and a number of al-Harak representatives, while other parties continue participating in the dialogue.
The president of al-Harak revealed new conditions precipitating its return to the dialogue. In a press conference held in Sana’a, he announced his decision to withdraw from the National Dialogue, and assured that any return to any dialogue in Sana’a will only occur under new conditions, among them the restoration of the southern state before May.
Ben Ali emphasized that the withdrawal of al-Harak from the National Dialogue came after they concluded attempts to improve in-Dialogue relations with the movement, as well as to stop illegal intrusions into the NDC Presidency by the southern component and its representatives. In addition, frustration had developed at southern representatives exploitation of all possible means to promote their cause, including knocking on the doors of all Arab and Western diplomatic missions in Sana’a in hopes of securing their intervention.
Mohammed Ali Ahmed has demanded written guarantees from the international community in the event he returns to any future dialogue to ensure that they are not again exposed to cheating.
Ahmed revealed that consultations had been held with external al-Harak leaders and further explained that the movement had a moral and political commitment to participate in the Dialogue despite the protests of the southern people. Political analysts see the withdrawal maneuver as a propaganda move, taken to settle most of the issues inside the Conference, as only an agreement over the number of Yemen’s new regions still remains.
In a recent statement, political analyst Basam al-Hakimi said that the withdrawal of leader Mohammed Ali Ahmed would not be suitable at this time, particularly seeing as the NDC has already concluded 90% of its responsibilities. Al-Hakimi described Ali Ahmed’s withdrawal as an act of political stupidity.
Political activist Mohammed al-Shamiri views the withdrawal of the of the leader Mohammed Ali Ahmed as a step that may cause his downfall, as it may make it harder for him to find a new role in this troubled phase of the country’s history.
Al-Shamiri added that the withdrawal would only serve to impede the Dialogue and subsequent political settlement in Yemen. This could lead to his being punished, because any entry into the political process would be a de facto recognition of Yemeni unity.
There remains on more chance to resolve the issues of the Southern Issue working group at the Dialogue. A plan has been levied by one of the Southern Issues sub-groups to start meetings with the attendance of the Secretary General Adviser of the United Nations and his Special Envoy to Yemen, Jaman Benomar, to resolve the group’s outstanding issues.
A media source in the National Dialogue has said that a quorum within the subgroup considers this the last chance to reach suitable solutions on the form of the federal state and the number of territories it will contain.
It is expected that the UN envoy will show the representatives of the political forces in the sub-committee known as the Negotiating Committee, or the “8 ×8 group” the recent recommendations of the Security Council and the punishments outlined for those who impede the dialogue or political process.
The mini-committee meeting is very important, especially after changing its representatives from al-Harak, who withdrew from the Dialogue after the departure of their leader, Mohammed Ali Ahmed.
Southern al-Harak in Brief:
Below is a short history of the al-Harak movement. In 2007, Citizens from south Yemen began arranging protests against the central government dominated by northerners beginning. Southerners were also frustrated with the removal of southern members from civil and security groups.
These protests increased in strength in 2008, when more southerners began demanding for the independence of the Yemeni South State that had existed until the achievement of Yemeni unity between the Yemen Arab Republic and Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1990.
Human Rights Watch says that security forces, especially the Yemeni Central Security, committed several violations against the south, such as the unlawful killing, detentions, beating, repression of freedoms of assembly and expression, and the arrest of journalists.
These violations created an atmosphere of fear, and they increased pressure on the Southerners. People of the south began to feel alienated, as though northerners were exploiting them economically and marginalizing them politically.
Therefore, al-Harak intensified its campaign to demand for Independence from the north.
In July 2007, retired soldiers in south Yemen began their protests in Aden and Dalea, where they chanted slogans against the army. In September, three Yemenis were killed and eight wounded in Dalea during clashes between security forces and demonstrators taking part in a sit-in organized by the associations of retired military members.
In November, one person was killed and dozens wounded while the security forces was separating large groups of people. The groups were traveling to participate in a festival arranged by retirees in Aden on the occasion of the southern independence anniversary on November 30.
In April 2008, 12 leader of al-Harak were arrested by security forces. They remained in detention until the former president pardoned them in September. Among the detained leaders were Ahmed bin Farid, Ali al-Grayb, Yahya Ghalib al-Shuaib, Hassen Ba’oom, and others.
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the leaders spent months in a Yemeni political security prison in underground cells before they were tried on vague political charges, like “Inciting to Secession.”