As I predicted, the initiative proposed by the U.N. Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Sheikh, for ending the conflict in Yemen, which was approved by all parties, had its first test of 48-hours ceasefire.
Despite criticism from major parties in the legitimate government, I still believe it is a good initiative. But, I doubt it will be successful, and not because President Hadi’s supporters condemned it, but because the insurgency will thwart it.
The truce ensures the legitimacy of the regime, the insurgents handing their heavy weapons, and leaving the capital and major cities. In return, a moderate vice president, who is agreed upon by all, is assigned with most of the president’s capacities transferred to him.
The insurgency renounced most of its major demands. Initially, it wanted President Abed Rabbuh Mansour Hadi ousted, to keep its weapons, consider the militias part of the state, and keep control over areas it has occupied. All those demands were dropped.
What the insurgents gained was that the initiative didn’t abolish their existence, promised their participation in the government and didn’t force them to hand over their light weapons, given that most Yemenis were armed even before the war.
As for why President Hadi’s team objected to the truce plan, it seems to me there are two reasons. First, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a mistake when he didn’t directly contact Hadi and depended on sending messages with others, which Kerry apologized for.
The other reason, I think that Hadi considered granting most of his capacities to the vice president will override him. The truth is that the president knows, before anyone else, that Yemeni parties and allies were determined to keep him in power despite the tough situation. They went into war to preserve the state’s entity and the political system that was agreed upon Yemenis and under direct sponsorship of the U.N.
Regarding Hadi’s position as a head of state, it is a temporary two-year term pending elections. From the coup’s onset, former president Ali Abdallah Saleh and Houthis bargained to exclude Hadi from the political scene, but all sides held onto him as a symbol of the legitimacy. The new initiative keeps him as president.
We know that president’s prerogatives are few because the government is still of exile despite its return to Aden. The country is in a largescale war that paralyzed all state institutions.
The president’s powers will remain limited even after the war is over, that is if the initiative was successful in achieving peace. There will be no efficient government until the constitution is redrafted and elections are held.
Therefore, President Hadi will not lose some of his prerogatives even after some of them are transferred to the vice-president, because by remaining in his position, the insurgency will fail to achieve its primary condition to remove Hadi from power.
Civil wars often end with reconciliation, or fighters continue to fight until they are tired and the country is torn apart.
Afghanistan is similar to Yemen geographically and socially. The U.S has been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for over 15 years. The super power couldn’t end the war despite its capabilities and despite the military coalition joining the battle, not because it is difficult for the Americans to eliminate their opponents but because all parties should come under the umbrella of the central authority.
The two-year war in Yemen was very tough on everyone. Yemen was rescued from the insurgency’s full control. Hadn’t it been for the military intervention, the country would have fallen under Iranian influence and would have turned into an arena for long-lasting tribal and regional conflicts.
Legitimacy was maintained, despite no longer having any presence in Yemen. It was transferred to Saudi Arabia and gained international diplomatic support. A huge war was waged for its sake where over half of the Yemeni territories were liberated and legitimacy was restored.
Both parties can go on fighting for another 15 years, but what for? Insurgents wanted to try their luck in unilateral rule, and they failed. They were part of the government before the coup. Accepting the initiative means handing over their heavy weapons, emptying the cities and engaging with a government under Hadi’s rule, which implies they lost weapons’ bet.
Those who are against Saleh supporters and Houthis’ participation in decision-making and consider it a betrayal of their sacrifices are wrong. There is never a pledge to deny opponents participation in the political process, and this was never the goal of the war.
The aim is the return of the legitimate government, which they were part of. They paid a heavy price for their coup, and so did the Yemeni people.
The aim of the war is to achieve peace and not eliminate one another. Let’s hope this initiative is a successful one so that blood shedding ends and stability is restored to Yemen.