By Benjamin Jury
A few months ago, I wrote an article detailing the dire situation in Yemen following both the Houthi (Believing Youth) uprising in the north and the Southern Movement in the country’s south. Since then, the situation has gone from bad to worse.
Houthi forces, led by Abdul Malik al-Houthi (the brother of the group’s namesake), have successfully taken over much of the state apparatus in Yemen in the past few months. Advancing south at a rapid pace, Houthi rhetoric was heralded by Yemeni citizens (mostly Zaydi Shi’a) with support against the indifference and impotence of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government.
At the same time, the secessionist movement in the country’s south has gained steam, increasing its own gains with the help of Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). The government, disinterested in the plight of southerners being exploited for their oil resources, lacked credibility in the eyes of many southerners. This disrespect and indifference towards the southern population prompted an on-going movement against the establishment.
Early this year, the Houthi insurgency forced Prime Minister Mohammed Basindawa to resign from office after the group took Sana’a by force. Just last week, the Houthis took control of the presidential palace. With Yemeni government officials resigning en masse and the Hadi’s influence dwindling, the Houthis have effectively taken over Northern Yemen. The separatists, on the other hand, have raised the flag of South Yemen (from the pre-republic period of Yemeni history) and taken control of the port city of Aden in the south.
With the situation growing more and unstable by the minute, compromise or intervention in the region is essential to preventing outright chaos like that found in Libya today. Yet with Saudi threatening to cut off financial support until the political situation stabilizes and the US closing its embassy amidst continued drone strikes against AQAP, however, it appears both East and West have written Yemen off as a lost cause, even though both spheres rely heavily on a stable Yemen.
To stabilize their government, Yemen must look within. The Houthis desperately need to consolidate power in the north in order to defeat AQAP’s encroaching threat on the capital. It is imperative the Houthis bring members of the pro-government General People’s Congress that still occupy widespread support in the east and region between Aden and Sana’a to the table. Important too are members of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated al-Islah party that make up a large percentage of the legislature’s minority.
Without meaningful, strategic negotiations between the country’s prominent political parties and the Houthis, there is no hope a peaceful transition. Leaving the power vacuum open in Yemen much longer will certainly spell trouble for Sana’a, Aden, and everyone in between.