Yemen in Focus: UAE wants its $100 million Aden power station back

Yemen in Focus: UAE wants its $100 million Aden power station back
8 min read
22 October, 2019
This week we look at a bizarre move by the UAE in Aden, the end of its Red Crescent programme, Houthi execution and a five-year siege of Taiz.
The upgrade of the power station costed the UAE some $100 million [Getty]

The United Arab Emirates has requested that Yemen returns parts it was gifted to launch a 120-megawatt power station in Aden at a total cost of US $100 million, a document revealed.

The UAE, which has established a presence in the southern provinces during the near-five-year war, requested parts from the Al-Haswa power station in the temporary capital to be returned to the Gulf state, just days after an agreement between Saudi-Emirati allies in the south handed the reins to Saudi Arabia.

"Please cooperate with the Al-Faisal company to smoothly facilitate the removal of the parts related to the turbine station belonging to the United Arab Emirates," the official letter, dated October 20, 2019, says.

Last year, the UAE announced the establishment of the station, powered by one of the world's largest engine, which it said would meet local energy needs, as per the Gulf state's programme in the war-torn country.

"The power station will add a significant value to the energy infrastructure in Aden and neighbouring governorates," Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Al Maisari said at the time.

Yemen's vice minister of electricity and energy Mubarak Al-Tamimi had also praised the move, which was funded by the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation and backed by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.

"It is not surprising because the Emirati brothers' blood was mixed with the blood of our Yemeni people. They have always stood with Yemen and supported us in different fields," Al-Tamimi said last year.


But as expected, the move to retrieve the vital parts at the Al-Haswa power station was both condemned and mocked by Yemenis.

"The UAE has asked Yemen to return a gift it presented to Yemen. Next they will ask to scratch off all its paint off the walls," one Twitter user said.

"When will they return what they took from us in Socotra?" another user asked.

The controversial move came after reports confirmed the UAE and Saudi Arabia have come to an agreement in the south after weeks of tension saw the two allies face off on the battlefield.

The agreement, which is due to be officially signed on Thursday, prompted the UAE on Monday to hand key positions in Yemen's southern city of Aden to Saudi forces in a bid to defuse tensions between separatists and the government.

Yemen's internationally recognised government and the STC have been holding indirect negotiations in Saudi Arabia aimed at reaching a power-sharing agreement, after clashes that erupted earlier this year.

The STC have fought alongside the Saudi-led alliance since its intervention in 2015 in support of the government of President AbedRabbo Mansour Hadi which was toppled in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014 by the Houthis.

Comment: Saudi Arabia, UAE have lost the plot in Yemen, but it's good news for Russia

In August, the STC, who demand self-rule in Yemen's south, rebelled against the government and seized parts of Aden, sparking a further civil war within the already complex conflict.

Since the uprising, deadly fighting has raged in Aden, Yemen's economic capital, threatening to break the country apart.

The United Arab Emirates has trained and supported forces of the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), which seeks an independent southern Yemen, despite being a key pillar in a Saudi-led military coalition backing the government against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

But the UAE's withdrawal will not only see electricity deficiency in Aden, but a blow to humanitarian cases in the south.

The UAE's withdrawal will not only see electricity deficiency in Aden, but a blow to humanitarian cases in the south

This week, the UAE's Red Crescent also announced plans to leave Yemen's de-facto capital Aden.

The foundation on Sunday hosted a ceremony at its headquarters to honour local staff ahead of its departure, local Yemen Monitor confirmed.

"The departure of the Emirates Crescent Authority from Aden and neighbouring governances will leave a huge void in hospitals, health centres and well affect those injured by war as well as hundreds of other humanitarian cases," Yasser Yafaei, a journalist with the foundation said.

The announcement came as the UNICEF warned some 92 percent of babies born in Yemen are underweight at birth.

"If children eat poorly, they live poorly," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said. 

"We are losing ground in the fight for healthy diets," she said.

The report also said 46 percent of Yemen's pre-schoolers are affected by stunted growth, according to data collected between 2013-2018.

However, despite the dark figures, things could soon take a turn in Yemen, it seems.

92% of babies born in Yemen are underweight at birth

Pakistani mediation

Iran's foreign minister suggested Pakistan could be mediating to end the conflict in Yemen this week, after confirming his country was in constant contact with Pakistani Prime Minister, Imran Khan.

Mohammed Javad Zarif's comments were relayed on the Houthi-run Al-Masirah channel which quoted him as saying "Iran pledges to stand by the Yemeni people".

Iran welcomes any initiative to ease tension in the region and will cooperate fully with any steps to "end the war in Yemen," Zarif added.

The Iranian FM provided no further details on Pakistan's alleged mediation, however the comments come just weeks after reports confirmed the south Asian state was working behind the scenes to calm tension between the region's two arch-enemies.

Last month, Khan said that both the United States and Saudi Arabia had asked him to mediate with Iran to defuse tensions in the Gulf.

Those comments were followed by official visits to both countries earlier this month.

Khan's office said his visit was part of an initiative "to promote peace and security in the region", which saw him hold talks with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani.

Shortly after, Khan landed in Riyadh to meet Saudi Arabia's King Salman to defuse tensions between Riyadh and Tehran.

Pakistan has strong relations with Saudi Arabia – over 2.5 million of its nationals live and work in the kingdom – but also maintains good relations with Iran, which backs Houthi rebels in Yemen. Pakistan also represents Tehran's consular interests in the United States.

Khan met both US President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations last month, shortly after he visited Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

Houthi executions

On the ground in Yemen this week, at least 17 members of the Houthi movement were reportedly executed by the rebel group in Dhalea', according to local reports.

The fighters allegedly refused to carry out orders during battles in the southern province, Yemen's internationally-recognised army said on its platform September Net.

Witnesses said the executed militants were locals of Ibb and Dhamar, central Yemen, where the rebel movement has in recent days increased its recruitment of citizens following a heavy blow to its ranks, the army website suggested.

The rebels have yet to announce the number of fighters killed in battles across Dhalea', but the movement have nonetheless issued considerable statements this week.

On Thursday, a Houthi court has summoned prominent world leaders, including US President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman within a month before slapping a lawsuit against them over alleged war crimes in Yemen.

A total of 124 figures were ordered to appear in court to defend themselves of charges of war crimes, with the names published in al-Thawra newspaper.

Politicians across the world are on the list, including Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, former US defence secretary James Mattis, along with former British Prime ministers Theresa May and David Cameron.

A number of Arab leaders were also mentioned, including Yemen's President Hadi who has been in exile in Saudi Arabia since 2015.

Prominent Emirati figures have been mentioned in the list, along with Jordan's King Abdullah and former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Top level members of the Saudi monarchy are on the list, including King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Read also: Yemen's Houthis broadcast video of August attack which captured 'thousands of soldiers'

Lower-level Yemeni politicians and journalists were also mentioned in the list, which was considered a way to silence opponents to the militia.

The court threatened that those who refused to appear in court will be tried in absentia as fugitives.

The siege of Taiz

Meanwhile, local Yemeni rights group Rights Radar on Saturday warned the Houthi rebels' five-year siege of the central Taiz city is both a war crime and "collective punishment".

The organisation said "the city of Taiz is undergoing constant suffering that does not end due to the suffocating siege," according to a statement published on its website.

The siege has forced the city's residents to take rugged and narrow bypass roads which endangers their lives, the group said. Those taking those routes risk accidents, searches, harassments, kidnapping and even arrests, it added.

Rights Radar called on the Houthis to fulfil promises and commitments to civilians in Yemen, and urged the United Nations to exert pressure on the rebels to implement agreements to lift the siege.

The comments came after authorities in Taiz last week announced an agreement to open ports and roads to the city, which has yet to be implemented by the rebels.

Taiz, one of the most populated cities and the third largest in Yemen, is still beset by dire humanitarian circumstances and an unstable security situation. Presently, Taiz is divided between the Iran-backed Houthis and the Saudi-backed government, and armed clashes could erupt at any time.

The city was an epicentre of the 2011 protests, but basic services including education, health and electricity have been heavily disrupted since. Shelling has been recurring as security worries have not been fully addressed.

According to the Coalition of Humanitarian Relief-Taiz, the war had killed 3,863 and wounded 17,293 in Taiz up to November last year. In addition, 4,303 houses, government and private facilities had been either damaged or totally destroyed. The Coalition estimates the number of displaced families at 179,567.

Sana Uqba is a journalist at The New Arab. 

Follow her on Twitter: @Sanasiino 

Yemen In Focus is a new, regular feature from The New Arab.