Leaked conversations of Yemeni president provoke strong reactions

Leaked conversations of Yemeni president provoke strong reactions
The leaked recordings between Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his chief of staff have variously been dismissed as irrelevant, been taken as proof he is a loyal unionist, and fuelled the anger of southern separatists.
3 min read
21 January, 2015
The leaks have improved Hadi's standing among those who support a united Yemen [Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu/Getty]

Recordings leaked by Houthi channel al-Masirah of conversations between Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his chief of staff Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak, abducted by Houthi militiamen on Saturday, have sparked wide-scale controversy in Yemen, especially in the South.

Reactions to the recordings have been mixed, particularly as they covered important political issues, such as federalism and the Southern issue. The tone adopted in the recordings, which included statements some have regarded as insults, has also raised eyebrows.

When apparently referring to southern secessionists, Hadi is heard swearing and asking if they were better southerners than he was.

Referring to the dispute over the final resolutions of the National Dialogue Conference, which ended in January 2014, Hadi is heard saying those opposed to it would turn into "chickens" when the resolutions were announced and supported by the United Nations.


Perhaps the most incriminating part of the leak for Hadi was, when apparently referring to southern secessionists, he is heard swearing at them and asking if they were better southerners than he was.

Both Hadi and bin Mubarak are southerners, but some southern secessionists see them as traitors to the south for their support for unity.

The head of the Islamic Renaissance Movement told al-Araby al-Jadeed there was nothing new in the content of the leaked recordings. "Political vulgarity is not new to Yemenis; it has in fact become the norm in Yemen, since the master Ali Abdullah Saleh," he said, referring to the country's former president. "But al-Masirah made the recordings more distasteful with its ironic discourse about the sophisticated democracy Yemen is witnessing under the Ansar Allah [Houthi] militias, and about the transparency that raised Yemen to the level of the best European democracies."

Others focused on the shock caused by the occasionally colourful language coming from the head of state and his office manager. Political activist Aref Naji said that people were shocked by what the recordings revealed. However, he added, "southerners did not expect the solution to come from Sanaa anyway, and particularly not from President Hadi, regarding the issue of the South, especially since all his political steps have only further complicated the issue."

He said "This is evident in the issue of provinces' southerners will not accept any less than two provinces, while Hadi is still holding on to six of them."

Hadi and his allies have pushed through a six-state federal system for Yemen, as opposed to a two-state system preferred by southern separatists and the Houthis.

Though Hadi's popularity in the south has been negatively affected by the leaks, the opinions supporters of Yemeni unity have of him has improved, as some had previously seen Hadi as a traitor seeking to split the country. The leaks proved he is a loyal pro-union president.

Houthis sought to tarnish Hadi and bin Mubarak's image by saying that they are both conspiring against the people.
-Zaid al-Yafei.

Yet some considered what is happening to be little more than a game between Hadi and the Houthis. This view was shared by loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and media outlets sympathetic to him, which reported the leak was of little importance.

Some southern parties said that by releasing the leaked recordings, the Houthis were attempting to divide southerners, turning their battle from one against the political powers in Sanaa to one between southerners themselves.

Author Zaid al-Yafei told al-Araby al-Jadeed "these leaks will restore relations between Houthis and their allies in the south, which have suffered recently."

He added "Houthis sought to tarnish the image of Hadi, whose popularity has decreased in the south, and bin Mubarak, by saying that they are both conspiring against the people."