Pro-secession south-Yemenis rally in support of sacked Aden governor
Aden’s popular governor Aidarous Zubaidi and Minister of State Hani Bin Buraik were sacked by the internationally-recognised president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi last week, a move that has since sparked mass protests.
The decrees marked the peak of a standoff between Hadi, supported by the Saudis, and two popular southern leaders allied to the United Arab Emirates, and known for their separatist views.
Aden is the headquarters of the exiled government led by Hadi and backed by a coalition of nine Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.
Some members of the army and security forces in Aden reportedly defected and joined the protests. The protest leaders said they have "authorised" Zubaidi to form an independent political entity in South Yemen.
Billboards with president Hadi were burned down, replaced by others featuring Zubaidi and other southern leaders.
Yemen was unified in 1990 following decades of conflict, but secessionists in the South feel marginalised by the government in Sana'a, held for 33 years by the now ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Hadi, who was vice president for 18 years under Saleh, is seen by some Southern factions as a product of the international community and a puppet in the hands of the Saudis, and does not enjoy popular support in the South.
|The prospect of a new secession will impact the outcome of the war waged by the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels allied with ousted president Saleh|
Adding fuel to fire
With this development, there may now be three entities claiming legitimacy over Yemen - Hadi's in Riyadh, the Houthi-Saleh alliance in Sana'a, and now UAE-backed chiefs claiming to represent the South.
The prospect of a new secession could complicate the war waged by the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels allied with ousted president Saleh, controlling the capital Sana’a and swathes of North and West Yemen.
So far, the southern-northern divide had been eclipsed by the common enemy represented by the Houthis and Saleh. But a shift in power within the coalition and new actors on the ground will delay any talk of peace.
In April the UN special envoy to Yemen expressed hope peace talks could start before the month of Ramadan (beginning around 27 May), but this is even more doubtful now.
Ironically, internal conflict within the coalition will likely put on hold the impending attack on the Houthi-held city port of Al-Hudaydah, planned by the Arab coalition reportedly with US support.
The UN expressed fear that an attack on Hudaydah might precipitate the country into famine, in what is already the world's worst humanitarian crisis since WWII.
The majority of the population is in need of assistance to survive. The conflict in Yemen has killed 10,000 people in about two years, and displaced another 3.1 million.
Paola Tamma is a freelance investigative journalist who recently graduated from City University, London. She is currently researching Yemeni issues and society. Follow her on Twitter: @paola_tamma