Protests erupt in south Yemen as conflict cripples economy

Protests erupt in south Yemen as conflict cripples economy
Protesters have demonstrated against the dire economic situation in Yemen, caused by the ongoing conflict.
3 min read
15 September, 2021
Protester are angered by the economic situation in Yemen [Getty]

Violent protests have erupted in Aden and other cities in south Yemen over widespread poverty and electricity outages as a Saudi-backed alliance struggles with a complete collapse of public services in areas they control.

Hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces in Aden's Khour Maksour, Crater and Sheikh Othman districts where demonstrators blocked roads, set fire to government buildings and burned cars in the streets.

One protester was killed and dozens were wounded on Tuesday night in Sheikh Othman, eyewitnesses told Reuters. Other witnesses said dozens of demonstrators stormed Maashiq presidential palace where the Saudi-backed government is based.

"We came out to protest after our life has become impossible, there is no electricity, no water, and salaries can't buy us anything. We are not going to wait until we die," said Ahmed Saleh, 34, a protester and government employee.

Other clashes were reported in Hadramout, Shabwa and Abyan provinces over the last two days.

South Yemen has been paralysed by a power struggle between the Saudi-backed government and the United Arab Emirates-backed southern separatists. Both are nominal allies under a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi group in the north.

The Southern Transitional Council (STC), fighting for the independence of the south, had seized Aden and other southern areas before Saudi Arabia brokered a power-sharing deal to focus its feuding allies on the battle against the Houthis.

However, the conflict has crippled public services with frequent power outages that disrupted water distribution, aid supplies and medical services. Unemployment and spiralling inflation have compounded the misery in a country where most of the 29 million people rely on aid.

New Houthi advance

On Wednesday, Aden's streets were calm but stores and humanitarian organisations' offices were closed. Remains of charred cars and roadblocks were seen in many parts of the city.

An STC spokesman called for more protests in Shabwa on Wednesday against "the occupation" of the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Hadi's government said security forces will protect protesters but will not tolerate "destruction of public and private property".

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The military coalition led by Saudi Arabia drove out the Houthi movement from Aden in 2015, but the alliance failed to dislodge the group from Sanaa and other parts of the north, and the multifaceted war has reached a bloody stalemate.

The conflict has created what the United Nations says is the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

Riyadh has been trying to avoid a new frontline and more unrest in the south as its coalition battles the Houthis in the oil producing region of Marib, the government's last stronghold in the north, and the southern province of Abyan.

Houthi forces made a new advance towards Abyan's biggest district of Louder on Tuesday, military sources said.

Thousands of civilians have fled fighting in Marib and Abyan provinces over the last week, humanitarian organisations said. The UN refugee agency UNHCR said earlier this month that over four million Yemenis are still displaced since the start of hostilities in 2014.