A government in chaos is destroying Yemen's Aden

A government in chaos is destroying Yemen's Aden
Comment: A medley of conflicting agendas - both personal and political - is hampering decision-making in Aden, leaving Yemenis without access to basic provisions, writes Khalid Al-Karimi
4 min read
22 Nov, 2017
Water and sanitation services are a major issue in Aden [AFP]
Yemen's Aden, known as the temporary capital of the internationally recognised government, remains caught in a continuous cycle of political instability. The resignation this week of Aden's governor, Abdulaziz al-Muflehi, is a clear reminder of the multiple challenges this key province is facing.

The governor assumed the post six months ago, but last week he angrily stepped down, complaining that government corruption was undermining his efforts. His unexpected decision illustrates a serious underlying problem: a divided vision of the internationally recognised government. 

When Muflehi was appointed in May of this year, residents of Aden expressed hope in a new governor who they saw as committed to change and an experienced official. 

But tangible positive change did not materialise, perhaps because the government's vision is inherently flawed, as Muflehi described in his resignation letter: "Unfortunately, I found myself caught in a bitter war against a huge camp of corruption whose brigades are well trained, and fortifications are protected by guards led by Prime Minister Dr Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr."

This straight talking language points to the contradictory priorities and agendas of the legitimate government. The governor has a plan, and the prime minister has a different one. In addition, other political actors have their own programmes and agendas. The final result is, inevitably, chaos, and this is what the city has been witnessing.

On the ground, the strategic city of Aden has fallen victim to these conflicting agendas

On the ground, the strategic city of Aden has fallen victim to these conflicting agendas. In spite of official support from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, the internationally backed government has not established robust security, or restored basic services such water and electricity.

Last week, the governor openly accused the prime minister of corruption, causing the public to further doubt any government promises to improve the situation in Aden.

Read more: 'Collective punishment' in Yemen risks driving 500 children into malnutrition every week

On Sunday, local reports said hundreds of protestors in Aden marched in the city, demanding the dismissal of the government headed by Prime Minister bin Daghr. Discontent is unlikely to subside as long as the government remains incapable of delivering satisfactory services.

In his resignation, the governor outlined the priorities he had been planning to accomplish. These included resolving the electricity crisis, engaging the judiciary and police apparatus and improving water and sanitation services.

Legitimacy or autonomy?

Aden is not only afflicted by the diverging visions of the government, but also the continuous conflict between the government and secessionist leaders. These two entities vie for control over the city, and Yemenis are effectively required to take sides, choosing either legitimacy or autonomy.

While the government behaves as the legitimate authority in Aden or in any other southern or northern area, the Southern Political Council acts as the representative of the southern people and their cause.

The two sides use Aden as the epicentre of their meetings and activities

The two sides use Aden as the epicentre of their meetings and activities. Meetings held by the legitimate government to discuss infrastructure-building sometimes run in parallel to the Southern Political Council's gatherings calling for southern autonomy. This maze of contradictions makes progress all but impossible.

Yemen's internationally recognised government is at war with the proponents of southern independence - particularly in Aden - while also waging war in the north with the Houthis and their allied forces. Fighting on two fronts, coupled with the lack of a coherent vision for governance, make it one of the most beleaguered governments in the world.

An urgent and uncontested set of actions is now needed in order to address these failings, and remedy internal conflicts among officials. Those at the helm must agree on a coherent roadmap, for failure to do so will perpetuate a volatile situation, causing Yemenis yet more suffering.

Khalid Al-Karimi is a freelance reporter and translator. He is a staff member of the Sanaa-based Yemeni Media Center and previously worked as a full-time editor and reporter for the Yemen Times newspaper. 

Follow him on Twitter: @Khalidkarimi205