Peace in Yemen depends on a solution for the South

Peace in Yemen depends on a solution for the South
Comment: Peace in Yemen requires negotiating a political solution, and one where the South is represented, writes Ahmed bin Fareed.
4 min read
30 Jan, 2019
The war has pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine [AFP]
Like the majority of the people in Yemen, I want the war that has gripped my country to end. 

The Southern Transitional Council (STC), which I represent in the European Union, seeks a solution to the war to be through negotiations.

As we've seen over the last four years, the military track only further compounds suffering for our people. The facts on the ground speak for themselves: The world's worst man-made humanitarian crisis, with more than three-quarters of the population in need of aid, and 8.4 million people at risk of famine and a crippled economy.

This needs to end politically, and this is the position of the STC.

This is why we have welcomed the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to revive the political process. The consultations in Sweden were an important development and a sign of much needed international attention on the war in Yemen.

The focus is now on the implementation of the commitments made in Stockholm. But how the political process evolves - and broadens - is critical to the outcome of future talks and how those outcomes are sustained in a manner acceptable to all people across Yemen, including those in the South.

Lack of inclusion of the South is the greatest gap in - and risk to - the peace talks. The notion of a civil war between two sides - the Hadi government and the Houthis - is too simplistic and unreflective of the facts on the ground.

Lack of inclusion of the South is the greatest gap in - and risk to - the peace talks

The people of the South have for a long time been marginalised by the authorities in Sanaa. Previous attempts at independence by the South were undermined from the start. 

Since Yemeni unification in 1990, we Southerners have experienced persecution, further marginalisation of our politicians - many of whom were arrested and detained unlawfully - lack of investment in basic services, and the transfer of wealth, land and resources from oil-rich southern provinces to other parts of the country and to the pockets of Sanaa's elites.

This was all part of the Sanaa government's systematic policy to cripple the South. 
The resentment within the South was further exacerbated by the Houthi-Saleh invasion of our cities, towns, and villages in 2015.

But this time we fought back and successfully freed our people of the brutal tyranny that the Houthis with the help of former President Ali Abdallah Saleh were placing on our people. Now it is these very Southern forces that by and large provide security for our people in the South.

It is upon this security that we want to build the foundation for a political settlement. But despite our contribution to security and the clear need for a settlement that permanently reverses a history of persecution in the South, there were no representatives of the South around the table in Stockholm.

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We are left with our interests being represented by the Hadi government and the Houthis, neither of which have much credibility on the ground in the South, nor any robust control of security and governance arrangements.

Without genuine inclusion and participation of all key legitimate actors, it is inconceivable that our constituency would accept the terms of a settlement that excludes them.

Our history has shown that deep divisions cannot be swept under the carpet in favour of flawed short-term political calculations.

The current political process is finally an opportunity to address these legitimate concerns of the South. This is why as the STC we have been working hard with Mr Griffiths, his UN team, and our partners in the international community to ensure a truly broad and inclusive political process.

Our position is clear. We want a political solution to end the crisis that has gone on for too long. Demanding to be part of the process that is entrusted with bringing an end to this hellish conflict, and once and for all give our people in the South the opportunity to determine their own future, is our right.

It is also self-evidently in the interests of the international community and of sustainable peace in Yemen.

Ahmed bin Fareed is the European Representative for Yemen's Southern Transitional Council.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.