Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yemen 20 years united - and as divided as ever

Yemen’s president yesterday offered to form a unity government with opposition groups after holding a national dialogue, and announced the release of imprisoned Houthi rebels and southern separatists.

“We call upon all political parties and organisations and all citizens engage in a responsible national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional institutions,” Ali Abdullah Saleh (picture) said in a televised speech last night on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the reunification of North and South Yemen.

“In light of the results of the dialogue, a government could be formed from all influential political forces represented in the parliament,” Mr Saleh said
Southerners have long complained of being marginalised, particularly since they lost the 1994 civil war. Mr Saleh said the Yemeni Socialist Party, which is seeking independence for South Yemen, would be a “main partner in achieving the unity”.

Former Vice President Ali Salim Al-Beidh (picture), who fled the country after the 1994 separation, demanded on the eve of the unification anniversary the U.N. to send a committee to find facts in the south as he accused the Yemeni regime of attempting to wipe out the secessionist movement.
In his statement on the occasion, Al-Beidh said: it is the responsibility of the U.N. and the international community, particularly the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, to take serious action towards the case of south Yemen based on respecting the will of the people for independence and recovering their sovereign state.
Moreover, Al-Beidh, who is currently living in Germany, called on the Arab Gulf States and Egypt and Syria to look into the issue of south Yemen with responsibility to avoid tragic consequences that can affect the region amid the current situation in Yemen.
 For his part, the former Prime Minister, who also fled after the separation war, Abu Bakr Al-Attas has said that nothing new came out of President Saleh's address on the 20th anniversary of unification.

Speaking from France and commenting on the address, Al-Attas also called for a federal system to replace the current system picturing the situation in Yemen as rosy.
There should be a federal system for four years and then there should be a referendum to determine the fate of the south, he suggested.
Moreover, he said that all solutions the regime has offered for the current situation in the country make no sense; adding that the call for holding a dialogue with the Yemeni socialist party is aimed at dismantling the party and other political forces in the north and south. 
(What is lacking here is a statement by the Houthi commander Abdel Malek al-Houthi demanding that a UN-fact finding mission also visists the north to collect facts about the way the government is neglecting the northern region and is not fulfilling its obligations under the cease-fire agreement of last Fewbruary, under which all captured Houthi rebels should have been released months ago anyway. Ali Abdallah Saleh's speech was hollow indeed, as he did nothing but repeat former promises about national dialogue and cooperation that have never been kept.)  

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