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Yemen's domestic crisis worsened by recent UN sanctions

After the UN imposes sanctions against two Houthi leaders and ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s political crisis deepens, the new government in jeopardy

Nasser Arrabyee, Thursday 20 Nov 2014
ShiaHouthi rebels ride on a patrol truck in Sanaa November 4, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Two main groups have rejected the 36-member government formed earlier this week in Yemen after the UN Security Council sanctioned three leaders of these groups as spoilers.

The two groups have plans to overthrow the government regardless of the sanctions, after they were excluded from the government.

President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi formed the government after all groups authorised him to do so, including the Houthi group and the General People's Congress, the Party of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, that now reject the government. 

Saleh Party has refused to participate in the government and announced an official alliance with the Houthi group, which is now controlling almost all the provinces of the north by force of arms.

The Houthi group threatened to overthrow the government by revolutionary escalation if President Hadi ignores their demands.

The group told Hadi to fire the seven ministers included from previous governments. “Otherwise, we will prevent them from entering the ministries by force,” said Talal Aklan, the member of “revolutionary committee” of the Houthi group that is still controlling all state institutions in the capital Sanaa and other main cites and districts.

The Houthis do not want Hadi to appoint replacement ministers from among them, but they want to monitor and participate in decision-making, according to their statements.

The Houthis seek to underline their stance as fighters against corruption and against the terrorism of Al-Qaeda.

“The revolutionaries must run the controlling and auditing agencies, and anti-corruption committee, and public fund prosecution offices and the general prosecution office,” said Mr Aklan of the Houthi revolutionary committee.

As for Saleh Party, that still have a majority in the 301-seat parliament, they talk about early presidential elections, which means getting rid of Hadi altogether.

Meanwhile, the two groups refused UN sanctions approved earlier this week against ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh and two Houthi leaders: Abdul Khalek Houthi (the young brother of top leader Abdul Malik) and Abu Ali Al-Hakim. Abdul Khalek, in his 20s, and Al-Hakim are the military leaders of Houthi groups.

The Houthi group said that the UN sanctions are considered support for Al-Qaeda and confirmed that it would continue fighting Al-Qaeda without any fear of such sanctions.

As for Saleh, he said: “My wealth is the love of my people, and anything else, they can take it—from Yemen or outside Yemen—if they find any.”

The strongman, who ruled for 33 years, is using the announced UN sanctions as a way of increasing his popularity and the influence of his party. 

On Friday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Sanaa and main cities all over the country to reject the sanctions and support Saleh as a national symbol.

On Saturday, Saleh held party meetings in which President Hadiwas sacked as deputy and secretary general of Saleh Party and replaced by two officials from the south: Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar as deputy, and ArefZuka as secretary general.

The United States imposed sanctions on Saleh and the two Houthi leaders on Monday, ordering US companies not to deal with them and to freeze any money belonging to them in American banks.

UN and US sanctions on the two Houthi leaders have become a source of jokes and humour between Yemenis.

Observers, however, do not expect the sanctions to be effective.

“If the sanctions were imposed because Houthi occupied Sanaa and other provinces and Saleh was accused of supporting them, this is not proven,” said Nabil Subay, a political analyst.

“What is proven is that the PresidentHadi and his minister of defence and minister of interior helped the Houthis directly and in front of everyone.” 

The United States is making enemies and increasing hatred against it in Yemen by such sanctions that anyway will be ineffective.

“The only one who can implement the sanctions is Al-Houthi,” said Subay ironically.

“He is the only one who can take action in Yemen, including punishing Hadi.”

*This story was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly. 

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