Yemen’s clock ticking

Hanan Al-Hakry , Wednesday 21 Nov 2018

Between fears of an escalation of violence and hopes to restore stability to their war-torn country, Yemenis are grasping at straws

Site of an air strike, Yemen
A man carries Buthaina Muhammad Mansour, believed to be 4 or 5, rescued from the site of an air strike that killed eight of her family members in Sanaa, Yemen (Photo: Reuters)

Will the war in Yemen come to an end? Will there be a new president or will a presidential council sit at the helm as a prelude to restoring stability? What will Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy to Yemen, do to revive resolutions reached in previous peace talks and proposed at the Security Council? What are the repercussions of what is happening on the ground on Yemen and the Yemenis?

The war has taken the lives of thousands. If peace is not near, chaos will destroy Yemen’s infrastructure and social fabric, and children, and all of the Yemeni people, will die of hunger.

But because the whole world now knows the impending danger, it is time to move towards decisive action to stop the war and effect peaceful solutions agreed upon by all the parties involved. It is imperative to do so now.

A US research institute said Sunday that Yemen’s next president may be General Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar. A military commander and vice president of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Al-Ahmar may not be the Yemenis’ favourite candidate. But he is a better option than war.

Another US report revealed Sunday that the number of US air raids during two years of Donald Trump’s rule exceeded those executed during eight years of Barack Obama’s tenure, those standing at 154 air raids.

Informed diplomatic sources said the UK decided to postpone presenting its draft resolution on Yemen to the UN Security Council until next week.

The sources, according to Al-Arab newspaper published in London, said the UK postponed the move until next Monday to come up with a more agreed-upon formula.

The UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN Karen Pierce said Friday at a Security Council session that the UK will present a draft resolution to end the crisis in Yemen comprising five demands requested by the UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock.

The demands are a cessation of hostilities in and around all infrastructure and facilities on which depend relief operations and commercial imports, the protection of food supplies and basic commodities, supporting Yemen’s economy by pumping in foreign currency, paying salaries, increasing funding and support to aid operations and engaging in peace talks to end the war.

Griffiths presented his vision to solve the Yemen crisis to the Security Council on Friday in the form of a resolution that appears to have appealed to the Security Council’s permanent members, especially the UK. He told the Security Council,

“I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties... that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine.”

Griffiths revealed he is planning to travel to Sanaa and Al-Hodeida next week to finalise arrangements. He announced he was close to reaching a deal between the internationally recognised government and Houthi militias on an exchange of prisoners and detainees.

Meanwhile, the UK, the US, Russia and other countries have been calling for the halt of bloodshed in Yemen and the resumption of peace talks between warring parties within a timeframe not exceeding 30 days.

Head of the so-called Houthi Revolutionary Committee Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi called upon his group to halt missile and drone attacks in response to Griffiths’ demand.

Observers, however, believe that “the decision to stop the war on the part of the Houthis is not in the movement’s hand nor that of its local leaders. It’s in the hands of Iran that extends its influence in the region using militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.”

The Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) announced Monday decreasing the exchange rate of the Yemeni riyal against foreign currencies.

The amendment is taking place as the riyal witnesses constant improvement. The bulletin released by the monitoring sector at the CBY stated that the US dollar decreased to 548 riyals, down from 585 riyals, officially.

At the same time the CBY is funding merchants to import foodstuffs and fuel, something that has rebuilt confidence in the local currency. The Yemeni riyal also improved in the parallel market. The dollar recorded 750 riyals, up from 600 riyals, on Monday.

Bankers believe the CBY’s new monetary policy contributed to making available foreign currencies in the local market, unlike in previous days which have witnessed the non-availability of US dollars. The CBY allowed the opening of banking credits to major merchants to import basic and other commodities.

The exchange market, however, is still rife in confusion amid rising fears in economic circles that the depreciation in the US dollar against the Yemeni riyal is a game played by currency speculators in exchange companies belonging to Houthi militias.

Observers accuse the Houthi group of inciting cashiers to buy and store hard currencies to buy confiscated weapons and imported fuel to sell on the black market at double price, in order to increase the profits of the movement to be used in funding its military activities.

Adnan Al-Sanwi, an economic expert at the University of Sanaa, said “rumours play a big role in social circles. Many Yemenis quickly exchanged their hard currencies for Yemeni riyals, following the economic rule that increased demand leads to an increase in the price of the currency.”

Al-Sanwi believes, “this improvement in the local currency is only temporary because the government didn’t address the real reasons on which is based stability in the price of the local currency.”

On the military front, Al-Amalikah Brigades announced their preparation to launch an extensive attack at the strategic port of Al-Hodeida. The operation is based on advancing on three axes.

The first is towards Al-Hodeida city, with the advancement of the Third Al-Amalikah Brigade to free other parts south of the city.

The second axis involves the First Al-Amalikah Brigade’s infiltration into farms located on the southeast side of the city.

The third sees the advancement of the Second Al-Amalikah Brigade towards the east, amid violent clashes that rendered tens of Houthis dead, according to Al-Amalikah Brigades’ official page on Facebook.

Local sources reported Al-Hodeida skies witnessed heavy flights of aircraft, believed to be F16s, and of drones, amid extensive firing of ground-to-air missiles belonging to Houthi militias across different parts of Al-Hodeida.

With the fast pace of events in Yemen, the Yemenis’ hopes for the violence to cease fluctuate. Will the war end or will it renew, just as it did many times before? If this will be the case, the suffering will continue for Yemenis enduring hunger, subjugation, injustice, the spread of diseases, rising costs of commodities and death by famine of children.

Matters related to stopping the war are being manipulated. “Every call the international community makes and is answered by the coalition and the legitimate government is a victory for the Houthis who employ peace calls to catch their breaths, mobilise the crowds and destroy the country,” said Yassin Said Noeman on a local news channel.

Will the intervention of UN Security Council permanent member states be fruitful this time? This is what peace-loving observers, and foremost the Yemeni people, await.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 22 November, 2018 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Yemen’s clock ticking

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