No peace in Yemen

Hanan Al-Hakry , Saturday 2 Mar 2019

A solution to the conflict in Yemen still seems as far off as ever, threatening generalised social breakdown and mass starvation

Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed
Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed

Most Yemenis are mystified about the war that is destroying their country, but slowly the facts are coming to light. The war has turned into a proxy conflict prosecuted by foreign countries, with the Houthi rebels not defending the homeland but helping to destroy it further, notably by refusing to allow the delivery of food.

The UN intervention has been particularly puzzling, since it is not clear to many whether the UN is with the Houthis or the people of Yemen. People are watching patiently, but if the war continues no one will be spared and the temptation for revenge may become irresistible.

The Hujur tribe in northwest Yemen has recently taken up arms in the conflict, and others will surely do so too when they realise that the death and starvation of their people is being caused by Houthi intransigence.

The Houthis have refused to ratify the Stockholm Agreement, agreed in December 2018, intended to bring peace to the country, raising questions as to who is funding and supporting this movement.

The Houthis are extorting money, such as the 1,000 riyals they have demanded from students, concealing their revenues and ill-gotten gains.

Even in areas under legitimate rule, the people are being victimised. Healthcare and other facilities have all suffered, with those wounded in the conflict, or even needing routine medical care, often being unable to access it.

Some foreign aid is getting through, including from the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, though this is still insufficient. Some of the aid that does get through reaches the wrong people, and other assistance is lost before it reaches the targeted recipients. UN aid is getting through, but it does not reach all those in need.

While Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, appointed in October 2018, is widely seen as better than many of his predecessors, who appointed inexperienced people to senior positions or paid high salaries to people doing little, he will have his work cut out for him if he wants to tackle the corruption and cronyism that have been destroying the country.

There are hopes that he will reduce payments on salaries for government employees and redirect the money to spending on food, healthcare and living conditions.

Most Yemenis hope that regional and international governments, the UN Security Council and the Arab Coalition will assist in reconstructing the country and that a settlement can be found with the Houthi rebels.

Meanwhile, more and more innocent people are dying as the conflict continues, even as the Houthis announced last week that they would postpone the redeployment deal that was supposed to be implemented on Sunday.

Who is benefitting from the conflict? Certainly not the Yemeni population, which is gradually coming to differentiate friend from foe. Generalised social breakdown looks very possible, with sons dying in the arms of their mothers and people driven to the point of desperation. Such a situation is dangerous not only for Yemen and the region but also for the world as a whole.

Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland has spoken of the need to save “the millions of lives about to perish in Yemen,” calling for more aid to be sent in to help in the worst humanitarian crisis facing the country since the Houthi militias went to war in summer 2014.

Meanwhile, children are being recruited as soldiers, hunger and diseases such as cholera and typhoid continue to spread, and young people are being gravely injured in trying to buy food for their families.

It is to be hoped that the UN Security Council will take the decisions needed to end the conflict in Yemen for the sake of peace in the country and the wider region.

Yemen has become a battleground in a regional conflict, but all honest Yemenis want the country to be a land of peace.  

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