Yemen separatists to boycott national dialogue

AFP , Wednesday 3 Oct 2012

Separatist groups in south Yemen say they plan to boycott November's national dialogue conference, call instead for forum under international supervision

A Yemeni alliance of groups that want independence for the south of the country said in a statement Wednesday that they will boycott next month's national dialogue proposed by the government in Sanaa.

The Southern Movement "refuses to take part in the national dialogue conference" which will be held in mid-November, the umbrella group said in a statement concluding its three-day conference held in Aden, the capital of the formerly independent South Yemen.

It called instead for a forum that takes place "under international supervision and aims at restoring the former (independent) southern state," that lasted until 1990, the group said in the statement after the conference ended Tuesday.

The national dialogue is to take place based on the Gulf-brokered and UN-backed power transfer deal by which former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh officially stepped down in February, following a year-long uprising against his rule.

It is seen as a critical phase in Yemen's transition process where all parties, including the opposition, the separatists, the youth and the northern rebels are expected to come together and agree on a new constitution and on presidential and parliamentary elections.

The dialogue will kick-off "in mid-November and will last six months," President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi said late in September, in remarks published on the official Saba news agency. Hadi, himself a southerner, has called on exiled Yemeni opposition figures, including leaders from the Southern Movement, to return home to participate in the transition process.

Residents in the south complain of discrimination by the Sanaa government, citing an inequitable distribution of resources.

After the 1990 union between North and South Yemen, the south broke away in 1994. The move sparked a short-lived civil war that ended with the region being overrun by northern troops.

In 2007, the Southern Movement emerged as a social protest movement of retired officials and soldiers. But it has gradually grown more radical in its demands. Some factions of the Southern Movement want autonomy for the south, but more hardline members are pressing for a return to complete independence.

In its statement, the Southern Movement conference said it "rejects any proposed federation or confederation... leading to the continued occupation of the south."

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