What is happening in Yemen? What are the forces at play and who is pulling the strings? Why does the Reform Party expect a popular revolution to erupt? What are the reasons behind the boycott by the Congress Party of Houthi militias? How can a people survive a battle of responsibility and neglect? And what is happening in Al-Mukha (Mocha) where Bab Al-Mandeb is located, which is key to regional and international national security?
Yemeni political parties, especially the main ones such as the General People’s Congress Party, the Reform Party, the Socialist Party and Houthi militias — which represent a foreign agenda, according to Yemenis, and chose to form a militia rather than a party — are key actors in events there. Anywhere in the world, political parties compete by presenting their platforms and reforms in a race to the presidency or parliament to benefit their countries and people through a productive process. In Yemen, however, that is not what they do; each party has generated followers who are loyal and obedient to the party, which means nationalism has disappeared in the labyrinth of politics.
Yemen is now facing the worst humanitarian disaster in the world while the parties are vying for power, influence and wealth. A source said the Congress Party is the most popular because it is not radical, does not use religion and ideology in its policies, and is also flexible in dealing with all elements of Yemeni society. The Reform Party, however, is unpopular because it uses religion to take what it can’t achieve through politics. The Houthi militia, meanwhile, took action that made Yemenis feel a new era was on the horizon, with equality and justice. But their mask quickly fell to reveal religious, ideological and doctrinal bigotry, and even inhumanity. They call themselves the “lanterns” and the rest of society is “Zanabil”, which is the epitome of racism. The people are in shock, but what next? Can we not find a fair ruler?
On 18 October, the Houthis released five suspects accused of an assassination attempt on the late president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. The bombing of Al-Nahdin Mosque left 14 people dead and 200 wounded, including some of Saleh’s bodyguards and members of his regime. The accused went to trial in August 2013 in a State Security court.
Protests against former president Saleh and his regime erupted in 2011, after which the president stepped down with the help of a Gulf initiative which resulted in Saleh transferring his powers to his deputy Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who became president in February 2012 until today.
A Yemeni security source in Sanaa told Sputnik news agency that “the release of the suspects jailed in the capital Sanaa was part of a prisoner exchange deal between Houthis and the Reform Party, led by tribal leaders, which resulted in the exchange of 24 prisoners and detainees including five accused of attempting to assassinate Saleh.” Anadolu news agency reported that although the Reform Party’s leader was killed by Houthis, the party’s branch in Sanaa decided to continue its alliance with Houthis in the presence of another branch that opposes Houthis and supports the legitimate regime led by Hadi.
THE GENERAL PEOPLE’S CONGRESS: The Congress Party was angered by the Houthi’s release of the five who attempted to assassinate the founder of their party. In response, the party said Sunday that it will boycott Houthi political meetings. According to the party’s website, Congress Net, the party’s general committee (the party’s highest body) met with the Sanaa secretariat led by Sheikh Sadek Amin Aburas, the president of the party, to discuss the latest developments for the party and country. The committee strongly denounced the release of the suspects, adding that the accused are involved in a “terrorism” case being litigated in court, and have nothing to do with prisoners of war, because they stand accused of criminal acts.
Accordingly, the Congress Party decided to boycott the meetings and outcomes of the Supreme Political Council (the ruling body in areas under Houthi control), the parliament, cabinet and Shura Council, but did not state for how long or whether this is a permanent boycott approved by all branches of the party. After Saleh was killed by Houthis when he ended their alliance in 2017, the party fell into disarray.
HOUTHIS RESPOND: The Houthi response to the Congress Party’s decision was posted on the website Sira Post on Sunday evening; namely, “there is an extensive security presence in Sanaa by Houthi militias on main and side streets, and exits from the city, after the announcement by the Congress Party of complete boycott of Houthis on all levels. Eyewitnesses and sources said Houthi militias have deployed this evening at dozens of security checkpoints on the city’s exit routes in anticipation of protests by Congress supporters, and to prevent any of the party’s senior leaders from fleeing.”
The source added that the capital is in an unofficial state of emergency. Congress Party offices across the country and at universities in areas under Houthi control supported their party’s decision to boycott, with several offices issuing statements of support for 20 October decision.
Congress Party Secretary General and former foreign minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi said on Twitter that, “those responsible for releasing the suspects in the presidential mosque crime before their trial are making themselves liable for a cover up. Using the prisoner exchange as a cover for this compounds the crime, and the accusation will continue to hound those who were released. Their prosecution will continue because their release without a verdict does not erase the crime.”
Militia leader Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi tweeted: “The boycott is a party declaration, and according to the constitutional pledge you are not allowed to do this.” He added: “I believe they should have held an emergency meeting with the Political Council to discuss the matter.”
Serious fractures have appeared in Houthi ranks in Sanaa after the release of the five suspects. To close ranks, the Houthi’s Higher Judicial Council in Sanaa met on Sunday. Political observers told Yemen Window that this is the Houthi’s attempt to justify the release of the five, who were Reform Party members, and is very telling — most notably that Houthis and Reformists are closing ranks.
REFORM PARTY PREDICTS UPRISING: Mareb Press said that the Reform Party expects a popular uprising in Sanaa which is under Houthi control, similar to recent protests in Iraq and Lebanon, anticipating that this will happen soon. The party’s media official, Ali Al-Jaradi, said: “Societies have inherent consciousness which they express when they have had enough.” In a tweet, Al-Jaradi referred to demonstrations in Baghdad and Beirut, saying: “We will see this soon in Sanaa.” He added that the colonial mentality controls other people by erasing their national identity, creating armed sectarian militias and installing governing elites working for their own interests.
Meanwhile, Yemeni citizens suffer the worst human conditions in the world. One dollar is worth 600 riyals, there are no oil or gas products, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said 913 Yemenis died of cholera and the epidemic could spread because authorities are doing very little. “There are 696,537 cases of suspected cholera,” according to a WHO report.
Meanwhile, the parties are divided, while the legitimate government in the south is distracted with the Southern Transitional Council and trying to reach a solution known as the Jeddah draft agreement. Then came a controversial military order from the commander of the coast brigades which is strongly debated in Mocha, according to Aden Post. Mocha is key to world national security because Bab Al-Mandab is located there; this is most ominous for Yemen’s bloody war which turn even more catastrophic if everyone turns a blind eye.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 October, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.