ends as rebel leaders flee
by Brian Whitaker
Originally published in The Guardian, 8 July
THE war in Yemen ended yesterday with southern rebel leaders
fleeing Aden by boat under the cover of darkness to an uncertain future.
By daybreak, the forces of President Ali Abdullah Saleh -
who had first bombarded the port with tanks and rockets, then tempted it to surrender with
offers of bread and water - found that the will to resist had all but vanished.
Official confirmation that the war was over, two months
and three days after it began, came at 11am.
According to the official version, the last stronghold of
southern separatists in the historic Crater district, was brought down by a popular
"The citizens of Aden stormed military camps, prisons
and police stations,' a government spokesman said.
"They forced the rebels to lay down their arms and
handed these arms in turn to the forces of legality.' Journalists who entered Aden
yesterday found it under the control of the northern Yemeni army. There was no fighting
and no signs of resistance.
In the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, there was little sign of
jubilation at the outcome of the war. One resident said: 'It's very quiet. There's an
upbeat mood. The president's picture is all over the place, but that's about it.' Another
detected apathy. 'There was no enthusiasm whatsoever for this war,' he said. 'Many people
in Sana'a have relatives in Aden. Even if they had patriotic feelings, they were worried
for their families.' There is a widespread belief that President Saleh will now want to
unify the country politically. The president is expected to invite southerners and
socialists back into the coalition government.
Last night in Washington a United States official said:
'We hope that the Sana'a government will push for political reconciliation. We will be
watching very closely its efforts.' There was speculation that the role of Saudi Arabia
would come under scrutiny. A newspaper editor in Sana'a said: 'They invested heavily in
this war (on behalf of the south) and it hasn't worked out the way they wanted.
"I've talked to several people in other Arab
countries, and they seem more cheerful about the result than we are. They feel that Saudi
muscle-flexing has been dealt a blow.' A question mark hangs over the fate of the
ringleaders of the late Democratic Republic of Yemen. Sixteen of them, whom President
Saleh holds responsible for the war, will theoretically face treason charges if captured.
Only the breakaway government's 'defence minister', has
been caught. The southern breakaway leader, Ali Salem al-Baidh, has arrived in Oman and is
believed to have asked for political asylum.
Last night the Guardian traced Mr Baidh's vice-president,
Abd al-Rahman al-Jifri, to the Sheraton Hotel in Djibouti. He was not taking calls.
The so-called oil minister died fighting, while two other
ministers were reported to have flown to Sana'a to pledge allegiance to President Saleh.
The breakaway state's deputy prime minister, Muhsin Farid,
turned up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he said: 'The war is not over. We will regroup
and continue the struggle by all possible means.'