Aid flounders as Yemen protests continue

Separatist demonstrations continued in Yemen yesterday, the second of “two days of southern anger” called to send a message to the international donors’ conference in Riyadh.

Twenty-one people were reportedly arrested as result of 
Saturday’s protests. The authorities switched off mobile phone services in two provinces, while demonstrators placed stones on roads to hamper security patrols.

According to the News Yemen website, a notable feature of the demonstration in Abyan yesterday was “the obvious participation of women” and it reports one woman’s criticisms of the Yemeni opposition parties:

“Zahra Hussein addressed the rally and said that the leaders in the Yemeni Socialist Party are three kinds: ‘some have partnership with the regime, some exploit the south crisis for their own interest and some have engaged in worries of southern people.’

“Zahra also said the Joint Meeting Parties, particularly the Islamic Islah party, are ‘partners of the regime to hit and destroy the south’. She also criticised the Saudi support to the government and said ‘the Saudi financial support to Yemen means war on south and Saudi Arabia is a partner in this crime and sin’." 

There appears to be no shortage of countries willing to provide aid to Yemen; the immediate problem is one of delivery.

Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad Aluwaisheg, director-general of international economic relations for the Gulf Cooperation Council, is quoted in The National as saying that the weekend meeting in Riyadh dealt mostly with technical matters – in particular how to get the rest of the $5.5bn promised to Yemen in 2006 into the aid pipeline.

It was originally intended that all the money would be disbursed by the end of this year but so far only 58% of it has been released to the Yemeni authorities. The National continues:

“What is more disturbing to donors is that even less – somewhere between 10 to 20 per cent – has actually been put to use on aid projects by Yemen.

“As these bottlenecks were discussed at the Riyadh conference it became apparent, said Mr Aluwaisheg, ‘that Yemen’s ability to handle the flow of aid has not improved’. Although pledged aid had quadrupled, Yemen’s technical expertise to handle that amount of aid has not increased.”

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 1 March 2010.