Fighting between rival militias in Yemen's anti-Houthi coalition is continuing for a third day, according to reports this morning from the southern city of Aden.
The clashes which broke out on Wednesday involve southern separatists on one side and supporters of Yemen's ousted but internationally recognised president, Abd Rabbou Mansour Hadi, on the other.
Although theoretically working together to combat the Houthis who control much of northern Yemen, the rival factions have differing views of the way forward which also reflect differences between Arab patrons – Saudi Arabia in Hadi's case, and the UAE in the case of the separatists. An article published by Newsweek explains the background and the International Crisis Group has some more detailed analysis.
In a statement yesterday the Hadi government blamed "irresponsible actions" by the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) "for the armed escalation in the interim capital of Aden, and for its serious consequences that threaten the security and safety of citizens and security and stability in general" (see full text below).
Meanwhile, in a letter to the UN Security Council, the STC described the current violence and instability as "a symptom of the lack of a credible solution for the southern issue" and said the Hadi government "has lost its ability and credibility to service and represent Southern governorates and to protect its people" (see full text below).
Details of the conflict on the ground in Aden are not very clear but Fernando Carvajal, who formerly served on the UN Security Council's panel of experts of Yemen, posted a series of satellite images on Twitter showing the relevant locations. According to Carvajal, ongoing clashes are in the areas circled in black. Blue indicates the STC areas and red indicates the Hadi government areas:
FULL TEXT: The Government of Yemen holds the Southern Transitional Council responsible for the armed escalation in the interim capital of Aden, and for its serious consequences that threaten the security and safety of citizens and security and stability in general.
In its statement, the government reiterated its rejection of the irresponsible actions of the Southern Transitional Council, which amounted to the use of heavy weapons and the attempt to storm state institutions and army camps. The government regrets that those groups refused to spare the city of Aden and its peaceful inhabitants the dangers of slipping into chaos and fighting that will topple the civil peace and services that have been achieved during the few years following the liberation of Aden from the grip of the Iranian Houthi rebel militia.
It also stressed that, by assuming their national responsibilities the government, the army and security forces are committed to preserving state institutions and safety of citizens. With the support of all wise and honorable people and the brothers in the coalition, they will work to address all attempts to harm institutions and individuals. The statement pointed out that the government is working with the leadership of the coalition to form a committee to investigate the events in the city of Aden.
The Government renewed its invitation to the leadership of the coalition represented by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to apply urgent and strong pressure on the Southern Transitional Council to stop any military movements in the city, and to oblige all security units and military formations to adhere to the instructions of the security and military establishment and not to rebel against the state and its institutions.
The government also called on political parties, all political and social actors, all wise people of Yemen to assume their national responsibility to reject, resist and condemn the calls of rebellion, war, and irresponsible adventures that, if not stopped, would lead the country into chaos and drag it into a dangerous slope.
The government said that the country has not yet overcame the consequences of the Houthi militias coup and rebellion, which led the state institutions and services systems to collapse, disrupted the public sector salary payments, led the economy to collapse and worsened the already catastrophic humanitarian crisis. This requires all sensible people to be responsible, putting reason, wisdom and supreme national interest above everything else in order to spare the city of Aden and the liberated areas the consequences of any rebellion, civil strife, chaos or catastrophic repercussions on people and property, which will present a serious blow to the efforts of the coalition and its mission in Yemen, and is in the interest of no one but the Houthi coup militia and the Iranian project in the region.
FULL TEXT: It is with great urgency and sorrow that I write to you regarding the deadly violence that struck South Yemen on multiple fronts in the last few days. On behalf of Southerners and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) we call for a collective effort to urgently prevent further deterioration of the critical situation in the South. This requires swift and comprehensive steps to include the Southern voice in the UN-led political process and secure a solution for the Southern issue as the only means to securing peace and stability in Yemen and the region as a whole.
On 1 August, a missile attack on a military parade of the Security Belt Forces in Aden killed at least 36 people including a senior military commander in the Southern resistance Brigadier General Abu al- Yamamah. That same day, a separate car explosion claimed by ISIS killed a dozen policemen at a Police Station in the Omar Al-Mokhtar neighbourhood of Aden city, raising the death toll to 51. Furthermore, on 2 August yet another attack took place on Al-Mahfad base in Abyan which killed 19 soldiers.
A serious escalation in the violence aimed at protestors occurred on the 7 August following a large funeral procession for Brigadier General Abu al-Yamamah which was attended by thousands of Southerners following which unarmed protesters approached the Presidential Palace to demand accountability for the ongoing deterioration of security and the general situation in the South. The protestors were met with live ammunition resulting in multiple casualties.
This violence and instability are a symptom of the lack of a credible solution for the Southern issue. We have long warned of this and called for a comprehensive resolution to the Southern issue, without which we can expect cycles of violence and suffering to continue.
Amid the current developments, the STCs sole objective is to restore stability and security in the areas where we operate and where we have a responsibility to the Southern people. For months, we have been working with local forces to de-escalate military advances near Southern governorates, including in Al-Dhale' and Shabwah. Far from further escalation, our efforts now are focused on ensuring the people in the South are protected, rule of law is maintained, and humanitarian needs are met. We will continue to deliver on this responsibility until a sustainable solution for the South is secured and in place. We are aware of allegations that Northerners are being forcibly displaced or deported from Southern governorates. The STC condemns in the strongest terms any action by anyone to forcibly expel members of the Northern population and we have made clear that the STC did not and would never play a part in this. While individual incidents are out of the STC's control, our team is diligently investigating reports of incidents and those responsible will be held accountable if reports are confirmed. In parallel, our message to the Southern population has been one of tolerance to all and we firmly stand against any such actions.
The STC is doing its best to manage the situation in the South but the only way to bring about an end to this instability is a solution to the Southern issue once and for all. We can only grip the current escalation and its consequences to an extent. It is high time for the Southern issue to be tackled head on as part of the political process, and with credible Southern representation. Today is further proof that the Hadi government has lost its ability and credibility to service and represent Southern governorates and to protect its people.
To date, regrettably we have been excluded from the political process entrusted with bringing an end to the Yemeni crisis, while the Southern issue has been deprioritized in favour of other issues. We understand the challenges facing UN Envoy Martin Griffiths as well as the urgency of other issues such as Hodeidah, and we welcomed the opportunity to discuss the latest developments with him on 6 August. As we informed the UN Envoy, the STC takes its responsibility toward the South in all parts seriously and will act in the best interest of the Southern stability to counter forces attempting to weaken our governorates and harm the Southern people. This week's attacks are an important reminder of the urgency of the Southern issue and that conflict does not fit neatly into a sequence or timeline. We had unfortunately warned that hostilities would spill over from Hodeidah to other parts across Yemen.
Your Excellency, make no mistake that the current escalation in the South is a direct result of inaction to address the Southern issue. The cost of that exclusion is the instability and violence we now witness in the South. The STC is doing its part and responding to the evolving needs of all residing in the South, including northerners, but we can only do so up to a point. If the UN Security Council and international community are serious about a sustainable solution to the Yemeni conflict and the world's worst humanitarian crisis, then we must be clear that the Southern issue is an integral element of that solution and not secondary or subsequent to it. We've crossed the Rubicon after the 1 August attacks and the context on the ground demands urgent action. We, therefore, specifically urge you to:
(i) Support a comprehensive and inclusive political process. The 'status quo' in the South is untenable and must be addressed immediately and in parallel to the other key components of a political solution, including a robust nation-wide ceasefire. This necessitates credible Southern representation, including women leaders at any next round of UN consultations. We welcome efforts at South-South dialogue and the STC has led its own consultations with Other Southern groups, but more is needed to set how the dialogue process feeds into the negotiating table.
(ii) Advance a sustainable political solution for South Yemen, including a process for self- determination. Frustration among Southerners is understandably growing the longer their legitimate aspirations for democracy and self-determination are denied. The STC is delivering on its responsibility to the Southern people but we are facing increasing pressure from the ground without any movement on the Southern issue. The rising insecurity as a result of the coordinated onslaught by the enemies of the South has only cemented the legitimate calls of self-determination. Vague promises to address this matter 'further down the line of the transition process' is no longer acceptable by our constituency across the South. The best chance of addressing the matter in a credible manner is to explicitly prioritize the Southern issue, including in the Security Council's public messaging and engagements with the UN Envoy, particularly given the unique context of South Yemen and its significance to regional stability.
(iii) Deliver on your commitments to the UN humanitarian response plan. We reiterate Under- Secretary-General Mark Lowcock's calls to ensure the UN plan is fully funded to accommodate evolving needs. Military escalations bear concrete implications for the humanitarian situation, especially for the growing internally displaced population. The STC is committed to protecting all populations in the South and greater earmarked funding for Southern governorates will ensure more resilient UN aid operations there.
Your Excellency, despite the bleak moment we still believe in a political solution and are committed to engaging with the UN Envoy's efforts toward that goal. Several months since the December 2018 round of UN consultations, we should now look to revive the political process with the Southern issue at the heart of the agenda. The current developments in the South prove the situation there is neither sustainable nor desirable. As a representative of the Southern people, the STC stands ready to continue its efforts to maintain stability in the South and secure a sustainable solution that serves the interests of Southerners and the future of the region.
I have copied this letter to UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Mr Martin Griffiths, and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mr Mark Lowcock.
Please accept, Your Excellency, the assurances of our highest consideration.
Foreign Affairs Department