Hadramout: The Race for Political Powers, Who Will Win?

Analytics

Tue, 06-07-2021 06:56 Evening, Aden

Salim Bin Sahl (South24)


Hadramout is witnessing a cold war waged by the political forces to achieve the greatest gains before the emergence of the final formula for what the situation will become after the war. The political parties in Hadramout, although their voices demanding Hadramout's rights seem compatible, but their roots extending outside the governorate’s borders may differ according to the interests of each party.

In order to unify the human rights demands of Hadramout and to counter any attempt to transfer the battles to its territory, the political forces united in the Inclusive Hadramout Conference, which represented the consensus of the political and tribal forces in Hadramout, but its role began to diminish somewhat as a result of the local anger that is chasing it, in the absence of tangible gains.

The Riyadh Agreement granted the “Inclusive Conference” a ministerial position in the parity government, and despite the proximity of Hadrami politicians to decision-makers in the previous Hadi presidency and as advisors to the president, ministers, and members of the House of Representatives, they failed to achieve the necessary influence to improve the level of services in the governorate, according to monitors.

The political weight of Hadramout is evident in its ability to attract the attention of the world, as a region that lives in great calm in light of the war. It was able to secure a session for some members of the Yemeni Parliament in Seiyun in April 2019, after a hiatus of more than four years since the Houthis took control of Sanaa. The city of Mukalla has also received several high-level UN and international delegations, the latest of which was the visit of the Swedish delegation to the city of Mukalla, headed by Swedish Foreign Minister Anne Christine Linde last month.

While the war rages on the fronts of all governorates located on the line of conflict with the Houthis, the symbolism of Hadramout is always promoted as a "land of coexistence and peace", especially after the liberation of the Hadramout coast from AQAP members by the Hadrami Elite Forces, with the air support and backup of the Arab coalition in April 2016.

This symbolism of Hadramout lies as a result of receiving thousands of displaced people from North Yemen, and embracing the displaced from Aden during the Houthi control of the capital on late March 2015, before liberating it after four months by the Southern resistance in "Operation Golden Arrow", with ground support from the Arab coalition led by the UAE.

Nevertheless, peace in Hadramout will seem fragile from the first threat that may extend to the governorate. The Houthi group, which launches successive attacks on Marib with the aim of controlling it, may consider advancing towards the Southern governorates from the gate of Wadi Hadramout, where Houthi cells are present [according to reports] and religious groups are approaching ideologically with it.

Pragmatic

After the liberation of the coast of Hadramout, Hadramout governorate was governed by two administrations. The first was represented by the former governor, Major General Ahmed Saeed Bin Brik, who was later appointed President of the National Assembly of the STC, and then succeeded by Major General Faraj Salmin Al-Bahsani, whose rule extended for four years so far. The successive authorities in Hadramout were able to control the balance of political forces in the governorate. The successive crises resulted in the announcement of the “Inclusive Hadramout Conference” during the reign of former governor Bin Brik, a year after the battle of liberation.

Governor Al-Bahsani’s pragmatism emerged in dealing with all components without exception. This most likely exposed him to two assassination attempts, the second in April last year through “a highly-explosive device, planted on his way to the headquarters of the second military region,” according to the official spokesman. The former military zone Hisham Al-Jabri, in an attempt to destabilize the security and stability in the coast, similar to the valley, which is controlled by forces from North Yemen.

Hadramout was able to say its word even in the most difficult and critical political situations and turns. Despite the local authority's rejection of the "self-administration" of the Southern governorates called for by the STC in April 2020, the popular local demands in Hadramout, which held a mass demonstration in Mukalla, supported the decision of the STC, which is popular and has a wide ability to gather crowds in Hadramout.

Even in spite of this, the STC in Hadramout governorate set a balanced position in line with the flexible diplomacy pursued by the administration of Governor Al-Bahsani, and the STC announced that the "self-administration" came in order to "accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement" and then canceled it three months after its announcement. Some of the governorate's political forces are still expressing their position on the side of the internationally recognized parity government, despite the differences in their view of final solutions.

Mass crowds in Mukalla, Hadramout during a pro-STC mass demonstration demanding the self-administration, 18 July 2020 (Activists)

The race to win the street

The new generation will inherit the failure of politicians, hence the race of political forces towards gaining new voices from the youth; to restore itself, to maintain its demands, and to provide new visions to change the political reality. Also with the decline in the value of the General People’s Congress Party (Al-Moatamar) in Hadramout “following the arrest of some of its symbols during their control of Mukalla by AQAP on charges of working for national security, while others disappeared for fear of a similar fate”.1 The scene in Hadramout is left to two competing forces: the popular STC and the Islah party who control Wadi Hadramout.

While the STC is gaining new supporters from different age groups as a result of its representation of the cause of "restoring the state of South", the impact of Islah remains limited to university students and below who receive a religious discourse in order to attract them in favor of the party.

"The STC had the opportunity to form a large popular base in the coast of Hadramout during the liberation of the coast from AQAP, but so far no party or political component has been able to take over the field" Political analyst Hisham al-Kaf told "South24".

The influence of the political components is evident through the reaction of citizens supporting or opposing these forces. The street often blames the insecurity in Wadi Hadramout, for example, on the Islah party. The increase in assassinations in the Wadi raises the concern of locals, the latest of which was “the injury of Salem bin Thabit al-Nahdi, and the death of one of his companions, on Sunday, as a result of shooting from Northern forces of the First Military Area,” according to tribal sources.

Hadramout witnesses protest vigils to demand minimal rights in terms of services and security, and reject administrative corruption, repressive practices and violations against activists. This reflects the street's lack of confidence in the ability of the political components to seize the Hadrami right by force, as the governorate is the main tributary to the state treasury. Being the most oil-producing governorate, it covers 70% of the state budget.

The popular rejection of corruption prompted the protesters to “throw the convoy of the Prime Minister in the parity government, Maeen Abdulmalik, with stones during his visit to Mukalla” last April, expressing their dissatisfaction with the government’s disregard for the rights of the people of Hadramout, calling on the government to “reveal the fate of Hadramout's oil share.” 2

The directives of the Minister of Interior Ibrahim Haidan in the parity government, who is close to President Hadi, to “take down the flags of South” during his visit to the city of Mukalla at the end of last May caused tension in the governorate. The STC in the governorate commented in a statement that “legitimacy and its symbols in the government are working to strain the situation, To seize the stability of the Hadramout coast in terms of security and services:"

"The flag of South is a symbol of the sacrifices and struggle of the Southerners in order to restore its right" STC added. 

The STC in Hadramout is preparing next Thursday to hold a mass demonstration and civil disobedience in the city of Seiyun to commemorate July 7 [the anniversary of the war against South Yemen in 1994], in an approach that indicates in its content the ability of the STC to gather its supporters even in areas controlled by the Islah Party [The Yemeni wing of the Muslim Brotherhood].


Salem bin Sahel

Editor and journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Photo: Swedish delegation headed by Sweden Foriegn Minister in Mukalla airport last June (Official)

South Yemen STC AQAP Hadramout