Wadi Hadramout: “The Islah Syndrome” and the Reality of Demographic Change

Analytics

Thu, 15-07-2021 10:48 AM, Aden Time

Salem bin Sahel (South24) 


Wadi Hadramout, east of South Yemen, has become a safe haven for organized crime groups although this area was not affected by the war and was supposed to be calmer and safe. Over the past years, the Wadi became an open arena for assassinations, most of which were registered against unknown perpetrators.

Wadi Hadramout with its wide geographical area and branching valleys, helps the perpetrators of the assassinations to escape from justice. The Wadi is subject to the government of Hadi, who resides in Riyadh, and is the last of the areas that the Yemeni government controls in South, along with parts of Shabwa, through its agent, the Islah party.

The pro-Islah Yemeni Minister of Interior, Ibrahim Haidan, is currently based in Seiyun, the center of the Wadi and its capital, without setting real and tangible solutions to improve the security system in the Wadi, despite multiple meetings held in this regard.

"Islah Syndrome"

The Islah and the General People's Congress (al-Motamar) - the two largest parties in North Yemen - have competed over Wadi Hadramout to strengthen their influence and popularity in "South" for 31 years. After the latter's popularity was shaken by his alliance with the Houthis with the outbreak of the war, Islah found an empty arena for it in the "South" as a whole, and Wadi Hadramout in particular.

Based on the experience of Islah in its organizational and partisan incursion into Wadi Hadramout for years, it has become difficult to eradicate the “Islah Syndrome”, but it is not impossible to compete with it if it finds a Southern entity bearing the cause of “restoring the state of South” and bearing the interests of the citizens. The STC seeks to undermine the role of Islah after it received international recognition in the “Riyadh Agreement” and became the strongest and most reliable representative for Southerners.

Looking back, we find that Islah apparently predicted years ago the strategic importance of Wadi Hadramout, from several aspects, and perhaps that was what prompted it to nominate Faisal bin Shamlan, who hails from Al-Suwairi in Tarim, for the Yemeni presidential elections in 2006, as a candidate for the Joint Meeting Parties.

The Islah party was able to gain the confidence of some people in the Wadi, and its motives became clear later. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, a pro-Islah party, was able to reach the position of vice president for Hadi on April 3, 2016, after the removal of former Vice President Khaled Bahah, whose origins go back to Al-Dis Al-Sharqiah in Hadramout governorate.

41 days before he became the vice president, Ali Mohsen was appointed deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces, which helped him tighten his grip to protect his oil companies and fields in Hadramout through his gunmen in the 1st Military District, which owes allegiance to him, according to military personnel.

For the Islah, these privileges enjoyed by "Ali Mohsen" achieve their strategic goal not only by securing control over oil fields; Rather, it also gives them control over Seiyun airport, whose work has not been affected by the repercussions of the war, and this outlet represents their window to the world. First by enabling them to smuggle their leaders in the event of any dangers they do not appreciate, and secondly by possessing a collection of intelligence information on arrivals and departures.

On the other hand, Wadi Hadramout constitutes a pressure card for Saudi Arabia, as it shares a border with it, and in it is Al-Wadi’a port, which is the only land port with Saudi Arabia that is still operating since the start of the war in 2015. This is what helps the pro-Islah Yemeni government to obtain financial and military support under the pretext of “fighting against terrorism", in light of the presence of AQAP, which is active in it and considers it a theater for carrying out its operations.

It seems that the STC is serious about turning the scales in its favor in Wadi Hadramout against Islah through it, and perhaps this is what the Special Representative of the STC President for Foreign Affairs Amr Al-Bidh hinted when he pointed out a few days ago that “the stability of South is a critical step for the stability of the region.” This confirms the “international interest in South,” as he described it after successive calls issued by the US, French, and British embassies to return to the Riyadh Agreement.

According to observers, no matter how supportive Saudi policy is today, it will eventually search for an ally capable of securing its borders with them, which is what the STC seeks to succeed in. Saudi Arabia had incurred human and financial losses over the past years in the "fight against terrorism" in Wadi Hadramout.

The Saudi military commander in the Arab Coalition, Bandar Al-Otaibi, was killed by an explosive device explosion in the Shibam district of Wadi Hadramout in September 2019, during an operation launched by the coalition forces against AQAP sites in Wadi Bin Ali, and the operation made progress after limited confrontations with AQAP, which revealed that Saudi Arabia is fighting AQAP members in the region despite the presence of the forces of the 1st Military District affiliated with the Islah.1

However, accusations always extend to the Yemeni party [the Islah] of colluding with AQAP, which takes Wadi Hadramout as a stronghold to manage its "terrorist operations", especially after the Governor of Hadramout Al-Bahsani revealed the investigations of the "terrorist cell targeting the security of the cities of the Hadramout Coast" that was seized in September 2019, which It documented evidence that “Muslem,” the son of the leader of the Islah party and a member of the Yemeni Shura Council, Salah Batis, leads “this terrorist cell,” which quickly prompted sources close to his family to admit that “Muslem went from his family of his own free will to join AQAP.” At the same time, "Khaled Batis", the brother of the leader in Al-Islah, Salah Batis, was also a leader in AQAP, before he was killed in an air strike by a US drone in the town of Habban in Shabwa in June 2016. 2

Concerning the assassinations that affect both the military and civilians in the Wadi, the tribal sheikh, Anwar Khaled Al-Nahdi, told South24: “In addition to the lawlessness, there is recklessness and bullying by some young people, which does not absolve them of responsibility due to lack of education, ignorance, and tribal prejudice.” In reference to the conflicts between the tribes of the Wadi, which found the environment fertile and encouraging to settle disputes among them in the absence of the state.

Confrontation

It seems that Islah’s control of Wadi Hadramout angers the STC, which seeks to “liberate” Southern provinces and place the Hadrami Elite forces in the Wadi instead of the Northern forces affiliated with the 1st Military District, loyal to Ali Mohsen and Islah, according to the statements of their leadership, but they currently prefer not to directly clash with the Islah. For that, they called to confront the Islah by establishing an auxiliary executive body for the STC in the Wadi.

Perhaps this is what prompted the STC to mobilize its supporters to peacefully demonstrate on the anniversary of “Southern Land Day” last week in Seiyun, except in Mukalla, similar to its mass activity in July last year, which was held in Mukalla to demand “self-administration of the Southern governorates.” Despite the promises of the security committee in the Wadi to protect the demonstrators, the convoys of the Hadramout Coast Directorates, Doan and Al-Dhalea districts were detained on their way to Seiyun by the military checkpoints deployed along the road, belonging to the 1st Military District, before efforts succeeded in allowing them to enter the area. Seiyun city, which indicates the presence of tensions between the peaceful demonstrators and Northern forces may explode one day, as soldiers of the Northern forces tore down the "flags of the state of South Yemen", according to field sources.

The director of the Auxiliary Executive Authority of the STC for the affairs of the districts of the Hadramout the Wadi and desert, Sheikh Saleh Al-Amoudi, told "South24" that "the Auxiliary Authority in the Wadi is tasked like the task of the governorate in Hadramout, except that it is called an auxiliary authority, and it performs its work as an independent body in financial terms, and its work is supervisory under the Riyadh Agreement.

Regarding the assassinations in the Wadi, Al-Amoudi added that "the lack of security in the Wadi Hadramout is caused by the absence of a loyal and secure authority over itself, as there is no integrated authority, but rather there are gangs interested in gaining and not interested in protecting the citizen, so whoever wants something to do it because there is no deterrent authority."

Officials from the Islah Party in Wadi Hadramout refused to comment to South24 about the security and political situation in the Wadi.

With reference to the Auxiliary Executive Authority whose establishment decision was issued on April 28 by the STC President Aidrous Al-Zubaidi, it is clear that the conflict between the two parties to the Riyadh Agreement is intensifying, and the continuation of the undeclared cold war between the STC and the Islah party, and the extortion of the confidence by the STC in the authorities in the Wadi, so The STC is now looking for a new tool that would enable it to maneuver through the "Assistent Authority", which monitors the performance of the Wadi's authorities and supervises the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.

On the other hand, the STC also wanted to ensure that the voice of its supporters is reached to influence any decisions related to "the fate of Hadramout", which made them to announce the "Hadramout Confederacy and Conference Bloc" last Saturday, headed by the advisor of the Hadramout Governor for Tribal Affairs, Salem bin Sumayda, "to prevent singling out decisions of those in charge of the Hadramout Confederacy and the Inclusive Hadhramout Conference‎.

On the other hand, the "Inclusive Hadhramout Conference" denounced this step and stressed that it would "take appropriate measures and actions" towards those it accused of "destroying Hadramout", while the Hadramout Confederacy and Conference Bloc had made it clear in a statement that it "is not a split from the Confederacy and the Conference, but rather it is an organization that works within their bodies to carry out the duty so that Hadramout obtains all its interests.” The Bloc affirmed its keenness to “strengthen the Confederacy and the Inclusive Hadhramout Conference of those who seized them and turned them into a tool to achieve personal interests away from the interests of Hadramout and the duty to defend the lives and rights of its people.”

Demographic

On the other hand, the Islah party, the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Yemen has been working over the past years to attract the people of the Wadi to form a popular incubator for it, and for its cross-border organization through its activities framed in its religious associations and development and relief institutions.

The intellectual building helps to instill the seeds of loyalty in the people of the Wadi, starting with the “Tahfiz circles spread in mosques,” to qualifying their affiliates to reach leadership positions and positions in the joints of power that achieve the organization’s agendas, and ensure the implementation of its policies consistent with its allies abroad.

However, recent years have witnessed a serious shift in the composition of the population. The fact of “demographic change” in Wadi Hadramout does not seem to be the result of a natural state of human displacement of Northern citizens looking for safety, but rather there are systematic political considerations for this remarkable displacement which some describe as “political displacement".

In view of the major cities of the Wadi, Seiyun, Tarim, Al-Qatan, and Shibam, a housing crisis has emerged in recent years as a result of the high rent of homes due to the ability of many displaced people to pay the money, without going to the camps for their reception in Al-Wadeah, Al-Abar, Maryam, Madwdah, and Al-Sum.

Sources indicate that most of the displaced are “financially capable” and they can form a full-fledged army, especially since they have weapons and military numbers. This raises the eyebrows of the population, as how soldiers are displaced from their land that they are supposed to fight and defend. 3

In this context, sheikh Saleh Al-Amoudi, the director of the Auxiliary Executive Authority of the STC in the Wadi, told South24: “Those who claim to be displaced, in fact own more than the people of the land, and have become a heavy burden on the poor citizen. They have aid, they have employment, and they have the upper say".

The increasing number of displaced people from North Yemen makes Hadramout a “point in a sea of settlement,” which may cause the merging of new cultures and identities with the culture of the indigenous people of Wadi Hadramout, which leads, after years, to consider citizens in Seiyun and neighboring cities a minority compared to thousands of arrivals from the North. 

Journalist and editor at South24 Center for News and Studies
Photo: @Yemen_PM/Twitter/Seiyun 

South Yemen Islah STC Hadramout