The Presidential Council: Between Southerners’ Concerns and Northerners’ Agendas


Thu, 05-05-2022 01:36 PM, Aden

Raad Alrimi (South24)

On April 7th, former Yemeni President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, announced the establishment of the Presidential Council which consists of 8 Southern and Northern political and military figures. He transferred all his powers to the new council and those owned by his deputy Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar whom he sacked at the same day.

The Presidential Council, which was established by Saudi and Emirati sponsorship along with disclosed international support, has represented the most prominent political change witnessed by the Yemeni crisis for many years. This change blows the spirit of the political life inside weak Northern parties or those which have no influence on their own land. It has formed an emergency alliance which combines it with the STC, the strongest Southern party. 

However, fears have emerged in South Yemen towards this alliance with the Northern parties in the Presidential Council. Those concerns are derived from the rich common history between South and North and the latter’s coup against any real forms of agreement or partnership like what happened before the invasion against South in 1994.

Many analysts and politicians close to Northern parties participated in the Riyadh Consultations and members of the Presidential Council agree that the tendencies and the efforts of the Presidential Council, especially its Northern components, have to focus on North Yemen which is controlled by the Houthis. 

They believe that the Presidential Council’s efforts regarding South should focus on the economic, development and services aspects, especially in the capital city of Aden which became a starting point towards North Yemen and “the decision making capital” as dubbed by some. 

Indeed, some Northern parties since the first moments of the Presidential Council establishment were quick to send positive messages that reflect possible understanding of the nature of the new changes and its necessary priorities. However, for many Southerners, those messages remain insufficient and don’t provide guarantees unless they have actual contact with the ground. 

On April 19th, Brigadier General Tariq Saleh, Member of the Presidential Council and the “National Resistance Commander” (the Republican Guards) tweeted that “Aden today opens the horizons for a national alliance towards Sanaa to restore Yemen”.

This tweet by the nephew of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh came in conjunction with the 7th anniversary of liberating Aden from Northern forces - partially led by Tariq - as well as the Houthis. 

It should be noted that the first speech by Major General Rashad Al-Alimi, the Chairman of the Presidential Council on April 8th didn’t include any mention of maintaining the Yemeni unity. 

The man, who has close ties with the KSA, said in a statement published by Saba   News Agency that “the Presidential Council aims at treating political, economic, social and security challenges in both North and South without discrimination and across Yemeni regions without exceptions”.

The Northern parties

Yemeni journalist and politician Nabil Al-Sufi said: “Currently, there are no forces representing the North”.

He told “South24'' that “unfortunately, all forces claim that they represent the Yemeni Republic although such a status has no existence in North and as all those forces escaped after being defeated by the Houthis”. 

He added: ”The performance of those forces could have been understood if talks about the Yemeni Republic aim at mobilizing for moving Northward against the Houthis. However, along the years of the war, all kinds of mobilization in the name of the Yemeni Republic have been mere echoes derived from the 1994 War whose circumstances ended in South”. 

He added: “There is an assumed slogan through which they say that any words about representing North means accepting the fragmentation of the Yemeni Republic. Such lies confirm that the Northern forces want to participate in ruling South Yemen under the pretext of the Yemeni Republic and the Unity while leaving the North to the Houthis on the pretext that the Houthis will disappear and are not permanent”. 

Al-Sufi believes that “talking about Northern representation denotes the necessity to update our battle Northward, What does it mean? What are the forces involved? What are their goals? What is their cause? It is not only a war against the Houthi coup, but also a war related to national and religious identity”. 

Kuwaiti politician Anwar Al-Rasheed doubted the intentions of the Northern forces affiliated with the Presidential Council regarding liberating its territories from the Houthis.

Al-Rasheed told “South24”: “Unfortunately, I don’t see a serious position from Northern forces affiliated with the Presidential Council regarding liberating their territories from the Houthis and the government’s return to Sanaa. I don’t think this is part of their current or future agendas”.

He added: ”Actually, if the Presidential Council and particularly the Northern representatives do not disclose its strategy regarding liberating Sanaa from the Houthis, the crisis will continue indefinitely, and the biggest loser in all of that is South and its cause."

The Kuwaiti politician stressed the need to adjust the tone of the chronic political operation. He called the Presidential Council’s members to be very careful, especially in the next two month given their strategic importance which reveals the hidden agendas to control South under the slogan of legitimacy”. 

The common enemy

Regarding the nature of the Presidential Council and the participation of the STC in it, the latter’s leader Mansour Saleh said that “the Riyadh Consultations resulted in the formation of the Presidential Council which will be responsible for managing the military and the economic files”. 

Saleh told “South24” that “the war file requires a quick act whether to stop it and move towards peace if the Houthi militias respond or to unify the efforts and the military font against the Houthis to resolve the battle militarily”. 

Regarding the STC forces in the Northern battle, he said: “The STC declared its position since the beginning in the battle to liberate the Northern governorates that it will back and support any serious and honest Yemeni forces to fight the Houthis and to engage a real war against the Houthi militias”.

However, the Southern leader believes that “the battle to liberate the North is basically the task of the Northern forces that should move from their locations, especially those who are based in Hadramout and Al-Mahra as they are big and well-equipped”.

But those forces, according to Mansour Saleh, “have not been engaged in any battle during the past seven years. This means they will be more enthusiastic and capable of involving in this battle, especially that most of their members belong to governorates controlled by Houthis militias and have sufficient reasons to fight”.

The battle unity

Yemeni politician and academic, Mohammad Jumaih agrees with Al-Sufi and Saleh that the battle today should move towards Sanaa. 

Jumaih told “South24”: “I believe that either Northern or Southern forces affiliated with the Presidential Council should be unified under the umbrellas of the Defense and the Interior ministries and to work for unifying this battle. This is the base of this war. Our war is towards Sanaa not Aden”.

He added: “I believe that the battle must move towards Sanaa, no matter whether they are affiliated with Northern or Southern commanders as the Riyadh Agreement and the latest Riyadh Consultations stipulated that the battle is a unified one”.

For Jumaih, there is “an only option” in front of the Presidential Council if the Houthis insist on rejecting peace. This will impose resorting to military power not for uprooting the Houthis, as no one wants to uproot them as a social and ideological component but to force them to sit at the negotiation table”.

Southern concerns

Jumaih ruled out the occurrence of the Southern fears towards the incoming political process under the Presidential Council framework. He attributed his view to the “current big Southerners' power”. He expressed his hope that the Southern voice could emerge as part of the unified leadership.

“This is the first time in which South has a 50% representation not only at the governmental level but the level of the actual strength of the governance in the country “he added.

He does not share the view that “the Presidential Council will restore Northerners’ control over the South” adding that “the hope is to regain the control of the internationally-recognized government over all liberated Northerners’ territories and to be subjected to its decisions from Aden”.

Previously, prominent STC leader Nasser Al-Khubaji said that the title of the relationship between the STC and the Northern parties today could be “allies to liberate North but not partners in South”.

Raad Alrimi 
Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies
Photo: Members of the Presidential Council perform Eid al-Fitr prayers in Aden (official) 

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