Rashad Al-Alimi (AFP)

The Pretext of «Salaries»: South is the Victim of the UN Truce


Sat, 08-10-2022 04:55 PM, Aden

Political editor (South24) 

On October 2nd, the Iran-backed Houthis threatened to target oil companies operating in the UAE and KSA. They also warned active oil companies in Yemen. Meanwhile, the UN announced the end of the truce among the warring parties which began 6 months ago in April. The Houthi threats were not a surprise for many Yemeni parties who realize that the group’s approach is based upon “blackmail” to achieve further gains.

Previously, the UN Envoy to Yemen, "Grundberg” expressed his feeling of sorrow for not reaching an agreement regarding the truce. He said: ”I appreciate the position of the Government of Yemen on engaging positively with my proposal. I will continue to work with both sides to try and find solutions.” [1] In a press briefing held by the US Envoy Tim Lenderking and attended by “South24”’ on Wednesday, he blamed the Houthis for the failure of the US and UN efforts to prolong the truce. He said: “The stumbling block to renewing the truce on Sunday was, in fact, the Houthis imposing maximalist and impossible demands that the parties simply could not reach, certainly in the time that was available. So I think if we see more flexibility from the Houthi side going forward, then this opens the road, I think, to this much better peace option”. [2] Although Southern parties objected on some clauses of the truce agreement draft proposed by the UN Envoy, the Yemeni government agreed on it and pledged to pay the remaining salaries of the civilian employees and the retirees in the areas controlled by the Houthis based on the 2014 database. In return, the Houthis would be obliged to deliver the revenues of customs and taxes they collect from the Ports of Hodeida for this purpose. The revenues from both sides have to be transferred to a special account supervised by the UN according to the agreement draft seen by “South24”.

Suddenly the Houthis backtracked their approval to prolong the truce in the final moments although they denied their initial approval. [3] In return, some media outlets describe the Houthi reversal as being a result of the divisions among the group's leaders. However, promoting this scenario looks appropriate for the Houthis to justify their refusal. Nonetheless, it is known that the Houthis is an ideological theocratic group who takes orders from its leader “Abdulmalik Al-Houthi” and there is absolutely no room for objection to his decisions. Therefore, the most likely justification is that there are other calculations for the Houthi refusal related to raising the ceiling of demands to include sharing the Southern oil revenue. It is also linked to the Iranian position towards the truce and its circumstances in light of the grassroot tension within Iran which accused the US and some European countries of exploiting the turmoil in an attempt to destabilize the Islamic Republic. [4]

Although both reasons seem logical, but in light of the international need for energy which turned to a geopolitical point that became one of the most prominent current global conflicts, the first reason may be more logical for many considerations, not least of which is the progress achieved by the Southern forces recently in Shabwa and their endeavors to secure Wadi Hadramout and Al-Mahra governorate which share borders with Oman.

Therefore, the government’s acceptance of the Houthis demands related to paying employees salaries and opening the Sanaa Airport and the Ports of Hodeida has encouraged the Houthis to raise the negotiation ceiling and to exploit the humanitarian cover. This has pushed them to ask for impossible demands like sharing oil and gas revenues with the internationally recognized Yemeni government. This may allow the Houthis to go too far if the international officials remain adopting an appeasement approach towards them which strengthens the Houthi stance while weakening the official government position.

What does this mean for the Southerners?

The truce has not achieved any practical results for Southern people, not at the military and security levels nor basically in the economic and service fields. Even in the central governorate of Taiz, for example, the roads are still closed as the Houthis have not so far implemented their pledges in this regard. 

However, the relevant question is not whether prolonging the truce could improve the humanitarian situation in the areas controlled by the Houthis. It should be about how it will impact the living conditions of people in South and the subsequent popular escalation which has repercussions on different political, military, economic and humanitarian aspects. It is noticeable that the civil service in Houthi-controlled areas was swept away. Most employees, even those in the 2014 database work for the Houthis or under their authorities. This accordingly means that Southerners will take from their resources to pay salaries to employees, soldiers and fighters who are the Houthis' tools in their daily threats to invade South. The impact of their invasion of Aden in 2015 still witnesses the size of destruction and victims. 

The Houthis call for salary payments from the oil revenues (i.e., from Hadramout and Shabwa which are the most important governorates producing oil and gas) which means that Southerners will mainly bear the cost of paying salaries from their areas’ revenues. As part of their partnership in the Yemeni government, Southerners accepted to pay the salaries of the internationally recognized government and the employees of the Northern liberated areas such as Taiz from their different oil and financial revenues. This is despite the fact that dozens of Southern employees in both military and civil sectors are not regularly paid their salaries or receive meager ones which don't exceed 60 dollars per month. 

If the Yemeni government accepts implementing the Houthis demands, this will likely lead to more harsh Southern reactions and push for preventing the government from accessing the Southern revenues, especially that Marib still keeps its revenues for itself and does not contribute in funding the state so far. Such a scenario could lead to irreversible real divisions within the new-formed PLC. It may fuel stormy disputes towards which the Southerners have long adopted a pragmatic and balanced approach over the past periods. Moreover, Marib is not far from similar furious reactions if the Houthis are given benefits at the expense of the local tribal locals who showed steadfastness, with the support of the KSA, against the Houthis in the remaining areas of Marib. 

Therefore, it is necessary for “Grundberg” to adopt a balanced approach in addressing some sensitive issues, especially that the Swedish official sought solutions for superficial and logistic issues at the expense of drastic and basic ones. This can lead to negative repercussions on the whole path of peace. Furthermore, PLC Chairman Rashad Al-Alimi should not go too far in his optimism towards the outcome of those concessions.

In total, these changes could lead to a wave of popular anger in South, especially that Southern parties expressed their own stance towards the truce [5] independently from the Yemeni government. Informed sources told “South24” that PLC member Aidrous Al-Zubaidi refused some points in the UN truce including the issue of salaries. 

Accordingly, submission to the Houthis conditions and forcing the governmental parties to accept them through the continuous regional and international pressure will fuel the political and the military situation in South and the liberated areas. This also will create divisions within the anti-Houthi forces. Therefore, the possible consequences would impose new challenges for the international community and the UN Special Envoy that could make him change all his perceptions about the peace process for which he has worked to make convergence. This could lead to the eruption of the situation again. 

There are concerns among the Southerners to pay the price from their gains they have maintained over past years due to the pragmatism of the Northern political elite in the Yemeni government who does not hesitate to appease the Houthis. The Northern elite believe that this will serve their areas without calculating the worst results and the strategic consequences. 

South24 Center for News and Studies

Yemen truceHouthisPLCSecurity CouncilHans GrundbergShabwaHadramoutAdenOil revenues