South24 Center

Policy Paper: Does South Yemen Have the Prerequisites of a State?


Wed, 12-10-2022 08:03 PM, Aden

South24 | Aden

A policy paper concluded that “South Yemen” relatively has the prerequisites required for the establishment of an independent state, but it faces challenges that should not be underestimated. It called on international decision makers not to draw a link between Yemen’s stability and the unity between North and South or relying upon old narratives whose circumstances and contexts have changed after the Yemeni civil war since 2014.

The paper, issued by “South24 Center” - the original version is in Arabic -, particularly addresses South Yemen’s reality after 2015 and raises an important essential question about the possibility of the establishment of a Southern state in light of the current data and its dynamic shifts on the ground.

The paper, prepared by Researcher Farida Ahmed said: “15 years after the emergence of the Southern Movement (Hirak), Southerners still propose the same ideas and visions related to finding a solution to the crisis of the Yemeni unity signed in 1990. The most prominent among their proposed solutions is the independence from North, especially in light of the current political and military facts and the entitlements obtained by Southerners after 2015.

However, the paper said: “some international, regional and local actors still avoid addressing this option in an attempt to create approaches for alternative solutions which don't suit the current reality”.

According to the paper which consists of 41 pages, “South Arabia has not witnessed stability since the North-South unity in 1990. It has suffered ongoing conflicts beginning with the 1994 War to the six Wars of Saada to the latest civil war in 2014.Yemeni political and military forces played a negative role throughout different stages and contributed in drawing the map of the Yemeni scene in a complicated and divergent way”. 

The first part of the paper provides a comprehensive concise background about the political scene for a wider understanding about the Yemeni case since the unity declaration in 1990 and the subsequent dramatic developments of events, especially in South till the current situation. The second part discussed general concepts about the state, its identity, its prerequisites, and its basic elements for a wider understanding of its establishment. The third part tackled the prerequisites owned by the Southerners currently and whether they are sufficient for the establishment of a state.

Moreover, the paper reviewed the “capability of the Southern armed forces, Political lever, Southern staff (employment cadre), diplomatic corps, Southern unions and bodies and the Southern communities”. The paper partially depended on interviews conducted by the researcher with a group of experts and analysts. 

Security and military brigades and units that constitute the Southern forces (an official military source to “South24 Center”, September 25th 2022

The paper added that “the elements or the prerequisites required for the establishment of a state (people, land and government) are relatively achieved in South Yemen. This is with the exception of the fourth element(sovereignty) which is currently absent due to Chapter VII approved by the UN Security Council. This was a result of threats and violations against peace in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict there. This was decided by the UN Security Council Resolution 2216, adopted on April 14th, 2015”.

Furthermore, the factors of nature, the vast geographical area estimated at about 360,000 square km, the strategic location overlooking Bab Al-Mandab, oil and gas resources in addition to the agricultural, fisheries, mineral, industrial and other resources in South Yemen constitute a strategic importance and an additional advantage along with other prerequisites”.

The paper sought to open this debate to encourage local, regional and international actors to support   Southerners in dealing with their proposed options. The most important of which include gaining independence and the building of a federal Southern state which is independent from North. This would pave the way for sustainable peace and stabilization in the region as a whole. It would also support the liberation and stability of North”.

“It will become important to begin developing more logical approaches to dealing with reality through policies which are open to all solutions and possibilities without being restricted by traditional and fixed concepts related to the unity crisis between North and South. This needs international and regional and local determination to bring about this change” the paper added. 

The paper’s recommendations
First: To international and regional bodies:

International policymakers should not draw a link between Yemen’s stability and unity. Their concepts should not be juxtaposed with the old narratives related to outdated circumstances which have varied after Yemen's civil war that erupted in 2014.

Supporting Southerners in building an independent state would bring stability and security to the region, and essentially help stabilize North and South from within. 

Seeking for a balance between local Yemeni forces at the expense of weakening parties which have political and military weight on the ground, such as the STC is not in the interest of the project of restoring the Yemeni state from the Houthis, nor the regional countries which oppose Iran's project in the region.

It is a mistake for the issue of the South to remain at the bottom of priorities of international and regional officials. It is of great importance to listen to Southerners, understand their cause with its political, historical, geographical, economic and social dimensions more deeply. Moreover, it is necessary to meet with the largest number of Southern politicians, political experts, military and economic experts and civil society activists of both sexes.

Paying attention to the full scene of the crisis along with its causes and roots while providing material and political strategic support to Southern parties directly and not through Yemeni mediators would pave the way for a sustainable peace in Yemen. Strengthening the overall support of international organizations for dialogue with Southerners will create a kind of balance between the Yemeni parties and ensure that everyone has been understood and listened to in a fair way. 

The Southern parties, especially STC, will play a major role in maintaining the stability in the Southern areas, especially in the counterterrorism file, in which they showed superiority over the past years. They still counter it with their various security and military capabilities in Shabwa, Abyan and Hadramout. This requires strengthening them with broader capabilities and programs.

Second: To the local authorities:

The continuation of more intra-South dialogues called for by the STC before the start of the upcoming comprehensive peace negotiations with other Yemeni forces would form a Southern national front that would establish a political life in South Yemen.

Directing support to Southern think tanks can be helpful for changing the perspective of international decision-makers on the unity crisis issue and paving the way to more realistic solutions.

It may be worthwhile for Southern parties to seek to revive their role abroad by communicating with international organizations and bodies intensively. This would help to understand the nature and sensitivity of the Southern issue and provide those interested in it with many correct answers.

It is recommended to form a 'general union of Southern communities', to facilitate coordination and organization among communities abroad, in order to unify the discourse and message on the Southern issue and to guide the Southern competent elements and lobbies to be introduced through peaceful diplomatic means. 

It is important for the Northern parties to realize that the liberation of North from the Houthis is tied to the independence of South, and that being dragged into the calls by some Northern parties to consolidate unity in light of the changes witnessed by South prolongs   the Houthi control over Northern territories. 

It became important for political and military forces to prioritize between defending unity and liberating North from the Houthis. The two issues have become incompatible and cannot be combined together. The priority of defending unity necessarily means handing over North to the Houthis who will continue their attempts to annex South. On the other hand, the priority of liberating North necessarily means recognizing the right of the Southerners to enhance their options on their own lands.

Executive director of South24 Center for News and Studies, researcher and journalist in political affairs.

South YemenYemenYemen WarSTCAden1994 WarSouth independent