The political seminar (South24 Center)

Political Seminar: The Southern Forces are the Main Guarantor of South Yemen’s Future


Wed, 12-04-2023 06:01 PM, Aden

"We made it clear that we won’t be part of other Yemeni forces and won’t integrate with them. We, as Southerners, have an independent military doctrine"

Aden (South24) 

Military and political experts from South Yemen stressed the importance of keeping the Southern armed forces as a guarantor for any future solution to South Issue. Meanwhile, they underscored the need to enhance and expand the efforts by the Southern national dialogue to create a unified vision towards all that is related to this issue. 

A virtual seminar, organized by “South24 Center” on Friday, discussed “the available Southern options between reality and hopes" in light of the latest and accelerated developments in Yemen at political and military levels in particular. This is also linked to the current talks between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi militia as well as the international and regional efforts to pave the way for a comprehensive peace in the country which has been torn by the war that entered its 9th year last month.

In the seminar, moderated by political researcher and media figure Osan bin Siddah, “South24 Center” hosted the Chairman of the Southern National Dialogue Committee of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) Ahmed Omar Bin Fareed, the director of “Peace Track” initiative and a member of the Consultations and Reconciliation Commission Rasha Jarhum, researcher and political analyst Anwar Al-Tamimi and Military expert and Chairman of STC’s Higher Security Committee Major General Ali Al-Awlaki. 

On the decision-making table
At the beginning of the discussions, Ahmed Bin Fareed invoked the exclusionary nature against South Issue during the previous negotiations hosted by Kuwait, Geneva and others during the latest conflict in Yemen. He said: “The Southern negotiator who represents South Issue had no presence. However, the situation developed later to an advanced stage after the establishment of STC when the Southern negotiator was allowed to participate in the form of an observer who can give non-binding remarks”.

Later, according to Bin Fareed, “a sort of fait accompli was imposed amid the consecutive military failures on fighting axes in North”. This led to the Riyadh Agreement. Since then, the Southern negotiator has had a legitimate presence on the negotiation table as part of the legitimacy frame.

However, Bin Fareed believes that the biggest progress for the issue of South Yemen was achieved after the Riyadh Consultations in March when Southerners began to engage in decision-making. This followed the establishment of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) whose members include 4 Southerners. Additionally, the outputs of Riyadh Consultations stressed a special negotiation status for the issue of South People.

Bin Fareed added that the political progress for the Southern negotiator is credited to "the presence of Southern military forces who achieved big successes in the war theater and have become a deterrent power used in the political process".

The Southern politician considered the establishment of STC as being a political frame for Southerners which adopts the issue of South Yemen as one of these gains.

Western double standards

Rasha Jarhum agreed with Bin Fareed about the role played by the civil society in discussing the issue of South Yemen in 2018.

She said: "The idea was to support the issue of South Yemen and women's affairs as well as enabling the voices who were absent from the peace process to express themselves and make influential participation. We warned that not responding to the demands of Southerners or interacting with them will lead to the escalation of violence. This is what we saw sporadically over past years".

Jarhum believes that there is a systematic policy to create disagreements among Southerners. Meanwhile, she hailed the Southern national dialogue sponsored by STC. She called to "expand the dialogue and allow more involvement of civil society, not only through participation but by playing leading roles in them with all categories".

Jarhum criticized Western double standards in dealing with the issue of South Yemen. She indicated that "the regional countries adopt a more diplomatic approach in this regard. Even Britain itself as a state that has independent parts and despite Brexit does not interact with this".

She criticized the policy of UN envoys to Yemen, considering them "a reason behind the escalation of violence" due to the alienation of Southerners". She pointed out that "UNSC Resolution 2216 has not never imposed limiting the negotiations to two parties. On the contrary, previous UNSC resolutions demanded the presence of Southern representatives in any peace process”. 

Independent military doctrine

In both security and military fields, Major General Al-Awlaki believes that the structure process “positively impacts the Southern track”. Meanwhile, he denies any tendency to merge the Southern armed forces with other forces”. 

“This is unlikely. We want to help our brothers in Yemen to organize their military and security forces in a way that enables them to confront the Houthis. However, they waived this right and made no remarkable effort in this regard," he added.

Al-Awlaki talked about the strategic role made by their forces in counterterrorism in Yemen, especially operations “Arrows of the East” and “Arrows of the South” in Shabwa. According to him, this has been supported by “the Arab Coalition and friends in the United States, European Union, Britain, and Russia”. 

The senior military figure said that their forces managed to “liberate the basic bases of terrorist groups in Wadi Oemran and Wadi Al-Khayala in Mudiyah district and Al-Mahfad in Abyan. These areas in particular were controlled by terrorist groups for more than three decades. The state or any military forces failed to control part of them”. 

However, he pointed to pressure put against Southern forces regarding salaries and the merger process. Nonetheless, “when the joint security and military commission was established, we made it clear that we won’t be part of other Yemeni forces and won’t integrate with them. We, as Southerners, have an independent military doctrine. We achieved the goal in the face of the Houthis” according to him.

For his part, Al-Tamimi believes that the course of events since 2015 has enhanced the division based on North and South. This gave the status in South Yemen a national dimension as the resistance is relying upon a national project and not mere a conflict or a civil and ideological war”.

Al-Tamimi agreed with bin Fareed that “the establishment of STC was a milestone in the Southern revolution and the path of Southerners to restore their nation”. He believes that the presence of Southerners within the structures of Yemeni legitimacy is important as this limits the conflict to the frame of legitimacy and not with parties outside it”. He added: "all contentious issues with the Northern legitimate parties should be discussed intensely. They should not be avoided under the slogans of compatibility. Such discussions would enhance the two different political cases and national projects” in an indication about the projects of establishing two states in South and North. 

Southern options during negotiations

With the frequent talk about understandings regarding a roadmap to solve the crisis of Yemen following the historical agreement between Riyadh and Tehran in Beijing last March, the Chairman of the Southern National Dialogue Committee believes that the latest agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a tactical phased agreement, not a strategic one. However, solving the Yemeni crisis comes among its top priorities.

If the regional parties agree, this would facilitate the UN-brokered peace process in Yemen. Currently, negotiations are taking place at a faster pace than before according to bin Fareed. 

Commenting on statements by STC Spokesperson Ali Al-Kathiri to Alsharq Al-Awsat newspaper about PLC’s approval of putting a special negotiation frame for the issue of South Yemen in all phases of the political process, Bin Fareed stressed that the four Southern leaders within PLC are interested in this. He said: "This file which is related to Southerners and their vision of how this issue can be resolved is in their hands today. Undoubtedly, this is a complicated operation. The scale of international pressure is very huge. We have to appreciate and support the Southern negotiator and push him".

Bin Fareed pointed to challenges that could face Southern negotiators, especially when "talking about a unified state, transitional period, weapon handover as well as merging and unifying military forces". Therefore, Bin Fareed said that the Southern negotiator can never abandon his source of power. The Southern armed forces are the main guarantor of our issue".

Regarding the guarantees of the expected solution about Southerners, Bin Fareed believes that there are two main guarantees, the first is that the Southern forces will not be integrated and that they will remain in their areas. The second is that there will be a guarantee from the Arab Coalition that a self-determination referendum will be held. This is the minimum level that we can accept. If there is a disagreement about this, we could get into a maze."

As for the proposed solutions for the Southerners’ referendum regarding the form of the state in light of the demographic change processes, Rasha Jarhum says, “Everything is now concentrated in Sanaa including Id documents and other personal papers.”

She said: "The first point we should make as Southerners is to normalize services at the local level and to fully enable the local authorities of communications" in a possible indication about improving the referendum move in the future.

Al-Awlaki accused parties inside the Yemeni government of being behind the Houthi escalation against oil facilities and fronts in South Yemen. He said: "This was incited by a party with which we cooperated and engaged in a partnership in the Riyadh Agreement. It aimed at arm twisting South Yemen by hitting oil ports. Although Southerners do not fully benefit from them, because oil resources went to the coffers of the Yemeni government. The latter spend money on salaries and expenses and do not meet services in South'.

Furthermore, "escalation also came as a result of terrorist groups' cooperation with the Houthis specific activities, whether hostage exchange, offering ransom or mediations with foreign countries to release some EU members, especially from France and Britain," according to Al-Awlaki.

Al-Awlaki claimed that the Yemeni forces did not play any role in counterterrorism. On the contrary, they "allowed the terrorist elements to move freely in the governorates of Al-Jawf, Al-Baydah and Marib. They became a haven and a financier from the military aspect".

Political analyst Anwar Al-Tamimi agrees with Al-Awlaki about "the need not to sacrifice the military forces on the ground as being the basic guarantor of the Southern political national project and that any concessions or talking about a unified army will largely destabilize the issue of South Yemen and the Southern national project".

The available options after the negotiations 

Bin Fareed believes that a peace roadmap, the beginning of negotiations about it, and kicking off its three mentioned stages won't be declared without being accepted by all three parties (Southern party, Northern party of legitimacy and the Houthis).

Bin Fareed took about three main obstacles which may face the four Southern leaders of PLC who are entrusted with setting the framework for South Issue: The first one is represented in their internal frame as PLC about the national constants. The second obstacle is that if an agreement is reached on the negotiating framework and its form, it must be presented to their northern partners with legitimacy, and this partner has a vision that is no different from that of the Houthis. Finally, "if it is accepted by the Northern parties in legitimacy, the legitimate parties will enter into a unified framework, and present it to the Houthis, and the question will be: Will the Houthis accept this framework?"

Bin Fareed believes that “imposing unity by force of arms is equal to imposing it by force of politics". He said that "the outcome of imposing unity by the force of arms including disasters and instability in the region can be produced by any other form of imposing unity by the force of politics". Thus, "if this will be the case. If we enter any process which is being dismissed later we as Southerners should have our options. However, to be strong, the Southern national unity should be in its typical form".

Regarding the Southern national dialogue, Bin Fareed revealed that "more than 80% of our depicted goals for the dialogue process were achieved. harvesting the fruits will be soon. Many Southern parties, for whom unity was a red line, will be close to us.

On the other hand, Al-Awlaki indicates that they are drawing up "security and military plans at the current phase on the basis that there will be a (retaliatory) stage in which Northerners may unite against South, which is an 80% possibility." He says, "That's why we're working on addressing this potential danger yet"


Al-Awlaki continued by saying: "We are peace advocates. We don't compete with anyone over wealth or resources. We want Southern People to live with dignity like their people. We want to invest our resources in favor of our people".

Rasha Jarhum pointed out that "the solution should be made by peaceful and democratic methods through the participation of as the biggest possible numbers of Southerners in setting a framework for solution". From her perspective, "the establishment of the delegation should be achieved according to the Riyadh Agreement and GCC Consultations in Riyadh and based on the next discussions. We will provide support for negotiations in general, whether we participate or not. Our work supports mediation as well gathering all absent voices and enhancing them".

Al-Tamimi concluded: "It is important to rearrange the Southern inner home, enhancing the Southern National status, seeking for commonalities and presenting the national case as being a backer of the Arabian project, and part of the international efforts to counter terrorism".

South24 Center for News and Studies

South YemenPolitical SeminarCounter terrorismAdenSTCAhmed Bin FareedRasha JarhumAnwar Al-TamimiAli Al-AwlakiPeace TrackHouthisPeace TalksSouth Issue