The Hadrami delegation in Saudi Arabia, May 22, 2023 (Media Office of the Governor of Hadramout)

Hadrami Discussions in Riyadh: Background and Goals


Mon, 05-06-2023 12:02 AM, Aden Time

The activities of the Hadrami delegation in Saudi Arabia were not limited to internal discussion but they extended to meetings with Western ambassadors.

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

On May 20, a delegation from Hadramout, the largest governorate in South Yemen, arrived in the Saudi capital city Riyadh at the invitation of Saudi Arabia. This came on the eve of holding the 6th Session of the STC's National Assembly in Mukalla.

Over the subsequent days, the delegation engaged in discussion sessions that varied between political, security, social, and economic axes. They were led by the Governor of Hadramout Mabkhout bin Madi who was appointed by the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) in July. 

Due to the timing of these discussions, questions emerged about their goals. They came in the wake of Saudi moves in Hadramout along with the STC's biggest steps in years that began with the Southern Consultative Meeting till holding of the National Assembly.

On May 8, STC's President, Major General Aidrous Al-Zubaidi, restructured the council's Presidium. This included appointing Hadrami strong figure Major General Faraj Al-Bahsani, as his deputy. He also serves as PLC Member.

Timing of discussions

On May 18, Al-Zubaidi arrived by air from Aden to Al-Rayan International Airport in Mukalla amid popular and official reception. A day earlier, a procession that included prominent STC figures traveled hundreds of kilometers by land from Aden to Hadramout to prepare for the 6th Session of the National Assembly.

On the other hand, parties in Hadramout, that call for the secession of the governorate from South Yemen, launched meetings in Seyiun in Wadi Hadramout which is controlled by the First Military District (FMD). Salah Batis, a a senior official of the Islah Party, published the closing statement of the Hadrami Consultative Meeting under the slogan "Hadramout: Partnership and Peerage". 

The statement called for "a unified position towards the whole political developments in Hadramout in light of the military provocations against the peaceful city of Mukalla" in a reference to the STC's parade. It added that the aim is "to thwart the hegemonic projects and Hadramout's subordination to South and North".

The statement addressed the "Hadrami Issue" putting a "special negotiation framework for it in the political solution". It noted that all parties will meet with the PLC's Chairman Rashad Al-Alimi to reach an agreement on that. Earlier on May 16, figures announced the "Hadrami Code of Honor". This happened during a meeting that gathered them, days after the declaration of the "Southern National Pact" in Aden.

Prominent Hadrami figures participated in the STC-sponsored Consultative Meeting, in Aden. They signed the Southern National Pact which stipulates restoring the South state. Several items call for dialogue to solve problems and the need to set broad lines for the next stage. Additionally, Hadrami tribes praised the meeting.

The statement, issued by the 6th Session of the National Assembly on May 22, stressed the future of Hadramout as part of a "federal independent Southern state". It called for driving Northern forces out of the governorate and enabling its people to manage their affairs.

Figures and parties

According to Hadramout Governor's media office, the delegation that arrived in Saudi Arabia included Governor Mabkhout bin Madi and other senior officials including Judge Akram Al-Amiri who serves as the Vice President of the Consultation and Reconciliation Commission, Eng. Mohsen Ali Basra the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Amr bin Habrish the Chairman of the Inclusive Hadramout Conference.

The delegation also included Abdullah Saleh Al-Kathiri the Head of the Hadramout Tribal Alliance, Saleh bin Hariz Al-Marri the dissident official of the Hadrami Uprising (Haba), Essam Bin Habrish Al-Kathiri Undersecretary of the Local Administration Ministry, Anwar bin Yamani Al-Tamimi, Hadrami League's representative including Ayed bin Muhairi and Yahya Bagry.

Exclusive sources told "South24 Center" that the participants included Hadrami figures residing in Saudi Arabia. Concurrently with the discussions of this delegation, Major General Al-Bahsani held a meeting with several Hadrami figures residing in Saudi Arabia. On May 22, Al-Bahsani arrived in Saudi Arabia, accompanied by Al-Zubaidi, to join other PLC leaders.

Files and axes

On May 21, the Hadrami delegation that arrived in Saudi Arabia held a consultative meeting, chaired by Mabkhout bin Madi. The governor's media office said that the meeting aimed at "reaching a consensus on a unified future vision". Bin Madi thanked Saudi Arabia for the invitation adding that "discussing an important issue like that requires honesty and responsibility".

On May 24, the media office announced "the beginning of consultative discussions for the political axis of the Hadrami delegation in Riyadh". The statement said: "Today, the Saudi capital, Riyadh, witnessed the beginning of the consultative discussions of the Hadrami delegation which includes political factions, elites, sheiks, notables, and social, military and security figures".

"The delegation was divided into three axes including the political axis, the security axis and the social and the economic axis ", according to the statement which noted that Judge Akram Al-Amiri, Deputy Chairman of Consultation and Reconciliation Commission, chaired the political axis discussions.

The media office indicated that "the discussions of this axis were divided into main points around the political vision of Hadramout. They include unifying the political factions, dealing with other political parties, general principles and the implementation mechanisms". Furthermore, the discussions among members of the political axis stressed the "importance of reaching consensus and working together for a unified political vision to Hadramout".

As for the security axis, the delegation held discussions, led by Sultan Al-Tamimi, Assistant Secretary General of Hadramout Tribal Alliance. The media office said that the security axis discussed the ways to enhance Hadramout's security, support its members, address the security risks that face Hadramout and defend it as well as taking security measures to counter drugs, terrorism, and extremism.

Moreover, the axis discussed "anti-money laundering, the hosting of wanted fugitives, countering crisis traders, spreading awareness, and activating the role of religious scholars and preachers to immunize the internal front against internal and external threats”.

The Governor of Hadramout praised the “security and military Hadrami competencies”. He expressed his hope for recommendations “that support the security, stability and the strength of military and security institutions”. 

As for the social and economic axis, headed by Abdulaziz Al-Sigh Assistant Secretary General of the Inclusive Hadramout Conference, the delegation discussed “unifying the internal front of Hadramout, the establishment of a general coordination council of the Hadrami factions, denouncing the extremist ideology, immunizing society, taking care of education and health and fighting smuggling and drugs”, according to the media office. 

Additionally, the discussions also included “unifying loyalties to Hadramout under the banner of local authorities, activating the cultural aspect, monitoring and seeking solutions to develop the economy, optimizing the oversight role and studying the establishment of a fund to support development, security and services”.

On May 25, the media office said that the committee of the Hadrami delegation in Riyadh “ended their internal consultations amid conciliatory circumstances and feelings of responsibility”.

It added: “The committees discussed the general visions of factions, political forces, academic elites and social, military, security and media figures on the future of Hadramout. They produced unified vision and goals which reflect the aspirations of the governorate’s people in political, security, social and economic aspects”.

The statement didn’t clarify the outcome, and agreements resulting from these discussions. It just pointed to Hadramout Governor's praise of the spirit demonstrated by the delegation members and the unity of their rank as well as their feeling of responsibility emanating from their keenness to meet people's aspirations.

In the meeting called by Major General Faraj Al-Bahsani, political officials and tribal factions of Hadramout, inside and abroad, called for unifying ranks and agreeing on joint visions and policies in the face of any future risks”. 

Al-Bahsani said: “Hadramout will get the place it deserves in the next state, due to its position, history, geographical location and wealth, especially its human resources”. He stressed the need for presenting Hadramout’s rights at the negotiation table of any internal and external discussions”. 

Goals and messages 

While these discussions seem like a reaction to the latest STC’s moves, and other Southern political parties that joined the latter or participated in the consultation meeting including the Hadrami parties, some see that they serve as preliminary steps to make changes in Hadramout which may ultimately be in the interests of the STC.

In principle, the STC doesn’t express any objections on the intra-Southern discussions, even without its sponsorship. Repeatedly, Aidrous Al-Zubaidi called Southerners and Hadramis to line up and unify their efforts on national foundations. This includes his latest speech in front of Hadramout’s sheiks and notables on 21 May.

However, journalist Abdullah Al-Amoudi raised doubts about the goals of the discussions of the Hadrami delegation in Saudi Arabia. He told “South24 Center”: “The engagement of factions and figures that have links with the Islah Party and long history of changing positions according to personal interests weakens any hopes or positive speculations about the results or goals of these consultations”. 

“The assumed goal of holding these consultations was to reach more consensus among different Hadrami factions. However, it is not apparently the real goal as any endeavors linked to the survival of the Yemeni unity, which most Hadramis - including me - reject, won't succeed and will only lead to more division”, he said. 

On the other hand, political analyst Mohammed Bamzaab believes that “these discussions are positive for Hadramout”. He told “South24 Center”: “We know the importance of Hadramout for our Saudi brothers, especially since there are vast borders between South Yemen and Saudi Arabia via Hadramout which is considered a strategic depth to the Kingdom that invited Hadramis for discussions”.

Bamzaab believes that discussions on the security aspect will lead to a unified Hadrami demand to expel the forces of the FMD out of Wadi Hadramout. He claimed that Saudi Arabia ensured through intelligence reports that the Northern forces in Wadi Hadramout will pledge allegiance to the Houthis. This would threaten the kingdom’s national security and its open borders with Hadramout, according to him.

As for the alternative forces for the FMD, Bamzaab believes that Saudi Arabia will support deploying pure Hadrami forces for that. Earlier, sources in the Nation Shield Forces talked about the imminent handing over Al-Wadeah border crossing and expelling the Northern forces, led by officer Hashem Al-Ahmar from the crossing.

European interest

The activities of the Hadrami delegation in Saudi Arabia were not limited to internal discussion but they extended to meetings with Western ambassadors in multiple meetings. Ironically, the European official narrative adopted for the first time an approach to support a single governorate. Meanwhile, the same European narrative is accused of ignoring South Issue which includes Hadramout and all Southern governorates.

On May 31st, the Hadrami delegation in Saudi Arabia met representatives from the European Union Commission in Yemen and the ambassadors of the EU states. The media office of Hadramout Governor said that the meeting discussed the general conditions in Hadramout and the efforts to unify ranks as well as the governorate needs and its future visions as part of the incoming political settlement".

The EU Mission in Yemen tweeted: “EU Ambassadors to Yemen had a very good exchange today with the Governor of Hadramout Mabkhout bin Madi and several representatives from the region who stressed Hadrami strong identity and voice in Yemen. The ambassadors recalled the EU’s support to PLC unity and to UN-led peace efforts providing an avenue for Yemenis deciding on their future”.

Moreover, Mabkhout bin Madi conducted bilateral meetings with ambassadors of the US, UK, France, Saudi Arabia and Japan. These meetings focused on supporting security and stability in Hadramout which has rich oil and other resources. The latter witnessed frequent visits during the past period to the same ambassadors, in addition to the Chinese Charge d'affaires. 

According to Bamzaab, during the meeting with the European ambassadors, Hadramout Governor insisted that the governorate should be "an autonomous region in the desired Southern state”. “South24 Center” was not able to contact Governor Mabkhout bin Madi or the governorate media office affiliated with him to verify the validity of this information.

Due to its importance at all levels, any developments in Hadramout will directly affect all local parties including the Houthi militia. Experts don’t rule out that the latter will try to invade the governorate based on the Northern forces deployed in the FMD. Additionally, these effects won’t be limited to the local level. In the near term, it is not clear whether these moves will contradict the STC’s attempts to complete control of Hadramout and South Yemen or will support these efforts. However, the council provides the best choices for Hadramis themselves as part of the desired state, and probably even to those who call for the secession of Hadramout. 

Abdullah Al-Shadli

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

South YemenSaudi ArabiaHadramoutHouthisSTC