A military parade by the Southern Forces in Aden, January 3, 2023

2023 in South Yemen: How Will the Scene Look Like?


Sun, 08-01-2023 12:42 AM, Aden Time

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24)

The new year began in South Yemen carrying with it a huge legacy of complexities at all fields and levels amid growing challenges imposed by the changes. 

To a great extent, it seems that this year may actually witness major transformations derived from the circumstances created by the past years, especially 2022 which witnessed the biggest political leap. This came through the establishment of the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) and a truce that lasted for 6 months and was the first of its kind since 2015. 

Politically, South Yemen enters the new year while being stuck in a “de-facto truce”. South Yemen is apparently the biggest loser of this truce as the Houthis maintain the privileges of the collapsed truce while targeting the oil ports in South Yemen.

Moreover, PLC, which includes the President of Southern Transitional Council (STC), faces a lot of problems and internal challenges. This has left an impact on PLC’s performance and its commitments towards the liberated areas, mostly in South Yemen.

Over the past period, PLC and the parity government failed to solve multiple issues, especially those related to the poor services in Aden and the other governorates in addition to other issues such as the salaries of the military and civil employees. 

At the military level, the de-facto truce has so far prevented the return of the full war in the country. However, it has not hindered the Houthi aerial military escalation against South Yemen. During the new year, the Northern group will move forward towards targeting oil production and export processes. 

Additionally, the First Military District (FMD) constitutes one of the biggest dilemmas in Hadramout which is the biggest governorate in South Yemen. All options remain open for Southerners including the military solution. This is due to not resolving the FMD issue by moving its forces to the fronts where the Houthis are deployed as stipulated in the Riyadh Agreement.

At the economic level, the deadlock in producing and exporting oil has increased the economic concerns in South Yemen and has weakened the ability of the Yemeni government to fulfill the simplest obligations towards people. This is in addition to the ongoing economic collapse that began some years ago.

In parallel with that, the Saudi-Emirati deposit has not fully reached the Yemeni Central Bank although it was declared 9 months ago on April 7th. With the continuous presence of all these factors, the economic scene in 2023 may apparently be worse than before.

The political scene

The endeavors have stumbled due to the Houthi conditions which were described by the UNSC as being "extremist".

However, some elements of the truce which expired on October 2nd such as the flow of fuel to the Port of Hodeidah and allowing flights to and from Sanaa Airport are still in place in favor of the Houthis.

Furthermore, several other political issues have emerged in South Yemen including the implementation of the remaining articles of the Riyadh Agreement [2019] and the Riyadh Consultations [2022] which led to the establishment of PLC.

STC calls for the restructure of several ministries and governmental institutions as well as making several reforms. During 2022, this restructure and reforms were carried out in the country's judicial authority.

Government failures in many files open many possibilities during 2023 regarding the current Yemeni government led by Maeen Abdulmalik. The changes are likely to affect the prime minister, or the entire government.

Regarding the political scene in South Yemen in 2023, Southern academic Dr. Saeed Al-Jariri said: "The scene is apparently open to all possibilities given the nature of the general scene of what can be called "the Yemeni issue".
He told "South24 Center": "What I mean by the Yemeni issue is the sin of the political Yemenization and the failure of the Yemeni Unity. The uncertainty is an outcome of the conflict between the Northern and Southern issues which has not been resolved by the war. They are two different issues each of which has its own characteristics, problems and prospects".

He added: "South Yemen ran out of its political flexibility stock. The Yemeni legitimacy and the Arab Coalition did not leave any choices to South Yemen except for searching for measures that don’t weaken its points of strength. These parties have had undue opportunities that enable them to gain more time which is exploited by the Houthis as a tool to pressure the Coalition, especially Saudi Arabia". 

He elaborated : "The main issue has become between the Houthis- who are depicted as a Yemeni party entrusted with the capital in which they launched a coup against its legitimacy- and the KSA which is being described by the Houthis and their affiliates as the leader of an aggression alliance".

According to him "This enables the Houthis and their implicit ally (the Yemeni legitimacy) to blur the origin of the Yemeni issue with an aim to alienate South Yemen (state and people) from the equation of the comprehensive political solution. This is the challenge which faces Southerners. Will they prepare themselves as a national bloc with one goal as part of desirable national dialogue outputs? Or will they bet on the Coalition's generosity although there are no free gifts in the world of politics?"

Al-Jariri concluded with the question: "Will the Southern national resistance resolve the issue by imposing a new reality which would impose a table of a comprehensive political solution outside the expectations of the Houthis and their implicit allies?"

He added: "2023 is the year of decisiveness as the only alternative is going nowhere.”

Despite the hopes that some place on the possibility of reaching an agreement to prolong the truce which can lead to comprehensive political negotiations, Saleh Abu Awdal the Head of "Al-Youm8" downplayed the importance of the truce.

He told "South24 Center": "South Yemen has long been the only loser of this truce which has benefited the Houthis who have been able to achieve many demands through it and raise their ceiling at the expense of South Yemen".

Abu Awdal stressed on the importance of making Southern military action to apply the regional recognition of the Southerners issue during the Riyadh Consultations in April 2022. He added: "The military action is the main guarantee to apply the regional recognition on the ground".

He added: "Regaining Wadi Hadramout, Mahra and Mukiras during 2023 will translate such recognition on the real ground". He believes that the involvement of 4 Southern figures in PLC is an important political achievement."

The military scene

Southerners began 2023 by holding military parades in Aden and Lahj governorates which witnessed the graduation of trained military batches and the establishment of a special force in Abyan.

These military parades are seen as being messages and indicators that reveal South Yemen's intention to resolve many files militarily during the new year. This also indicates that the Southern forces enter the new year with more morale and power which has not been depleted by the lack of salaries and support in addition to the open fronts with the Houthis and AQAP.

On the other hand, the Houthis didn't miss the beginning of the new year to send their messages also.

On Jan 3rd, the Houthi media said that the Head of “the Supreme Political Council Mahdi Al-Mashat visited Al-Hasha and the Kirsh fronts in Al-Dhalea and Lahj respectively accompanied by prominent military commanders.

The visit came concurrently with big tensions in Wadi Hadramout where the FMD forces are located amid accusations of their association with the Houthis.

Military expert Waddah Al-Oubali believes that the military scene in 2023 will be hot as it will witness a response to the Houthi escalation.

He told "South24 Center": "The response will be according to the engagement rules through launching comprehensive and direct operations with the participation of all the fronts of forces involved in PLC to achieve a tangible strategic progress."

He added: "This move will break the Houthi intransigence and shift the map and power balances. This change will be a positive one and have a direct impact on the Houthi stance around the negotiation table."

He stressed on several governmental military priorities this year by saying: "The file of Hodeidah should come on top of any governmental priorities due to the strategic importance of this governorate at both political and military levels".

Al-Oubali believes that maintaining the de-facto truce threatens North and South Yemen. He added: "Both of them are directly correlated at the security and military levels. Each one is affected by the other".

He added: "There are no obligations and commitments respected by the Houthis" Al-Oubali claimed that the Houthis “allied with terrorism to harm South Yemen and the liberated areas in general. Moreover, they exploit the disputes among the legitimate forces in an attempt to dismantle them".

The economic scene

In a previous report issued by "South24 Center", the STC's Higher Economic Commission expected a number of economic ramifications in South Yemen during 2023. This is due to the halt in oil production in South Yemen during 2023 as a result of the Houthi attacks and the lack of governmental reforms. 

Some of these speculations include the following elements:

- The government is likely to face a massive budget deficit in the next period in a way that undermines its ability to meet most of its duties towards people within the areas under its control.

- There will be a possible impact on the government's ability to allocate sufficient appropriations to fund the operating costs of all military and security formations affiliated with it.

- The local currency exchange rate in the government-controlled areas is likely to witness a gradual decline in the few coming weeks due to the inability of the Central Bank in Aden to continue holding its auctions.

- The expected gradual decline in the local currency exchange rate will have a negative and tangible impact on the living conditions of people in the areas controlled by the government.

In an interview with "South24 Center", economic expert Majed Al-Daeri warned of "the continued disruption of oil exports, which the government considers the first source of the state budget and the revival of the economy".

He added: "The situation will become catastrophic". Al-Daeri believes that there are practical moves to correct the catastrophic path now through "activating the oversight and accounting bodies, and the Anti-Corruption Commission".

He said: "All banks and state institutions have to be moved to Aden as well as re-establishing a national government based upon the principle of efficiency and integrity as well as ensuring accountability against those who are involved in looting public money."

The service scene

Since the establishment of PLC in April, the service sector in South Yemen’s governorates has been so far in the bottom of priorities and interests.

A report issued by "South24 Center" monitored PLC’s neglect of this sector to the domination of political and military files.

The capital city of Aden is considered the clearest example of service deterioration. The coastal city awaits a hot summer with a power capacity which doesn't exceed half of the actual needs in the best cases.

It seems that the salary crisis of the military and civil employees in South Yemen will extend to the new year without any looming solutions. The military employees suffer from the non-payment of salaries while the civil employees suffer from the meager salaries.

In 2023, it seems that the salaries crisis may be worse with the continuous halt of oil production and after thousands of people lost their jobs, especially in Hadramout.

Abdullah Al-Shadli

Journalist and editor at South24 Center for News and Studies 

South YemenSTC2023Yemen Truce