Rashad Al-Alimi: Designed by South24 Center

PLC Chairman Rashad Al-Alimi's Political Messages Still Infuriate Southerners


Tue, 07-05-2024 01:12 PM, Aden

It isn’t the first time that Al-Alimi’s statements, speeches, and political messages have upset Southerners. 

Abdullah Al-Shadli (South24) 

On April 7, the Chairman of the Yemeni Presidential Council (PLC), Rashad Al-Alimi, stirred a wave of anger among Southerners. This was due to a television interview on the Saudi channel Al-Hadath, in which he said the so-called ‘National Army’ is an “idiom” that defines groups of the former Yemeni army who are affiliated with the internationally recognized government and fight the Iran-backed Houthis on the Kersh front in Lahj, along with the Southern Transitional Council (STC). 

Many believe that this statement “usurps” the efforts and sacrifices made by the Southern forces affiliated with the STC, after they lost an estimated 11 soldiers in a Houthi attack on the same front on April 2. It isn’t the first time that Al-Alimi’s statements, speeches, and political messages have upset Southerners. On February 24, 2023, Al-Alimi told the Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: “We believe that the Southern issue is fair. However, talking about it or discussing its solution may be inappropriate currently".

His comments have stirred a massive Southern response, the most prominent of which was a statement from the STC describing Al-Alimi’s statements as “inaccurate” and not indicative of the seriousness of what he called “the partnership and consensuses that emerged from the consultations of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)”.

The statement added: “The South Issue does not accept deportation and postponement, and it will never be so, but it is clearly defined in the outputs of Riyadh’s consultations. The agreement was designed to include the South Issue in the agenda of negotiations to stop the war, to develop a negotiating framework for it”. 

In an effort to alleviate tensions, Al-Alimi passed a statement through the Saba News Agency, attributed to an “official source” in his office. The statement said: “Some contents of Al-Alimi’s interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat were explained in a way that doesn't express the real position of the PLC Chairman toward the issue. This also doesn't align with what has been confirmed by the references of the transitional phase, including the power transfer declaration, the Riyadh Agreement, and the Riyadh Consultations. They include guarantees to reach a fair solution to this national issue”.

However, the statement classified the South Issue as part of the so-called “pending national issues”. It linked the solving of these issues to “restoring the state institutions as well as ending the terrorist Houthi militia's coup and the Iranian project's threat”. The statement talked about what it described as “the legitimate dreams and aspirations of our people in South Yemen”. Some considered this an attempt to belittle the Southerners’ efforts to restore their state, a goal that has become closer to being achieved than ever before.    

Previously, on April 5, the Egyptian TV channel Sada Al-Balad broadcast an interview with Al-Alimi. In it, he said that his hometown, Taiz, which is currently divided between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, was the first to resist the Houthis in 2015 — even before the beginning of the Arab Coalition’s military intervention in March of that year. His comments resulted in a backlash from Southern politicians who described it as an attempt to "fabricate history”. 

On April 9, Al-Alimi delivered a speech to mark the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr and the second anniversary of the PLC’s formation. He tried to credit himself with the training and rehabilitation programs carried out by the Southern Armed Forces. He also spoke about the roadmap rejected by the STC in December. He used language that played into the Houthis’ agenda when he said there would be no retreat from the roadmap’s contents. Official Southern political sources told South24 Center that his stance doesn't represent the PLC and all the parties within it.

Moreover, Southern politicians and journalists have criticized the classification of the South Issue, with its national and political dimensions, as “grievances” - a description that has been used repeatedly by Al-Alimi on several occasions.

A traditional view 

The chairman of Yafa News, Yasser Al-Yafei, criticized Al-Alimi's view toward the South Issue, describing it as a traditional Northern view adopted by the former regime that governed following the 1994 war. He told South24 Center: “Unfortunately, most Northern politicians in the government adopt the same view of the South Issue as merely a human rights issue”.

He added: “The reality is completely different, especially after the Houthi invasion of South Yemen in 2015 and the fact that Southerners were the only ones who fought them and liberated their territories under the flag of South Yemen. Accordingly, these messages don't assure Southerners at all. They cause cracks within the PLC”.  He pointed out that “South Yemen today embraces the anti-Houthi Northern elite. It is necessary for Southerners to exploit this opportunity and not to waste it”.

On the other side of the debate, journalist Nassim Al-Bueithi defends Al-Alimi and his speeches. He told South24 Center: “Over the two past years, PLC Chairman Al-Alimi has been committed to the principle of the power transfer declaration and his pledges about the peace choice he announced during his oath speech. He is fully keen for achieving justice for all issues, first of which is the Southern cause”.

He added: “Through his statements and political messages, Al-Alimi has proven his commitment to treating the South Issue fairly. Out of all Yemeni political figures, he is the most focused on treating the effects of the past regarding South Yemen, despite the difficulties and challenges of the stage. He issued historical and fair decisions to address the problems in the Southern governorates, along with the big role he has played in the path of economic and financial reforms”.

According to Al-Bueithi “everyone knows that there is an existential enemy that threatens the future and present of all of Yemen. The PLC is responsible for confronting this enemy, liberating Yemen, and restoring the state in peace or war. I believe that the only aim behind these messages is to enhance an influential and peaceful mechanism which allows the management of these disparities according to the commonalities among people of the same country, stipulated in the power transfer declaration”.

According to him “Al-Alimi is fully aware that the South Issue is a fair one and that it can’t be solved before the restoration of the state. Al-Alimii has repeatedly stressed that treating the South Issue should be done within the framework of the political system‘s solutions, the state content, and the future shape of the political regime. Consequently, Al-Alimi is fully keen for ensuring the justice of the South Issue and its treatment”.

Mansor Saleh, a senior STC official, confirmed the STC’s stance, which “rejects any irresponsible or provocative statements by any party. It is also against any attempts to monopolize appointments or deviate from the consensus stipulated in the power transfer statement that led to the establishment of the PLC on April 7, 2022”.

He told South24 Center: “Such deeds don't serve the consensus sought by all parties. They undermine efforts to confront the Houthi militias. The people of South Yemen are alive and aware. They don't accept interference with their constants, victories, and demands”.

Saleh stressed the importance of continuing the consensus between the presidency and the government as part of the goals outlined in the 2019 Riyadh Agreement and the GCC's Consultations in 2022, which led to establishing the parity government and the PLC”.

He indicated that “these goals are limited to the development and reconstruction process in South Yemen and the liberated Northern areas. This is in addition to engaging the battle with the Houthi militias or reaching a fair peace operation with them”. Saleh warned that “any attempt to provoke the Southern bloc will be met with strong responses and negative outcomes against its doers”.

Since April 2022, Al-Alimi has been the Chairman of the PLC with no regulation, which should have been prepared and ratified within 45 days of the decision to transfer power to him. Southern politicians have accused Al-Alimi of exploiting this loophole to get away with multiple transgressions, including the political stances that are supposed to be collectively drafted as part of the PLC.

On December 27, the Special Representative of the STC President, Amr Al-Bidh, said in a televised statement: “The STC has so far not received the contents of the roadmap. The UN Envoy should ensure that all parties are engaged in the road to peace, not only the PLC Chairman”, in an apparent reference to Al-Alimi’s attempt to monopolize the PLC’s political stance.

Journalist at South24 Center for News and Studies

Editorial contributor to this report:
Jacob Al-Sufyani, Director of the Regional Office of the South24 Center in Aden

Note: This is a translated version of the original text written in Arabic

South YemenPLCRashad Al-AlimiSTCHouthisYemen