Officials of the Southern Transitional Council, Aden, June 2021 (South24 Center)

Will STC Have to Declare Self-Governance Again?


Fri, 09-12-2022 03:33 PM, Aden

Abdullah Al-Shadli

On April 25th 2020, Southern Transitional Council (STC) declared self-governance (self-administration rule) over South Yemen’s governorates after the failure to implement the Riyadh Agreement which was signed on November 5th 2019. Such a declaration was the strongest political move taken by the council which was established in May 2017. However, this decision was revoked three months later after the KSA declared that it had reached a mechanism to speed up the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. 
Although some items of the Agreement were implemented later including the establishment of a parity government between South Yemen and North Yemen at the end of the same year. The revocation decision was seen by many including prominent STC leaders [1] as a false move which made the STC lose its most important gains. It also made the self-governance look like a pressure card rather than a strategic move considering the independence endeavors. 
Practically, self-governance was limited to the capital city of Aden and the nearby governorates such as Lahj, Al-Dhalea, parts of Abyan in addition to the Socotra Archipelago. However, the eastern governorates in South Yemen which have rich gas and oil resources such as Shabwa and Hadramout were outside this self-governance at that time. 
Although this self-governance made some achievements at the service level especially in Aden, its short age, flood catastrophes, the spread of Covid19 pandemic, the limited revenues which depends on the taxes and the lack of control on South Yemen's huge oil revenues didn’t allow this experience to reach the required boom. Moreover, there were troubles in collecting these already insufficient revenues. 
Today, two and a half years later, many political and military circumstances which previously accompanied this self-governance changed. There are emergent questions about the possibility of resorting again to this move even amid STC’s participation in the Presidential Leadership Council which has officially run the state since last April. This is especially related to the complexities and tensions that marred the work of PLC that was recently established by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 
It looks as an unlikely move but using it as a pressure card again is not excluded considering the indicators and hints from the core of the decision making in the STC which control large parts of South Yemen including Shabwa and has a strong presence in Hadramout. 

On Nov 9th, STC’S Member   Nasser Al-Khabji met with the Director General of the Executive Unit for Taxes in Aden. According to STC’s Media Department, the Southern official discussed with him the troubles and the obstacles related to collecting taxes from the prominent taxpayers during the self-governance era.[2] 
The prominent official who led the STC’s negotiation team during the Riyadh Agreement stressed the importance of benefiting from the previous experience and overcoming the accompanying obstacles as well as the need to prepare for any incoming political changes. 
This came only two days after Al-Khabji’s tv interview in which he accused Yemeni PM Maeen Abdulmalik as being “the basic cause behind delaying the Riyadh Agreement”. He also indicated the need to reduce the number of PLC’s members. He said that its member Sultan Ali al-Arada has refused to transfer the revenues of Marib, which he still serves as its governor, to the Central Bank of Aden. He has also refused to be replaced by   a new governor.[3] 
Al-Khabji’s statements reflected a deadlock within PLC due to the growing disagreements and hassles. This   required gathering the PLC’s members in Riyadh on September 28th and in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of September. Meanwhile, the threat of self-governance emerged again as a possible move by STC. 
New activation? 
For his part, Mansour Saleh, Deputy Head of STC’s Media Department, said”: One can’t currently talk about certain options”. 
He told “South24 Center”: “we can say that STC’s options are open in a way that maintains the achieved gains, protects our people, and preserves the victories achieved by our armed forces from any threats targeting them including a starvation war, blockade, and systematic discrimination. They are prolonged wars, and it is no longer possible to remain silent about them”. 
Political analyst Salah Al-Sakaldi believes that if STC resorts to self-governance, it will be the straw that breaks the back of PLC”. However, he added that this scenario will be less harmful than maintaining its participation in this tragic situation. 
Al-Sakaldi added that “the STC’s self-governance declaration again would restore its popularity which has been eroded by its controversial and strange decision of taking part in a failed government dominated by the deep forces who have been described by STC and Southerners as “forces of occupation and plunders”  
He said that “the situation needs taking fatal, cruel and courageous decisions instead of simulation or continuing to receive unfair dictations from the Coalition”.  
Contrary to that, Mansour Saleh said: “STC had made big efforts for the success of PLC and conducting the necessary amendments in different government institutions to move seriously towards implementing what was agreed upon in the Riyadh Agreement and the Riyadh Consultations despite the lack of credibility”.  
He added: “Some PLC’s members still follow the path of the previous authorities and try to evade what is agreed upon”. 
“STC is keen on exerting more hard work in the coming period in order to improve the living standards of South Yemen’s people and to stop the current mess whose negative impacts are clear in different fields,” Saleh said.  
The revocation decision

Back to 2021, Al-Sakladi believes that the STC’s decision to revoke the self-governance was a mistake. 
The political analyst said: “In light of some data such as the economic condition and the difficult living conditions that citizens suffer from in Aden and other South Yemen’s governorate, the decision to revoke the self-governance was a mistake”. He added”: “the deal to abolish self-governance was accomplished for free and without any true guarantees”.  
However, it seems that the self-governance situation was not typical for STC with the intensified troubles, especially the economic one, in addition to the STC’s need to balance its relationships with the Saudi-led Coalition and the Riyadh Agreement. The latter has served as a roadmap, and it is not a safe move to deviate from it. 
Professor of Economics Ahmed Bawazir said that “STC didn’t evaluate things in a proper way in the self-governance era although the political circumstances inherited by the council were felicitous”. 
He told “South24 Center”: “If STC made some coordination with the leaders who were more inclined to the other party at that time in order to guarantee their stance at the time of the implementation, it would be easily able to reach success for the self-governance decision”.  
He added: “It is illogical for a Southern entity to decide such a courageous move without studying its political and economic dimensions. The self-governance as an idea is a successful one. However, making it without resources, plans and dimensions is completely wrong. Thus, the revocation was expected”. 
It is remarkable that the then Hadramout Governor Faraj Al-Bahsani who is currently a member in PLC refused the self-governance decision. 
Continuous conditions

Even with STC’s abolishment of Self-governance and its participation in PLC, the main revenues of the state, most of which came from the oil resources in South Yemen still walk in its initial path away from the Central Bank of Aden. 
Moreover, it seems that what were achieved so far from the Riyadh Agreement and the Riyadh Consultations later don’t cover the cost of STC’s revocation of self-governance with the continuous presence of Northern military forces in Wadi Hadramout and Al-Mahra along with the ongoing economic, service and living hood deterioration in the Southern governorates. 
In this regard, Al-Sakladi said: “the revenues have not been transferred to the Central Bank of Aden which was pledged by the Coalition and its local allies who participate in the government and PLC”.  
He added: “Likewise, the political aspect of the Riyadh Agreement has not been fully implemented as well as the economic and military sides. Apart from Aden, all other governorates’ revenues along with oil and gas revenues are still being transferred to influential figures away from the Central Bank”. 
Al-Sakaldi noted that the STC’s previous decision of activating self-governance was due to “economic need and political symbolism following years of plundering resources”. 
He elaborates: “STC which became on the forefront of the Political scene of South Yemen issue inside and abroad had to be keen on restoring wealth”.  
He believes that STC “was keen to directly deliver a political message that South Yemen became able to make the political decision and is relatively able to take big political decisions like the restoration of South Yemen’s wealth’s, especially the financial revenues”. 
Preemptive move 

Ahmed Bawazir stressed that the move to control the oil revenues in South Yemen should be prior to any STC’s political decisions. 
Bawazir said: “Expelling the 1’st Military Region from Wadi Hadramout will largely guarantee STC’s control on the most important resources upon which the government relies to manage its affairs and personal expenses”. 
He added: “These revenues along with the ones related to other South Yemen’s governorates would enable STC to run the affairs of South Yemen and its people”. 
So far, it seems that resorting to the self-governance move by STC or moving forward towards similar moves are largely related to the quick implementation of the Riyadh Agreement’s articles along with what was determined during the Riyadh Consultations. This is also linked to the quick finding of compatible vision for the controversial issues inside PLC”. 
Until then and given the serious threats by the Houthi air attacks on oil and vital facilities in Shabwa and Hadramout without practical decisive responses from the Yemeni parties, self-governance or even autonomy remains a proposed idea on the STC’s table. 

Journalist and editor at South24 Center for News and Studies

South YemenSTCSelf GovernanceYemenPLC