Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—One day after his reported escape from house arrest in Sana’a, Yemen’s Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi is taking steps to form a new interim government to run the country’s affairs from the southern city of Aden, which he will soon declare as the new capital of Yemen, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.
Hadi resigned last month after armed members of the Shi’ite Houthi movement, now in de facto control of Yemen, surrounded his residence in the capital and placed him under effective house arrest.
But he was able to leave the compound on Saturday and headed to Aden—though reports have conflicted regarding how he left, with some contending he was freed by the Houthis, while others say he was rescued by Yemeni special forces or escaped in disguise.
In a statement on Saturday from the city, Hadi said he rejected the Houthi takeover of power in the country earlier this month as “illegal,” and appeared to rescind his resignation, signing off as “the president of the Yemeni Republic.”
A local TV station from Aden broadcast footage on Sunday of Hadi meeting with several aides, military figures, and provincial governors from the country’s southern region, and sources with knowledge of the situation told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday he will now task former prime minister Khaled Bahah with forming a new interim government to run the country.
Bahah is currently in Sana’a where he is under a house arrest imposed by the Houthis.
The movement, which already controls Sana’a and reportedly has top military and security officials on its side, announced in a “constitutional declaration” earlier this month it would be forming its own government, parliament and interim presidential committee in Sana’a, effectively placing itself in control of the country.
The movement issued a statement on Sunday saying it too was tasking Bahah with forming an interim government while a larger transitional government is formed by the Houthis’ Revolutionary Committee established following the constitutional declaration.
The declaration was the culmination of efforts by the movement since September when thousands of its members lined Sana’a’s streets for a month-long series of sit-ins and protests. This eventually resulted in the movement occupying government and military buildings and facilities in Sana’a, placing it in effective control of the capital.
Hadi’s reported plan to move the capital of the country and seat of government to Aden has met with a mixed response from the country’s southern regions.
Aden is the largest city in the country’s south and previously the capital of the former Republic of South Yemen which, after declaring independence from the North in 1967, eventually rejoined with the North in 1990 to form the modern Republic of Yemen.
Since the recent turmoil in the country, there have been renewed calls from southern regions to secede from the rest of Yemen and for the reinstatement of the former South Yemen.
Some in the south of the country have criticized the reported move by Hadi to declare Aden the capital of the Republic of Yemen, seeing it as an obstacle to their moves for independence.
Ali Mohamed Al-Saadi, a senior member of the largest southern secessionist movement in Yemen, Al-Hirak, told Asharq Al-Awsat that while he welcomed Hadi’s presence in Aden—who hails from the country’s south—the priority for the people in the region remained independence from the rest of the country.
Meanwhile, there were protests in Yemen in support of Hadi on Sunday in southern regions and in the central province of Taiz, where hundreds took to the streets.
Hadi also spoke with UN Special Envoy Jamal Benomar, who said in a statement on Sunday Hadi was looking to move the current UN-sponsored talks aimed at reaching a consensus between the political factions and groups in the country from Sana’a, where they currently take place, to Aden.
Additional reporting by Hamdan Al-Rahbi.