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Yemen moves closer to establishing federal state - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, center, shows the book of the National Dialogue at the end of a conference aimed at drafting a new constitution and establishing a federal state on January 25, 2014, in Sana’a, Yemen. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, center, shows the book of the National Dialogue at the end of a conference aimed at drafting a new constitution and establishing a federal state on January 25, 2014, in Sana’a, Yemen. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—As a special 22-member committee in Yemen meets to determine the number of regions that will make up the country’s new federal republic, one of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s advisers has sought to reassure Yemenis regarding the establishment of the new federation.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Faiqah Ahmed Ba Alawy, an adviser to President Hadi on Women’s Affairs, defended the government’s move towards dividing the country into different regions, citing both India and the UAE as examples of successful federal countries.

“The issue of federal regions is not a source of fear because this is an existing system that has been tested in a number of countries including India, which has a population of more than 1.2 billion,” she said. “The problem we have in Yemen is that . . . we started with a state of unification, and now we are moving to a system of federal regions, and so this is arousing public fears.”

Debate on whether Yemen should be divided into two—north and south—or five or six federal regions, has sharply divided public opinion in the country.

On Monday, President Hadi issued a decree forming a special 22-member committee tasked with determining the number of regions that will make up Yemen’s federal republic. The committee met for the first time on Wednesday. During the meeting, Hadi said: “Defining the number of regions and determining which governorates would be included in each region should be completed before the establishment of the Constitutional Drafting Committee.”

As for how Yemenis will deal with the new shape of the state, Ba Alawy told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are areas that can form a single region because they are homogeneous and the populations are coexisting with each other, such as the Aden region, which will likely include four governorates despite the subtle differences.”

Ba Alawy, however, also referred to a number of potential problems that must be challenged, including “productive regions fearing their resources [being] . . . swallowed by poorer regions.”

However, the presidential advisor sought to play down these fears, citing the UAE as an example. “The emirate of Abu Dhabi is able to fund all of the eastern emirates which are considered poorer and less productive,” she said.

“Establishing regions in the south will be easier compared to some northern parts that do not share a sense of social and economic unity,” she added.

However members of Yemen’s Southern Movement have largely dismissed the 22-member committee.

“Whether it is two regions or six—that means nothing to us. Our aim is [autonomy],” Southern Movement spokesman Abdo Al-Ma’atari was quoted as saying by the Yemen Times.

As for whether the deteriorating security situation in the country will undermine the implementation of the results of the Yemeni National Dialogue, Ba Alawy acknowledged that Yemen is facing a number of challenges in the form of “political, tribal and religious forces who oppose development and change,” but that the people of Yemen are able to “adapt to fear, horror and challenges,” and would be able to confront them.