Sana’a, Asharq Al-Awsat—Thousands of Yemenis in the country’s southern region are continuing protests in the southern port city of Aden, calling for independence from the rest of the country, on the 47th anniversary of Yemen’s independence from Britain which saw it split into two states.
Yemeni authorities said they prevented several people heading from governorates in the country’s southern regions to Aden, in a bid to quell the mass rallies, where protesters have been calling for a unified stance among the normally diffuse Southern secessionist Al-Hirak movement.
They said one of these included Hassan Ba’oum, a leading figure in Al-Hirak who is regarded as its “spiritual leader.”
The movement is divided between those supporting an immediate declaration of independence from the rest of the country and others urging further dialogue with the authorities
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior member from the Yemeni Socialist Party—which ruled the southern part of the country until unification in 1990—told Asharq Al-Awsat a unified Yemen consisting of two regions, north and south, was one of the main outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference held to decide the country’s political roadmap following the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012.
He added, however, that this issue had been since “ignored without any good reason,” leading to anger in the South.
Insaf Mayo, an MP in the Yemeni parliament and a member of the Islamist Al-Islah Party—the Yemeni wing of the international Muslim Brotherhood organization—told Asharq Al-Awsat there had been an “absence of seriousness and credibility” from the Yemeni authorities in dealing with the Southern issue, which had led to “frustration” among Southern secessionists.
“The Southerners were part of the National Dialogue Conference held in Sana’a, which was based on the principle of reaching conciliation between the North and the South. It was attended by numerous figures from the Southern Al-Hirak movement, and a feasible vision for solving the Southern issue was reached during these meetings,” he added.
Mayo said, however, that recent events in the country, which have seen the Shi’ite Houthi movement seize control of the capital Sana’a and other regions in Yemen, had resulted in some of the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference relating to the Southern issue becoming “complicated” and being “amended.”
This, he said, has led to anger in the South, with the country now “on the brink of a civil war.”
Yemen is currently witnessing turmoil following the Houthi takeover of Sana’a in September, with a noticeable lack of security across the country, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) carrying out attacks in the north of the country, as well as the unrest in the south.
Sources from the authorities in Aden, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, said security forces were ready to counter any acts of violence or sabotage in the city similar to those committed by the Houthis in Sana’a, should the protests escalate.
South Yemen was created following the country’s independence from Britain on November 30, 1967. North Yemen—or the Yemeni Arab Republic—and the South then reunited in 1990, with the South then declaring independence once again in May 1994, which resulted in a civil war and the military occupying South Yemen again in July of that year.