Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat- the provincial governor of Sadah, Hassan Mohammed Manna, talks to Asharq Al Awsat about the situation in the Yemeni province and the recent Huthi initiative to end the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
Q) What is the humanitarian situation in the areas of conflict?
A) The humanitarian situation inside the Sadah province is bad, as the number of displaced people has reached 250,000 in Sadah City, the center of the province. There are around 100,000 displaced people in Mazraq Camp in Harad in the Hajjah province. However, the humanitarian situation [at the same time] is good as services and foodstuffs are available to the displaced people and any failure or shortage is dealt with at the right time.
Q) There was a military operation around two months ago led by Major General Mohammed al Qawsi, the Interior Ministry Undersecretary, to eliminate “Huthi cells” in which around 1000 fighters from the Al Hada tribes took part. What is the situation in the Old City of Sadah?
A) Firstly, there are not 1000 fighters from the Al Hada tribes in Sadah City; there are 150 fighters and they were escorting a relief convoy [carrying aid] for the people of the province and their brothers in the armed and security forces. On our behalf and on the behalf of the leadership of the governorate, we would like to thank them for escorting this relief convoy which took place under the supervision of Major General Mohammed al Qawsi and the volunteers returned to their own areas and that’s all that happened.
Q) But what is the situation like in the Old City now?
A) Members of the armed forces are still doing their work in the city and are confronting these terrorist elements.
Q) As the governor of Sadah, how do you view Abdul Malik al Houthi’s initiative to adhere to the six conditions set by the government to the stop the war?
A) This initiative is a lie and a trick. There is a saying according to the Prophetic traditions that “a believer is not harmed by the same stone twice.” As for us, we have been harmed six times and if we are harmed a seventh [time] then we reap what we sow.
Q) Do you have figures on the death toll in this “sixth round” of war with the Huthis?
A) We do have figures but I do not have them now. What hurts me the most is that the number of innocent civilians who resisted the Huthis and terrorists, or [let us say] rebels – I reject the term Huthis and I [prefer to] use the term rebels – who were killed by rebels is more than 1500 innocent and defenseless civilians.
Q) Does the Al Qaeda organization have any kind of presence in any form in the Sadah province?
A) [It has a] small presence, of no [significant] weight. In my capacity as head of the security committee in the province I have information that I can share with you and information that I can’t share with you, but the presence of the Al Qaeda network in the Sadah province is relative in comparison to other regions in Yemen. It [Al Qaeda presence] is limited and we cannot be positive about crimes that Al Qaeda committed in relative terms in Sadah.
Q) What can you tell us about the German family made up of a couple and three children, and a British citizen, who were kidnapped last June? Is there any new information about them?
A) The search is still continuing and we wish all the success to our brother Major General Mohammed al Qawsi, the Interior Ministry Undersecretary, in carrying out his duties, especially as the leadership of Sadah province is offering all the facilitations and cooperation and all that is required of it.
Q) Does that mean that you have information on the whereabouts of the kidnapped victims?
A) Until now, no…but there is a possibility that they are in areas that are not controlled by the Huthis or with a [large] Huthi presence. The Huthis have a role in this, and this is something I can confirm, that they have a role in losing foreign hostages.
Q) I have one last question about the arrest of your brother Sheikh Fares Manaa a few days ago in Sanaa in relation to accusations of arms dealing. What were the reasons behind his arrest?
A) Brother Fares is a major national figure and a fighter and he had played a combative role that no person or official can deny, starting with the war in 1994 and his role as a fighter and supporter of security and armed forces champions in our war against secession and the separatists and in all well known national positions and also in the state’s fight against the Huthi rebellion over five or six wars, which has led to the deaths of around 565 martyrs.
Q) So his arrest has nothing to do with the Huthi rebellion or providing the rebels with arms?
A) He has no ties to this and his arrest, out of principle, is wrong as Fares is a national, fighting figure. Those are the mistakes we suffer from but that does not take away from his nationalism.
Q) But a few months ago the “blacklist” announced around 20 names of people involved in arms dealing and his name was at the top of the list. The matter of his arrest remains unclear, especially after weapons were imported from China with fake documents in the name of the Yemeni Ministry of Defense.
A) Brother Fares has no ties whatsoever to illegal trade. If we talk about law and order, there is what we might call mutual exchange of weapons between countries and there is international law that regulates this exchange. We confirmed that brother Fares did not act out of the legal framework in the process of exchange. He is just a trader who carries out his duties in his trade whatever that may be, in accordance with local and international law and order, he does not act outside of this framework, and there is no law that condemns him, for example, as violating laws or as a fraudster. This is another subject altogether and is not up for discussion. Arms dealing is not “tomato” or “potato” dealing; this is the trade or exchange of weapons, and we stress once again that brother Fares did not act outside of the legal framework and any talk about false official documents is not up for discussion because there are embassies in countries taking part in the deals where officials meet, and the process is not a chaotic one. When you are carrying [official] documents, you’re not carrying biscuit wrappers.
Q) So has your brother been set up?
A) What do you mean set up? He has no ties to what you’re talking about; these are internal issues and if we condemn brother Fares then that means the state itself is embroiled in such talk.
Q) For months the Huthis have been trying to seize the presidential palace in Sadah, how do you explain that?
A) The attempt to enter the city of Sadah is tactical and [part of] a specific military plan. There is no presidential palace in Sadah; rather there is a “camp” outside of the city that has been called a presidential palace because the president and senior officials stay there when they visit Sadah.