Partition or federation?

Powerful forces are at work hoping to frustrate efforts to find a political settlement to the crises in Yemen – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Mohamed Al-Said Idris, Feb 27, 2014.

Yemen, like many of the other countries of the Arab Spring, appears to be fated to a period of extended instability, the worst aspect of which is that the effects of foreign intervention and foreign interests far outweigh the effects of internal factors.
The National Dialogue Conference, in which most if not all the Yemeni factions participated, began its activities in 2013 as an essential attempt to save the country’s revolution and to save the country from the perils of civil war and internal strife and the mounting repercussions of that strife.  
Among the other spectres that loomed then was that of a possible “American solution,” one originally tailored for Iraq on the ostensible grounds that it would be the cure-all to that country’s crises, and holding out the idea that partition was the key.
The National Conference convened to ward off the spectre of partition as the consequence of the internal strife that in part had taken the form of the secessionist call advocated primarily by the Southern Movement … //


Those who have cheered the committee’s approval of the six-region formula see it as a decision that will safeguard Yemen from fragmentation and the imposition of the secessionist option favoured especially by the Socialist Party and extremists from the Southern Movement.
They also hold that the purpose of the federal formula is to promote modern government and administration in the regions that will have the power to supervise and address their particular issues and concerns related to development, progress and security and stability.
The chief guarantee of the success of the federal system, according to the supporters of the committee’s decision, will be the constitution. The drafting of this is set to become the focus of national activity in Yemen in the coming months in the framework of a new interim phase ushered in with the extension of the current president’s term of office for a year in order to oversee the completion of this task.
The hope is that the new constitution will enshrine a number of principles recommended by the committee. According to officials from the committee, regions should have the option to modify their internal administrative boundaries (as defined by the existing boundaries of their component provinces) and jurisdictions after one or more electoral term. This process would be subject to specific regulations as established by a law issued by the legislative authority in each region.
The committee also called for guarantees to ensure the true partnership of each region in the federal legislative and executive authorities. One mechanism towards this end would be to implement the rotation of the post of speaker of the legislative assembly. At the regional level, the principle of partnership among the constituent provinces would be ensured by guaranteeing that no one province dominates the regional cabinet.
The committee members further stressed that they had taken into account such factors as geographic contiguity, demographic homogeneity and social relations, and economic capacities in their determination of the constituent provinces of the regions and that they had resolved to retain a special status for Sanaa and Aden in view of their political and economic importance.
These recommendations were supported by some representatives of the Southern Movement who had participated in the National Dialogue, which set them apart from most other leaders of that movement who, from the outset of the dialogue, had remained bent on southern secession.
Yassin Makawi, a member of the committee representing the Southern Movement, said that the six-region federal formula “achieves for southerners, in particular, and northerners, in general, what all previous civil wars failed to achieve.” He added that the federal partitioning “is only a first step towards the restructuring of the south in the framework of forthcoming institutions” and that the elected assemblies would be instrumental in setting on course legislation that followed through on the guarantees adopted by the National Dialogue.
An antithetical stance was voiced by the other camp in the Southern Movement, as well as by the Socialist Party which had boycotted the National Dialogue Conference. The tenor of this was made explicit by the Supreme Council for the Southern Movement at the outset of the Dialogue last year. “This step emanating from the Gulf Initiative does not concern the southerners, who demand freedom, independence and the restoration of the state of [South Yemen],” it said.
The Council added that “the [National Dialogue] initiative was not conceived to resolve the southern question, but merely to resolve the crisis between the government and the opposition in the north.”
Ali Salem Al-Beidh, formerly the PDRY president who became Yemeni vice-president after unification, was harsher in his criticism of the six-region federal solution. It was “no more than a game that will have its day,” he said, adding that he had been opposed from the outset to engaging in a Dialogue “aimed solely at solving the problem of the fight over seats in the government in Sanaa” and that he did not expect the powers-that-be in Sanaa to produce anything approaching a democratic system of government.
In sum, “the southerners reject the decision of the committee because it will not produce anything new as the social forces are incapable of carrying it out,” Al-Beidh said. He also expressed his conviction that the government in Sanaa “has come under the international mandate of the countries sponsoring the Gulf Initiative” and that although the six-region federal decision may not favour any one particular country, “the governments that sponsored the Gulf Initiative played a part in this decision given that the government in Sanaa is under their mandate.”

THE HOUTHI POSITION: Houthi challenges to the federal project have compounded the problems now facing it: … //

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