The United Nations Security Council on the situation in Yemen was briefed in New York on Tuesday: “It has never been worse than now,” said UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. An agreement with the Houthi militias, which control large parts of northern Yemen, is not in sight. A total of 43 fronts were counted, compared to 33 in January. The oil-rich region of Marib is particularly affected, where the UN estimates that there are up to one million displaced people. They suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and serious illnesses from cholera to Covid-19 spread uncontrollably in the north. And off the coast, an old tanker, filled to the brim with oil, which served as a warehouse before the war, threatens to break because UN personnel are denied access.
So it seems like a small ray of hope that the country’s government and an organization called the “Southern Transitional Council” (STC) announced shortly after the Security Council meeting that an agreement had been reached to form a government together. The group, better known in Germany under the general name “separatists”, would no longer pursue the demand for a split in the country into southern and northern Yemen.
It is the provisional end of a peculiar development in the Yemeni civil war that has been going on for five years: The STC around the former governor of Aden, Aidarus al Zubaidi, first appeared in May 2017 and quickly gained power. With the support of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), fighters and weapons could be financed; the STC quickly brought large parts of the government-controlled areas under President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi’s control. In August 2019 they even took the port city of Aden and conquered the island of Sokrota this June. Hadi, who is supported militarily and politically by Saudi Arabia, has recently had no influence in his own country.
The really complicated thing about it is that the UAE is officially allied with Saudi Arabia in Yemen and is part of the kingdom-led military alliance that has been bombing areas controlled by the Houthi militia for years and officially supporting the central government of Yemen. However, a major conflict between the two regional powers was the alliance between Saudi Arabia and the Islah militias close to the Muslim Brotherhood. With the support of the STC, the Emirates wanted to counterbalance this and prevent an increase in Islamist forces. The UAE strives for the greatest possible economic and political influence in southern Yemen, but also try to differentiate itself from the anti-Iran course of the Saudi heir to the throne, Mohammad bin Salman. Because in the event of a direct military escalation between the two big neighbors, the UAE would be in the middle of the line of fire.
Now Hadi and the STC want to form an equal government within a month. If this actually happened, the cabinet would face an immense task. Because famine, disease and fighting do not only prevail in the Houthi areas, but increasingly also in the south. Because of high inflation, many people can afford less and less food and are dependent on UN aid.
Only: At a donor conference in June, just 1.2 billion euros were committed; half of the money that is needed in the short term. And so far, only 18 percent of the donations have actually been paid.