Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: Yemen should pursue peace in the spirit of the Riyadh pact

Filed on April 28, 2020
A convoy of Yemen's Security Belt Force, dominated by members of the Southern Transitional Council, on patrol between Aden and Abyan province late last year.


Sunday's decision by the Southern Transitional Council to invoke a state of emergency in the governorates of the south that they control is not in Yemen's interest

The spirit of the Riyadh Agreement signed between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transitional Council last year reiterates unity in times of strife. These are times of strife, of a different kind. An unseen enemy in the form of a new coronavirus lurks in the shadows and cannot be tamed with guns, mortars, or rocket attacks. Yemen cannot afford more conflict particularly in the time of the coronavirus that is sweeping the world. The country is considered the Arab world's poorest that has been wrecked by civil war and shoddy governance. The Riyadh Agreement set it on a new course last year. The implementation may have taken time but the agreement sought to bring warring sides across the spectrum of ideology and political leanings together. It laid the framework for a larger deal for Yemenis to govern themselves. To put things in perspective, southern Yemen was wrested from Houthi control by an alliance of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia after they intervened in the civil war five years ago. The UAE sent its troops that stitched together an alliance of local parties to fight and take back the south and the port city of Aden. It was a strategic alliance that drove out the Houthis who had dislodged the government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The UAE focused its resources on rebuilding the country order in the south with local Yemeni support. Aid was pumped into the region and an effort to rebuild was set in motion. Peace returned to some extent but there was also jockeying for power by some Yemeni factions. The Arab coalition's campaign was a success, Yemen had a chance at enduring peace, the first since 2015. The Houthis were on the retreat and Iranian influence was waning. The Houthis have had several reverses on the battlefield and lost local support. They have much to lose if the battle drags on. Once the task was complete, the UAE troops victoriously returned home. A group called the Southern Transitional Alliance was tasked to govern the region in partnership with the government of President Hadi. All didn't go well and the rumblings in their alliance came to the fore last year which were smoothened out by Saudi Arabia. However, Sunday's decision by the Council to invoke a state of emergency in the governorates of the south that they control is not in Yemen's interest. The Council must realise that this is no time for one-upmanship. The 24-point charter of the Riyadh Agreement calls to include all factions of Yemeni society except the Houthis who have shut the door on themselves with their violent tactics that are nothing but terror. A unity government is what Yemen needs as a flood and a health crisis in the form of Covid-19. The Council must step back from their aggressive moves and learn to share power in these times of crisis. "Frustration at the delay in implementing the Riyadh Agreement should not be the reason for the unilateral change in the situation. We have absolute confidence in Saudi Arabia's keenness to implement the Riyadh Agreement," tweeted Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. The Council must heed the voice of reason, and desist from taking unilateral decisions that call for self-rule. Escalation at this critical juncture will only add to Yemen's woes and break the spirit of unity.

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