In a frightening moment last week, we found ourselves faced with another serious crisis in the region — perhaps the start of a more violent civil war in southern Yemen that may last a decade. Now, at this wonderful moment, we see that the crisis has been avoided by prudence on all sides.
The crisis is over at least for now. Everyone is going to Jeddah to explore durable solutions and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) pulled back from taking over Yemeni government institutions and issued statements confirming that it accepts Yemeni legitimacy as enacted by the UN.
The truth is that the STC has reassured the Saudis, relieved the UAE of great embarrassment and, most importantly, saved itself, its people — the citizens of southern Yemen and the whole region — from the disastrous consequences that could have resulted from that move, regardless of its justifications.
But the debate, of course, will not stop. I have read two articles, by Dr. Mohamed Al-Rumaihi (in Asharq Al-Awsat) and Dr. Sa’ad Al-Ajmi (in the Independent Arabia), on the current dispute. In short (which may not be enough to convey their opinion), they believe that the independence of southern Yemen is the best solution. Saudi intellectuals also believe that Saudi Arabia’s interest is in two or three Yemens and not in one united Yemen with a larger population, especially following the 20-year experience of dealing with a unified Yemen under the regime of the late President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which was a difficult and harmful stage for Saudi Arabia.
Accepting illegal separation is exactly the same as accepting illegal annexation
Political tampering with state entities is dangerous. I tell my friends, the Kuwaiti intellectuals, that delegitimizing and dismantling a UN-recognized state threatens all the countries of the region, Kuwait included. Accepting illegal separation is exactly the same as accepting illegal annexation.
I am not at all against the rights of the southerners who want a separate state, nor am I against the establishment of a southern republic. But they must achieve separation by legitimate means, either by reaching an understanding with the Yemeni state when its institutions return to work or now through the UN. Then we will all accept it as a state, but not through the seizure of power. As long as many say that southern Yemen is already a legitimate state, which has been true in the recent past, they can ratify the divorce at the UN court. Then, there will be no state opposing them and, if it existed, its stance would be of no value and it would not be able to deny southerners this right.
We can spend the coming days talking about the past, the previous state and its historical roots — talk that has no value. None of you believe that the southerners are in agreement and in single-hearted unity, nor do you believe that those who are in agreement are united on the state’s name, leadership or system. Political leaders are competing to win popularity and declare their rule, and there is a diversity of tribal and zonal components in the south, as well as political leaders, Sayyids, Ashraf, sultans and businessmen, all of whom aspire to rule.
What happened was a lapse, and God protected Yemen from its evil. We hope that the parties will meet in Jeddah, agree on the nature of relations within the state, and either leave the talk of separation for the future or take control of it in New York.
- Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Twitter: @aalrashed