In 1990, three months before Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq, North Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh surprised everyone by announcing his agreement with South Yemeni president Ali Salem al-Beidh to integrate the regimes and unify. Optimism reigned in both countries, as well as Arab states. But those who knew Yemen then were aware that the scheme was in fact aiming to share authority between Saleh and Beidh. In southern Yemen, Beidh was living a struggle with his communist friends. He was the sole leader after the murder of Abdelfatah Ismail and Ali Antar and the fleeing of Ali Nasser Mahmoud. I remember that back then I wrote an article in the magazine “al-Majalla” about unity. It is a noble concept but the scheme was malicious.
The people of the south must remember that those who toppled Saleh were the people of the north and that those suggesting the idea of good governance are also the people of the north.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Saleh announced himself president and Beidh as vice president. After he joined the south with the north, Saleh wanted to get rid of his partner, Beidh, so he engaged the Reform Party as a competitor for him in the ruling coalition. Suddenly a campaign of assassinations was launched targeting southern leftist figures, and Saleh claimed that Islamist parties were behind the assassinations.
Saleh’s dictatorship made the Yemenis call him little Saddam. Saleh involved the Yemenis in the crisis of invading Kuwait when he supported Saddam’s forces. He caused the severance of relations with his neighbor Saudi Arabia and the rest of Gulf countries. Saleh and Beidh killed the noble concept and turned it into a detestable regime. Under the excuse of unity, the northern and southern people’s poverty and marginalization increased. Saleh and his comrades robbed the country’s limited revenues including those of petroleum which experts warn will diminish after four years.
This is why it is not strange that the idea of separation is popularly welcomed in the south; in Aden, Hadramawt, al-Maala and al-Mansoura.
This long introduction is not a justification for separation. On the contrary, it is a support for maintaining unity. The mistake is not that of the Yemenis present under one political ceiling but the mistake was a result of Saleh and Beidh’s rule. Yemen should serve everyone and this can be achieved for the 24 million Yemenis by establishing a just political structure that unites resources, improves opportunities and prevents disputes that are more likely to occur after separation.
The people of the south must remember that those who toppled Saleh were the people of the north and that those suggesting the idea of good governance are also the people of the north.
Unfortunately, southern leaderships engaged in a cheap auction among one another. They promise of separation but they are not frank with their citizens that the concept of restoring a south Yemeni state has more dangerous problems such as the south tribal disputes and leaders’ fighting. There is Salem al-Beidh residing in Beirut. He has sealed an alliance with the Iranians. Those like him are involving Yemenis with animosity with important countries like Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Others ally with Al-Qaeda and the rest do not have a real developmental project that saves the south. We should also remember that separation will neither have the international community’s support nor political and economic support.
It is not much to expect the south leaderships to suggest their ideas that, on one hand, express the southern citizens’ demands in some sort of an independent manner and on the other hand, remain within a system that maintains Yemen’s unity and stability. There are many ideas that can achieve both goals: administrative independence and Yemen’s unity.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.