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Yemen with two governments and two capitals

This struggle may divide the country into at least two Yemens

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

The exit of the late Kuwaiti emir and crown prince in August 1990 is considered the most important step which killed invader Saddam Hussein’s dream of eliminating the legitimacy of the Kuwaiti state. After invading Kuwait, the then-Iraqi president tried with all possible means to impose his legitimacy. He declared the Gulf state an Iraqi governorate but failed, then tried to assign a Kuwaiti as a ruler but he was not recognized by any party.

The same is happening in Yemen with President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s escape from his Houthi captors, who imprisoned him in the presidential palace to force him to either be their employee or to sign a deal giving up the presidency. His escape to Aden maintained his legitimacy.

Of course, Yemen is not exactly Kuwait, and the Houthis are not Saddam. The Houthis are part of Yemeni forces, although they are linked to the Iranian regime, and Aden is a second capital of Yemen. Hadi’s escape is a major blow to the rebels as they lost the game of compromise.

This struggle may divide the country into at least two Yemens

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The president’s move to the city of Aden will mean a Yemen contested by two governments and two capitals. Hadi has been recognized by all Yemeni political forces, including Houthi ones, and the United Nations recognizes him to this day.

This struggle may divide the country into at least two Yemens, unless the Houthis and their ally, conspirator and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, realize that the game has become more difficult and dangerous, and that they should thus back down.

In Aden, there will be a government recognized by the United Nations and the international community. Even major powers were prepared for Hadi’s escape from house arrest by closing their embassies days earlier.

There will be a semi-government representing the Houthis and their allies in Sanaa, but with no one recognizing it domestically or internationally. Most probably, the Houthis and Saleh will disagree because this semi-government will not have enough resources to confront the growing popular uprising against it.

Hinting at besieging those who staged the coup has helped U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar in strengthening his stance. He will try to convince the Houthis and Saleh supporters to be part of a legitimate government instead of challenging it.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 24, 2015.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.