No to the separation of South Yemen
Then-President Ali Salem al-Beidh requested unity with the north, in an attempt to escape the inevitable repercussions of the collapse of the Soviet Union
After liberating Aden and Al-Anad, voices demanding the establishment of a South Yemen Republic have emerged. These voices have always been there, and are due to the disappointments of the unified Yemen that was established in 1990.
Back then, the South Yemen government was going through a struggle over governance, and the Marxist system was teetering.
Then-President Ali Salem al-Beidh requested unity with the north, in an attempt to escape the inevitable repercussions of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, unity occurred without a political arrangement, so the experience of Egyptian-Syrian unity was repeated, with one party - former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh - trying to dominate.
Most of those who call for separation are either patriotic dreamers or opportunistsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The only real unity was manifested via government correspondences, as well as the currency, flag and other official formalities. However, on the ground Saleh’s forces were running the south, many of whose leaders were assassinated or forced to flee to foreign countries. There were failed attempts to rebel against Saleh’s governance.
Based on this sad historical background, it is normal for unity to be a negative symbol and for separation to be popular in the south, but most of those who call for separation are either patriotic dreamers or opportunists. They justify their desire by saying it is a restoration of the natural historical situation when there were two Yemens for most of the past centuries.
Separation of the south will not result in its stability, but in new crises due to struggles among rival southern parties and leaders.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
They believe that the north suffers from crises that are difficult to resolve, and that it is better not to export them to the south.
They say separation is a popular desire in the south. They also say separation has become more than just an idea as it is currently a politically and militarily organized movement, and is a fait accompli that must not be confronted or else the Yemeni crisis will escalate.
Some may find these arguments convincing enough to support separation as an easier solution to today’s crisis, which required a massive war to stop the collapse of Yemen. Some may think that separation is the only solution if it is hard to liberate Yemen of rebels, Houthis and Saleh’s troops within a reasonable timeframe.
The logic of unity
Despite difficulties such as the incapability of imposing legitimacy over all of Yemen - a country with rugged terrain, a complicated tribal system and a lack of resources - we must still oppose its division. Logic is to insist on adopting the model of one Yemeni state, to consider the separation that is happening as temporary, and to view the southern regime being established as incomplete and the northern regime as illegitimate.
Dividing Yemen into two states, and perhaps more states later, means the entrance of regional and foreign powers in a struggle that will last for decadesAbdulrahman al-Rashed
There are many reasons to do so. Forcible separation on the desire of one category without the consent of others lacks justification in international law, and sabotages a legitimate entity that is internationally recognized. According to political logic, separation of the south will not result in its stability, but in new crises due to struggles among rival southern parties and leaders. Such bloody conflicts were a reason to resort to unity with the north in the first place.
Dividing Yemen into two states, and perhaps more states later, means the entrance of regional and foreign powers in a
struggle that will last for decades. This will threaten the security of the Gulf states, increase regional tensions and wars for years to come, and make 25 million Yemenis suffer from long-term infighting, misery and poverty.
Separation is a destructive and stupid idea in a world that prefers rapprochement. Refusing to support it does not deny the right to separate later if that is really the desire of the entire Yemeni people, not just a few of them.
Separation is a destructive and stupid idea in a world that prefers rapprochementAbdulrahman al-Rashed
One can address achieving this desire when there is stability, and when everyone can rationally think and decide what serves their interests in the long run. Perhaps they would choose a federal system that maintains the state. Separation is an idea produced by an emotional outburst, or resulting from instantaneous revenge.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Aug. 6, 2015.
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.