May 2012 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 April 2012
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MIDDLE EAST

Yemen

Expected Council Action
In May, the Council is expecting a briefing in consultations on the situation in Yemen by the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar. (Benomar has been briefing the Council regularly since the adoption of resolution 2014 on 21 October 2011.)

No Council action is expected at this point.

Key Recent Developments
The overall security situation continues to be worrisome. On 26 February, 26 people were reported killed and several injured in a suicide bombing outside a presidential palace in the city of Al-Mukalla, with Al-Qaida claiming responsibility. On 4 March, an Al-Qaida-affiliated group called Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Islamic Law) reportedly attacked a military post in Zinjibar that led to the death of at least 185 government soldiers and the capture of 72 soldiers. On 28 March, Al-Qaida members kidnapped Abdullah al-Khalidi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy consul in Aden, later demanding the release of militants in Saudi prisons. (While some reports indicated that militants affiliated with Al-Qaida were responsible for both incidents, other reporting pointed to loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh as the real culprits.) At least 200 people were reportedly killed during clashes between members of Ansar al-Sharia and pro-government forces in Lawdar and Mudia in Abyan province that began on 9 April and lasted several days.

Benomar last briefed the Council on 7 March after a visit to Yemen. He highlighted the economic, political, security and humanitarian challenges and expressed concern regarding the Al-Qaida threat in Yemen. In a press statement the same day, members of the Council condemned the terrorist attacks of 4 March in the town of Zinjibar in Abyan province.

In a presidential statement adopted on 29 March, the Council voiced its concern over the deteriorating situation since the transfer of power, following the 21 February presidential elections, to Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi and stressed the need for all political actors to remain committed to the political transition. The Council welcomed the efforts of the Friends of Yemen and noted the importance of its next meeting on 23 May. (Britain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen jointly chair the group, which includes key Gulf countries, the G8 and intergovernmental organisations.) The Council endorsed the Secretary-General’s intention to deploy a team of experts to work alongside the UN country team and monitor progress on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and Implementation Mechanism in consultation with the Yemeni government. (Saleh signed the GCC initiative in Riyadh on 23 November after negotiating an accompanying “implementation mechanism” that dealt with the details of the transition process, including  the granting of immunity to Saleh and his aides, his role during the transition period, as well as the timeframe.)

The state of political affairs following the transfer of power from Saleh to Hadi remains challenging. On 20 March, Saleh reportedly threatened to pull his loyalists from the unity cabinet that was formed under the terms of the GCC initiative. (The 34-member unity cabinet was appointed in December 2011. It has an equal number of ministers from Saleh’s General People’s Congress party and the parliamentary opposition’s Common Forum alliance.)  

On 23 March, thousands of protesters across Yemen demanded the prosecution of Saleh, who has been granted immunity under the GCC initiative.

On 6 April, Hadi dismissed the Air Force chief, Gen. Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, who is Saleh’s half-brother, and the head of the presidential guard, Gen. Tarek Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, Saleh’s nephew. Hadi also replaced close to 20 other senior military officers who were Saleh loyalists. However, on the following day, forces loyal to al-Ahmar shut down Sanaa airport and threatened to shoot down aircrafts. The airport was eventually reopened on 8 April. 

Human Rights-Related Developments
In a resolution adopted without a vote at its March session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) called upon all parties in Yemen to release persons arbitrarily detained by them and to end practices of unlawful detention. The resolution also looked forward to further progress by the government in conducting transparent investigations into credible documented allegations of human rights violations through an independent national committee and in consultation with political parties. The HRC called on the international community to support Yemen during the transition period and provide financial support in order to strengthen stability in the country. It requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to report to the HRC on the situation in Yemen at its session in September 2012.

Key Issues
The key issue for the Council is to determine what role it can play in post-Saleh Yemen to foster a peaceful political transition that abides by the timetables of the GCC initiative and the accompanying implementation mechanism.

A further issue, as of yet not given due consideration by the Council, is its role in preventing a possible civil war that might threaten Yemen’s territorial integrity, particularly in light of the long standing grievances of the South, which before 22 May 1990, was the independent People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen.

A related issue for the Council is dealing with the continuously precarious security situation in Yemen, which could undermine the new government’s position and the prospects for the political transition process.

Options
The Council’s options include:

  • keeping abreast of the developments in Yemen and receiving regular briefings from Benomar and the Department of Political Affairs;
  • issuing a statement encouraging Yemen’s key players to continue to engage in dialogue and ensure the full implementation of the GCC initiative and the accompanying mechanism, while emphasising greater unity and political inclusiveness, with the aid of the GCC; or
  • agreeing on a stronger message cautioning that the Council will be watching the political process closely and warning potential spoilers against any attempt to derail the current transition process (a less likely option).

Council Dynamics
While remaining cautiously optimistic, Council members acknowledge that despite the symbolism of presidential elections the process of political transition remains fragile. They are aware that Saleh still holds considerable influence as the head of one of the main political parties, with close relatives holding key military positions despite the recent reshuffle, and may therefore be capable of derailing the process.

Council members are also aware that the perceived lack of inclusiveness of the GCC initiative and the continuing poor security situation need to be remedied soon even if the transition seems to be on track for now. Most members would like to maintain the current focus until the full application of the GCC initiative and the accompanying implementation mechanism has occurred. However, they realise that the Council ought to remain seized of the matter.

The UK has the lead in the Council on Yemen. 

UN Documents

Security Council Resolution

  • S/RES/2014 (21 October 2011) endorsed the GCC initiative for a peaceful transition of power.

Security Council Presidential Statement

  • S/PRST/2012/8 (29 March 2012) noted Council members’ concern over the deterioration in the situation since the transfer of power to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi on 25 February.

Security Council Press Statements

  • SC/10571 (7 March 2012) condemned the terrorist attacks that occurred in Abyan province.
  • SC/10553 (22 February 2012) noted the significance of presidential elections and encouraged further transitional steps to be taken promptly.
  • SC/10529 (25 January 2012) welcomed the formation of the Government of National Unity and called for credible elections on 21 February.
  • SC/10504 (22 December 2011) welcomed the progress that had been made in implementing the GCC initiative and reiterated the Council’s call that it be implemented in a timely and transparent manner.
  • SC/10460 (28 November 2011) welcomed the signing of the GCC initiative.
  • SC/10394 (24 September 2011) urged all parties to reject violence.
  • SC/10357 (9 August 2011) expressed concern at the worsening economic, humanitarian and security situations.
  • SC/10296 (24 June 2011) expressed grave concern at the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation.

Latest Meeting Record

Other Relevant Facts

Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Yemen

Jamal Benomar (Morocco)

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