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Last updated: 08:59:45 PM GMT(+03) Friday, 22, February, 2013

National Dialogue loses three members over southern repression issue - report

 Yemen Post Staff

Ahead of Thursday demonstrations in Aden, the authorities decided to arrest two radical leaders -- Qassem Askar - leader of the more radical branch of the Harak - and Sheikh Hussein bin Shuaib - prominent southern cleric - in a bid to prevent an escalation of violence on Thursday, which they knew would draw large crowds as the date marks President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi first year in office and the country first presidential elections since deposed President Ali Abduallah Saleh resignation from office.

The move would set out a chain reaction which the government very likely failed to envisage, drawing criticism from prominent rights group such Amnesty International and enraging much of the southern territories as the violence was understood as yet another act of repression from the northern colonialist.

The fact that President Hadi is himself a "southerner", his roots tracing back to the southern province of Abyan, seems to have now little calming effect on an angry South Yemen.

On Wednesday morning as the Technical Committee in charge with organizing the National Dialogue Conference was meant to meet up to iron out the last details of the Conference, three of its members announced they were quitting, in reaction to Sana'a's decision to imprison southern separatist leaders as a preemptive policy against potential tensions.

The Technical Committee's Secretary General Ahmed Awadh Mubarak confirmed on Wednesday that in view of the situation all meetings would have to be postponed. He added the matter would be brought to President Hadi's attention as a matter of urgency as the National Dialogue was a top state priority.

As of Wednesday Lutfi Shatara, Lisa al-Hassani and Ali Hassan Ali Zaki withdrew from the Technical Committee for the National Dialogue, refusing to comment further on their decision to the press.

Rights activists throughout the country have warned that unless the government reformed its policing strategy -- arbitrary arrests and excessive use of force against civilians -- no amount of National Dialogue would resolve Yemen's internal issues.

Amnesty International strongly denounced the use of live ammunitions in Aden, saying eye witnesses testified men from the Central Security Forces had cordoned off separatist militants before opening fire onto the crowd, deliberately putting people's lives at risk. Reports estimated so far that four people were killed and 40 others injured in Aden on Thursday.

Residents in Aden were keen to note that while the Harak had called on all its militants to demonstrate peacefully, the state chose to use lethal violence.

In Crater where the bulk of the demonstrations took place, residents told the Yemen Post they were sickened at the hypocrisy of the "new regime" wondering how exactly things had changed a year after the deposition of Yemen's former strong man, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"We were repressed under his leadership [President Saleh] ... We are repressed under Hadi [President Hadi]. How are things any different? How are we supposed to believe the National Dialogue will suddenly change the situation? Or is it the state is planning to arrest all of us and then have a one sided dialogue with sold-out politicians who couldn't care less about our aspirations as a people?" asked Mohammed Ahmed al-Wakeel from Aden.

Political and security analyst Marcy Kreiter from Dubai warned against a radicalization of the southern separatist movement, noting that events such as these -- arbitrary arrests and heavy policing -- would only reinforce radicals' calls for secession against the north, as Sana'a will ever more appear the culprit.

"The central government is engaging on a very slippery slope here, as southerners are feeling very much singled out in their demands. First al-Islah [sunni radical faction] staged a pro-Hadi demonstration in Aden without any incident being reporting while separatist militants were being targeted by the Security Forces.
This will create tensions and mistrust. Yemen National Dialogue could be tarnished as a result."

Political activists in Yemen who so far were advocating for some sort of partnership with Sana'a through federalism or at least a variant of it, said now they were seriously reconsidering their positions as Sana'a appeared bent on perpetuating Saleh's repressive legacy.

"Sana'a is bullying the south into submission. The government is not treating the South as a partner but as a force which needs to be tamed. This sort of thinking has no place in a civil state. Unless an apology is made I don't see how things will get better ... From where I'm standing Sana'a might yet see a southern revolution ... Maybe then politicians will understand that violence and repression never work," said Salem al-Qatiry from Mukallah - eastern province of Hadhramawt -

Whether Sana'a central government is willingly or not bullying South Yemen into submission; consciously or not trying to force radical separatists out of the National Dialogue, is not really the issue here but rather what people across the southern provinces perceived as being true.

Aden very much feels the victim of a plot to maintain its land and people under Sana'a thumb. Politicians do not feel they have equal footing in the National Dialogue Conference and they are still skeptical as to how North Yemen intend to address their grievances.

Interestingly the Houthis - Shiite rebel group based in the northern province of Sa'ada - has similar complaints.

In any case, Sana'a will need to do some soul searching.








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  BY: Shaher Abdulhak Saleh
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