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In the news: Yemen’s southern separatists declare self-rule

An already complicated conflict just got a lot more complex.

Members of UAE-backed southern Yemeni separatist forces stand by a tank during clashes with government forces in Aden, on 10 August 2019. (Fawaz Salman/REUTERS)

Yemen’s dominant southern separatist group declared self-rule in the parts of the country it controls on Sunday, leading to fears of a new and even more dangerous conflict after five years of war.

The Southern Transitional Council said in its announcement that it planned to govern several southern provinces, including the capital city of Aden, which the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi also claims as its seat. 

Much of Yemen, including Aden, is struggling to deal with flash floods that have impacted tens of thousands of people, and led Hadi’s government to deem the city a “disaster” zone.

Several months of clashes between the STC and the government ended in November with the signing of a Riyadh-brokered power-sharing deal between the two parties – both members of an increasingly fractured Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels, who control the city of Sana’a and much of the north of the country.

The deal was supposed to set up an Aden-based cabinet with equal members from the country’s north and south. Fighters from the STC, which is backed by another coalition member, the United Arab Emirates, were supposed to be absorbed into Yemen’s national army. The group was also supposed to have a seat at national-level peace talks. Most parts of the agreement have still not been implemented.

Hadi’s foreign minister has condemned the STC’s move as “dangerous and catastrophic”, and the coalition has called for the separatists to adhere to the November 2019 deal. On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced it was extending a unilateral ceasefire it declared in early April to help fight COVID-19, despite the fact that Houthi rebels have rejected the truce.

– Annie Slemrod

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