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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 February 2019

Cholera shows Houthis’ failure

The rebels have no experience in government – and it is Yemenis who are paying the price
A nurse attends to a boy infected with cholera at a hospital in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen. Abduljabbar Zeyad / Reuters
A nurse attends to a boy infected with cholera at a hospital in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen. Abduljabbar Zeyad / Reuters

News that the Houthi rebels have declared a state of emergency over an outbreak of cholera will shock and appal those who are following developments in Yemen. After two years of war, the country has been so devastated that the United Nations assesses two-thirds of the population are without access to safe drinking water. Cholera, an acute diarrhoeal disease, flourishes in environments without proper sanitation.

That the war has dragged on for far too long is the long-standing position of this newspaper. That the chief reason for the war is the Houthis’ attempt to take over the entire country is also our position.

But there is another point to be made about the cholera outbreak. For more than two years, Sanaa has been under the control of the Houthi rebels – it was they who came down from their northern province stronghold and took over the capital and it was they who mounted a coup against the government of Abdrabu Mansur Hadi. After two years, they have still not been able to run the capital adequately, and the cholera outbreak is proof of this.

Yes, Yemen is in the midst of a war – a war, it should be noted, that the Houthis started – but the war in Sanaa has not reached the ferocity that it has in too many other cities and towns in Yemen. That the Houthis cannot make even the best-resourced city in the country work shows how ill-equipped they are to govern.

Indeed, the Houthis themselves understand this. This was part of their intentions in 2014 when they first marched into Sanaa. Rather than govern openly, they sought a “political partnership” with Mr Hadi – the idea being that they would pull the strings in the background while Mr Hadi and his team took the blame. The same process is how Hizbollah has maintained influence in Lebanon, holding the parliament to ransom, but not putting their people front and centre.

Mr Hadi refused to do so and the Saudi-led coalition is seeking to restore him to power. Yemen needs legitimate and competent leadership, not an occupying power that cannot run a city.

Updated: May 15, 2017 04:00 AM

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