x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The south never expected to share power until Yemen’s 1994 war

Yemen's southerners never had power before the war in 1994, but now they expect it, writes Nasser Yahya. Other views: El Sissi faces a crucial test (Gassan Charbel) and Al Maliki is exploiting the war on terror (Tariq Al Homayed)

Since problems have emerged in the southern provinces of Yemen, the words “south” and “southerners” have become necessary when discussing the rights and privileges that must be given to southerners and the need to enshrine those rights in the constitution and new laws, wrote Nasser Yahya in an opinion article in the Yemeni news site Almasdar.

Some might argue that this is natural because the south of Yemen was a state before it unified with North Yemen in 1990. Yet the words “south” and “southerners” were not common before the disputes arose between the partners of the union over power sharing, which led to the south seeking secession and eventually to the 1994 war.

The party that insists today on describing itself as southerner and representative of the south did not demand sharing everything in the new state – based on the south/north dichotomy – as a precondition for proceeding with the union, the writer said.

The media discourse, back then, did not approve of the word “south” and its derivatives. In the years before the union, both sides dealt with each other based on political affiliations. Being from the south or the north did not matter.

In the early years of the union, the enthusiasts of “the south” did not care about that label. Their allies were the northerners of the Congress Party, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Abd Al Karim Al Iryani, Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani and others, rather than Ali Nasser Mohammed, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi or any other southerner from the marginalised southern provinces outside of the parties ruling Yemen.

Large numbers of sidelined southerners headed to the north, without finding anyone of the new south-enthusiasts to support them or demand for them equal sharing of civilian and military jobs with southerners.

“The sword of the southern identity was wielded during the political crisis that led up to the 1994 war,” the writer argued.

“Even old songs urging people of southern tribes to fight in defence of the southern identity were brought out from the archives of Aden Radio.”

After the war and until the Yemeni Socialist Party was no more part of power, the rhetoric in the media and in politics became that the south/southerners were the victims of the war and exclusion from government, even though southerners, with the exception of a limited partisan and tribal group, had nothing to do with power and the war.

The south was not excluded from power because it had not been in it in the first place.

After 1994, however, government and resources were shared by many southerners, many of whom would not have attained that, had the situation in the south remained as it had been before the union.

Egypt’s constitution is a test of El Sisi’s status

A strong vote in favour of Egypt’s draft constitution will legitimise the decision of protesters and the military to oust former president Mohammed Morsi at a time when the nation faces precarious days, according to Ghassan Charbel, the editor in chief of the pan-Arab Al Hayat.

This will compel Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi to face presidential elections and test his capacity to elevate Egypt to its former national and regional glory.

On the other hand, a meagre yes vote would mean a deepening crisis and increased confrontations.

“One would have thought that the reign of the generals – coming to the rescue from the barracks – had elapsed, as this is the age of revolutions, youth and text messages,” Charbel wrote.

With simple words, El Sisi was able to stir the emotions of tens of millions of Egyptians on June 30, while the Muslim Brotherhood underestimated the people’s anger. Charbel highlights that “support for the constitution will reveal whether the faith in him is still solid. These are ‘the Sisi days’, as the fate of the nation is linked to that of the man himself.”

For three years, Egypt has seen a series of cataclysmic developments. This referendum will decide the fate of the constitution, of El Sisi and of Egypt.

The best El Sisi can do, as general or president, is to support the establishment of a natural democracy that won’t call for revolutions and saviours every other decade, Charbel concluded.

Al Maliki triumphed where Al Assad failed

When it comes to using the “war on terrorism” trump card, the Iraqi prime minister has certainly shown remarkable shrewdness compared to Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, noted the columnist Tariq Al Homayed in the London-based daily Asharq Al Awsat.

Nouri Al Maliki played his card intelligently, more so for instance than Mr Al Assad, who burnt all his cards and can’t fool anyone anymore.

Mr Al Maliki jumped at the internal turmoil in Iraq to get the support of the UN Security Council in his assault on the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and all Al Qaeda affiliates in the Anbar province.

“Of course, Mr Al Maliki’s next step now is to exploit all the international support he garnered, not to eliminate terrorism or to address Iraq’s real issues, but to bolster his own internal clout and transform himself from a controversial figure to a policeman for the West in the war on terrorism,” the writer opined.

A newly found sense of victory, as he becomes an instrument in the global fight against terrorism, can be felt in the Iraqi premier’s tone.

For him, this isn’t a triumph over Al Qaeda as much as it is a triumph over his political opponents in Iraq.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk