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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Yemenis take to Socotra's streets in support of UAE

The UAE will continue its role in supporting residents of the Yemeni island

Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Socotra, opened in 2014. (Photo Courtesy-Sheikh Khalifa Foundation)
Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Socotra, opened in 2014. (Photo Courtesy-Sheikh Khalifa Foundation)

Rallies have spread across Socotra in support of the UAE’s increased role on the island, in response to the Yemeni prime minister’s criticism of the Emirati presence.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher presented his own plan of how the island should be developed on his Twitter account on Sunday, although the government has not played a role in the development of the island in years.

His claims were "counter to reason and realities on the ground", the Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement to state news agency, WAM.

The statement referred to role of the Muslim Brotherhood in instigating a "malignant media campaign against the UAE”.

Last year, the UAE along with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, cut relations with Qatar over several grievances including Doha’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which the four countries believe are meddling in regional affairs.

“Such heinous campaigns led by Muslim Brotherhood and which relates to Socotra island, fits within a long and repeated scenarios to distort the image of the UAE and its efficient contribution to the Arab Coalition efforts against the coup perpetrators led by Houthi militias,” the report said.

But Socotrans have welcomed UAE support after decades of neglect by the Yemeni government, former governor of Socotra Maj Gen Salem Abdullah Al Socotri told The National.

Basic infrastructure and social services were crippled in 2015 after Cyclone Megh pummelled the Arabian Sea island’s half dozen coastal cities.

"Where was the government then?” asked Maj Gen Al Socotri. "The island was out of the Yemeni government’s consideration. No one troubled themselves to visit the island, even when its residents were living in a catastrophic situation."

Thousands of the island’s residents were left homeless and starving while “the government” launched a public-relations campaign celebrating their alleged launch of humanitarian relief projects, the former governor alleged.

The UAE intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 as part of the Saudi-led coalition, on behalf of the internationally-recognised government of Abdrabu Mansur Hadi. So far the intervention has helped restore stability to parts of Yemen, including on the island archipelago.

The UAE has supplied humanitarian aid to Yemen since 1971, and funded development projects in several regions, including on Socotra. Between 2015 and 2017, the UAE has spent Dh9 billion on aid in Yemen.

“The UAE restored the infrastructure in the island," Maj Gen Al Socotri said. "They restored electricity, rebuilt roads, built schools and health care centres, and even built whole new settlements for those whose homes were damaged."

The UAE has also trained Yemeni military units which have since been sent to maintain the peace on the island, which is located 280 kilometres south of the mainland in what are at times pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa.

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Read more:

Yemeni military looks to cut off main Houthi supply route

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: role on Socotra Island in line with stabilising efforts

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Abdulrahman Juma'an, a journalist from Socotra, was among demonstrators on the island, who turned out to show their supporting for the UAE.

"We are not able to express our emotions towards the UAE’s government and people, they were more than brothers, what they have done for us is clear and notable so no word can express our gratefulness for them," Mr Juma'an told The National.

Another Socotran told The National that the island's people would remain forever grateful to the UAE.

"The hands of charity which stretched to us when we were homeless after Chapala were the hands of Zayed's sons in the UAE," Salem Saeed an social activist from Socotra told The National.