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Moving mountains in Yemen: the journey to peace

Previous ceasefires and dialogues attempting to resolve the situation have collapsed [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 April, 2016

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As Yemen prepares to make another trek in search for peace, warring factions and political grievances continue to hold it back.
"I ask all the parties and the international community to remain steadfast in support of this cessation of hostilities to be a first in Yemen's return to peace... Yemen cannot afford the loss of more lives."


These are the words of United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as he announced a much-needed ceasefire thirteen months after a war erupted in the conflict-ridden state.

Not only can Yemen not afford to lose more lives, it quite literally cannot afford to help those remaining to live. More than 6,300 people have been killed in the complicated war, 2.4 million - many of whom are distant from politics - have been forced to relocate from their homes, and 80 percent of Yemen's 22 million population are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

In 2015, the UN appealed for $1.6 billion towards a humanitarian aid response plan for Yemen but the funds were only half met.

"This has now been increased to $1.8 billion and so far only 13 percent has been funded," says Yemeni analyst Hisham al-Omeisy.

"It is hoped that the current ceasefire would allow for humanitarian access," he said.

Though, for much of the world, a ceasefire sounds like great progress after more than a year of fighting, many of those in Yemen remain sceptical to protect their own wellbeing.

Like a toxic relationship that always ends in chaos, Yemen has a relationship with violence - but it has worse experiences with ceasefires and peace talks. The current situation is "quite tense", Omeisy modestly said, just two days into the truce.

"People are both sceptical of the ceasefire holding, while at the same hoping it will," he added.

'If warring parties are already breaching and rejecting the ceasefire, they won't accept results of the Kuwait talks either'
- Hisham Omeisy

Last month, warring parties agreed to lay down their weapons on April 10 in preparation for peace talks in Kuwait a week later.

But the Saudi-led coalition, which has bombarded the country with airstrikes, and Houthi rebels, who have caused chaos across much of the country and government forces - themselves struggling to protect officials as well as civilians in the past year - all violated the terms of the ceasefire on its first day in motion.

Breaches took place in Taiz, Marib, and Sanaa as well as the province of Jawf, where rebels continued to fire missiles and take part in armed clashes, resulting in the death of dozens.

At the same time, fighter jets belonging to the Saudi-led coalition forces rumbled through the skies of Sanaa, with airstrikes reported in the capital and the besieged Taiz city.

"If warring parties are already breaching and rejecting the ceasefire, they won't accept results of the Kuwait talks either," Omeisy suggested.

"That's assuming a deal is reached in Kuwait in the first place."

Marriages and divorces

Like many of its neighbours, Yemen's internal politics is, one could say, slightly complicated.

Those familiar with the chaos know the country's plot twists are completely surprising and unprecedented and it is no wonder the political analysts of the world continue to baffle themselves and their audience on the escalations happening in the "impoverished state".

On one end is the amalgamation of unlikely friends - Houthi rebels and a former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh - who for many years quietly fought battles against each other in the northern parts of the country - but have now joined forces to capture major cities across Yemen.

On the other are the abrupt divorces that took place in the past few years between old-time friends - current president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and many of the officials loyal to the former leader, Saleh - causing ongoing tension in a fraught situation.

Grievances

Meanwhile, there are also grievances and grudges between different factions - the Southerners who are adamant on ending a 25-year-old relationship with the north, and the Hadramis in the far south-east, who insist on breaking up the country altogether.

Lest we forget those debating the legitimacy of the Saudi-led war in the country, or better yet, the legitimacy of the current president who came to power in a one-man election.

Agreeing on the formation of the authorities is also an issue, with those calling for federalism debating on just how many federal states should exist within the wider national borders.

Of course, militants from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group continue to add noise to a noisy situation.

There are also those in the coastal city whose campaign slogan "Aden for Adenis" suggests the city's decades of multiculturalism is just not working for them, while Sanaa residents in the capital demand electricity after being in the dark for most of a year.

"The people can no longer bear this catastrophic situation," Hooria Mashhour, the former human rights minister, told The New Arab.

"It is unethical to continue sacrificing the life of millions that are in need of basic amenities such as food, water, medicine and shelters. Hundreds of thousands of children are out of schools and health facilities work at the bear minimum," she added.

Omeisy summarised the problem: "The end of the war between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthis doesn't necessarily mean end of all the factional and internal wars within Yemen."

It is clear that many mountains stand between Yemen and its desired peace and stability - but the first trek requires quashing the war.

It is up to the warring parties to decide whether their passion for the state is enough to move mountains.

Follow Sana al-Yemen on Twitter: @Sanasiino


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