Conflict Alerts # 496, 6 April 2022
In the news
On 1 April, the warring parties of Yemen agreed to an UN-mediated ceasefire on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan. It is the first nationwide ceasefire attempted since 2016. The deal was brokered between the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition coming into effect from 2 April. The foreign minister Ahmed Bin Mubarak tweeted: "We immediately announce the release of the first two fuel ships through Hodeidah port." On 1 April, a press release by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen stated: "I would like to announce that the parties to the conflict have responded positively to a United Nations proposal for a two-month Truce which comes into effect tomorrow 2 April at 1900hrs. The parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders; they also agreed for fuel ships to enter into Hudaydah ports and commercial flights to operate in and out of Sana'a airport to predetermined destinations in the region; they further agreed to meet under my auspices to open roads in Taiz and other governorates in Yemen. The Truce can be renewed beyond the two-month period with the consent of the parties."
On 2 April, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guiterres said: "You must take that momentum in order to make sure that this truce is fully respected and that it is renewed and that a true political process is launched."
Issues at large
First, the history of ceasefires in Yemen. The warring parties in Yemen - the Houthis and the Saudi Arabia led coalition have witnessed multiple ceasefires since the violence began in 2014. The Geneva talks of 2015 and the Kuwait talks of 2016, which resulted in UNSC resolution 2216 failed to stop the violence. The Stockholm Agreement of 2018 also resulted in a failure due to implementation issues- Sanaa airport remained closed despite demand by the Houthis.
Second, the scope and purpose of the ceasefire. The Houthis effectively control the internal resources of Yemen. By establishing a gray market mechanism where they impose additional taxes on the sale of goods and services and selling fuel at their own gas stations, the people particularly in the North relies more on the Houthis than the government. As a result, the Hadi government has fallen short of resources. Saudi Arabia led coalition which funds the Aden government has agreed to the truce despite having a conflict of interest to preserve the survival and strength of the Hadi government. Moreover, it gives time for armies to recuperate and restock. However, the ceasefire does not include the civil war against AQAP and the southern secessionists. The scope of the ceasefire agreement also does not stop all forms of violence in the country.
Third, the underlying economic warfare. The ceasefire agreement only prevents explicit violence and does not address the economic warfare tactics adopted by the two governments. The split of the central banks, the ban of currencies issued by the Aden central bank, and the lack of foreign exchange have depreciated the Yemeni Riyal to an abysmal level. Even though ports are currently open for commercial traffic, the Yemeni population will not be able to afford imports and will continue to rely on international aid for survival. Violence in the form of food riots and water resource warfare is not mitigated and hence expected.
First, the question whether the ceasefire will hold. It seems less likely that the terms of the truce will be upheld by all the parties as evidenced by precedents. Second, it remains imperative that the interests of the people should be put first instead of a regional battle. Third, political processes that hold integrity need to be initiated by all the parties involved and this truce should be utilized as a starting point.