Conflict Alerts # 77, 29 April 2020
In the news
Amid the persisting violence by the Houthi rebels, the Saudi-led coalition on 24 April extended the unilateral ceasefire in Yemen by one month in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak. The impact of the violence on the fragile health infrastructures in Yemen remains critical.
The Houthis continued with their demand for a complete ceasefire and lift of air and sea blockade.
However, the most important development of the week in Yemen took place outside the Houthis controlled territories. The Southern Transitional Council which is supported by the UAE announced its plan to establish self-rule in the southern province of Yemen.
Issues at large
Saudi Arabia led the military coalition to declare a unilateral ceasefire in Yemen for two weeks on 9 April. It was further extended last week by the coalition. However, Iran backed Houthi rebels rejected the ceasefire declared and called for the lifting of the blockade imposed by the coalition.
The blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia and its allies has choked the people and the Houthi rebels of food and essential medical supplies to fight the pandemic. Around 70 per cent of the population are malnourished and lack medical supplies due to the sealing of the border. The coalition has taken over the oil fields and restricted oil exports by 50 per cent, further choking the oil revenues for the country.
The latest development in Yemen is not the ceasefire extension, but the announcement by the Southern Transitional Council (STC) to establish autonomous rule in the southern province against the Internationally Recognised Government (IRG). While the UAE has continued to back the STC separatists despite its withdrawal from Yemen in 2019, the IRG has been supported by Saudi Arabia.
In 2019, the STC agreed to the Riyadh Agreement along with the ICG. Now the self-rule announcement upsets that.
Saudi Arabia has three significant challenges in Yemen now. First, it has to tackle domestic criticisms to stop the costly intervention in Yemen. Second, it has to manage the coalition as the STC is supported by the UAE. Third, support from the international community during the humanitarian crisis is also not in place. This makes it impossible for Saudi Arabia to sustain its control in Yemen.
The domestic conflict in Yemen is more significant than external interferences. A conflict triangle exists now between the Houthis, IRG, and STC that are fighting for power in Yemen. Peace in the region depends on the UAE’s capability to convince the separatists, which will, in turn, bring down the internal tensions.
A Padmashree is a Research Intern at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS). She is pursuing her Masters in International Studies from Stella Maris College, Chennai