Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yemen's elusive peace

Recent declarations of peace breaking out in Yemen seem to be a tad premature. A fragile ceasefire between the army and Houthi-led rebels in northern Yemen has been put under renewed strain following the deaths of three government followers in clashes with the rebels that left a dozen others injured, according to local witnesses from the Bani Awair area of Saada Governorate. (Photo: Waiting to go home - IDPs receiving aid in Al Ghubba, Yemen).

The Houthis accuse Bani Awair local authorities of giving fighters cash and weapons to attack their followers. 

“Local tribesmen, receiving support from the government, set up an ambush against many of our men, killing one of them and injuring another two,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdussalam has claimed, adding that the Houthis were determined to uphold the 11 February ceasefire despite provocation.

He accused the government of fomenting tensions just as life was gradually returning to some sort of normality in the war-ravaged north, a charge the government denied and lobbed back at the rebels. 

Abdullah Dhahban, a Saada council member, said the government was determined to restore peace and stability to Saada and blamed Houthis for hindering the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes. “Efforts to promptly return IDPs have stopped as a result of ongoing violations committed by Houthi gunmen,” he said. 

According to aid agencies on the ground, more than 250,000 people have been displaced by the six-year-old conflict and very few have returned due to the volatile situation in Saada. 

According to the UN’s Humanitarian Affairs office (OCHA), progress in implementing the six ceasefire conditions of the “sixth Saada war” since 2004 is very slow and the situation remains fragile. 

“There is some concern that unless the underlying causes of the conflict are addressed with a comprehensive peace agreement, there may be further unrest,” an OCHA spokesperson said. 

Many analysts expect a seventh war to erupt at any time because the real causes of the dispute have not been addressed by the government. 

Check out here a previous HDEO blog post about Yemen's geo-strategic importance

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