Interview with Ahmed Bin Fareed, representative of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) of Yemen in the European Union. Interviewed by Alejandro López on 3rd of March, 2021.
Edición en español – Edition in English
- [Question]: Yemeni Southern Transitional Council was formed in 2017 with the intention of achieving independence for South Yemen, the territory of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. Why was this movement created? What kind of political regime would South Yemen have if it were independent that cannot be achieved in a united Yemen?
[Answer]: First of all we have to remember that our national movement in the south started in 2007 with the same intention of achieving independence for the South, the territory of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), in protest against the unjust war waged by the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his partners from North Yemen on the South under the name of unity which ended in 7/7/1994 with full occupation of the South. Since that day until 2007 our people in South Arabia (South Yemen) have been suffering a lot of grievances, racist practices, marginalization and looting of their personal properties and even its public wealth. Whatever the case I think that if we wanted to determine what exactly had happened during that period, we would need more pages. But I can say the project of unity which was a beautiful dream for us turned to be a nightmare. According to that the STC came in 2017 to represent the southern people’s ambition of independence.
- [Q]: But what kind of political regime would South Yemen have if it were independent?
[A]: Of course it would be a federal republic.
- [Q]: In 2019, the Riyadh Agreement for the formation of a unity government in Yemen was signed. Are you still contemplating a two-state solution in Yemen despite your participation in that unity government?
[A]: The Riyadh Agreement signed between the STC and the government of president Hadi for some reasons among them is how to provide together the necessary services to the citizens of the south and how to manage the economy and achieve security and stability and the most important how avoid military conflicts between the STC and the government in order to unite our strength against our enemy which is the Houthi’s militia. This is the main job of the Riyadh Agreement. Therefore, this Agreement doesn’t come to solve our national case because we believe that the political solution to the whole crisis of Yemen would come through the peace process led by the UN especial envoy Mr. Griffiths. But in the same, yes, we still believe that a two-state solution is best solution not only for us or for the north of Yemen but for the region and the world.
- [Q]: Since the signing of the Riyadh Agreement, the relationship with the north has been very tense and broke up in 2020. Do you consider that President Hadi Mansur is fulfilling his commitments to the South?
[A]: From the beginning of the signing this agreement we understood that we are going to face many challenges, because there are several parts within the Hadi Government are not satisfied with the agreement, and therefore it is natural and expected of them to do whatever necessary to obstruct its implementation.
- [Q]: When the war is over, what kind of administration should south Yemen have? Federal, confederal, completely independent, unity as up to now…
[A]: We in the STC understand how much the whole situation is complicated, it isn’t easy to settle things down as everyone wants and there is no other way for all of us but to sit down together and talk about the future for the sake of our people and because war didn’t bring peace or victory to anyone of us but blood, disasters and tragedies. If we do this, I think we can reach with all parts to a solution based on respecting the will of our people in the south which is very clear to everyone. Unity cannot stands by force. And our people have decided that they will not accept any shape of unity, and because of that we are asking our partners to tell us where is the wisdom of ignoring our people’s will and using force to determine their future.
To learn more: La olvidada Guerra de Yemen.
- [Q]: Houthi control Yemen’s capital Sana’a, and large cities in the North. Now they are advancing on the Ma’rib front. Do you think Houthis could play a role in eventual peace negotiations? Is a solution to the war in Yemen available without them?
[A]: Unfortunately, The Houthis are now a de facto power in more than 85% of the north, and as you mentioned they are today knocking the door of Ma’rib, and it will be sharp blow for the government of Hadi if they managed to control this important governorate, and that’s what were really trying to achieve whatever it cost them. And it is clear that they are launching this war in order to strengthen their negotiation position. Hence, they are seeking to play a strong role in any political negotiations.
- [Q]: What influence does Al-Islah have on the Yemeni government right now? And what is your position with regard to the Islamist party Al-Islah?
[A]: It is not a secret to say that Al-Islah party (the Muslim brotherhoods of Yemen) are actually dominating the decisions of President Hadi. Moreover, the vice president Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar is very supportive to this party and have with them very long and historic relations based on common interests and Islamic concepts. They actually ruled the so-called legitimacy government by corruption and military failures when it comes to the battle ground with the Houthis. For example; have you ever heard of a Defence Minister formally declares during a decisive war that 70% of his army is not at the war fronts but at their homes without being taken accountable for his responsibility of this unpreceded military scandal? This is the Defence Minister of the Yemeni Government. We in the STC believe that the main or maybe the first reason for all that military failures in front of the Houthis are due to poor military leadership and political mismanagement of the government which have been dominated by Islah party. They have actually fought the southern people and our military forces more than they did against the Houthis.
- [Q]: United Arab Emirates has strongly supported the STC in Yemen but came out of the Yemen War in 2019. Do you think the war will end soon? Do you support Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen under the Arab Coalition?
[A]: I think that the end of the war in Yemen has nothing to do with the UAE’s withdrawal, even we cannot say that the UAE has completely withdrawn from Yemen, it still plays an effective and supportive role within the Coalition especially in the western coast of Yemen. As for the second part of the question I can say with full confidence; yes, we support Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen because we are part of this coalition and I think that the Saudis are defending their national security as the Houthis representing a real threat to them now and in the future.
- [Q] If Hadi’s sector in the government breaches the Riyadh Agreement again, would STC break the government? Where is the red line?
[A]: I think that the coalition states have their role to ensure full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and they are observing the whole scene to judge and estimate how it is going on the ground according to the terms of the agreement. Because of this we are cautiously optimistic despite of seeing some serious challenges which have unfolded and increased lately especially in Aden City, hopefully not to reach the red line you mentioned.
- [Q]: If Ma’rib fell to the Houthis, would the STC seek greater participation in the unity government facing Hadi sector, would it maintain the Riyadh Accord with the current participation or would it break the government seeking to completely replace the Hadi sector?
[A]: There is no doubt that the falling of Ma’rib in the hand of the Houthis would means a lot not only for Hadi sector but to the whole game in Yemen. Definitely, Hadi sector will be the big loser in this game because such blow would weaken their position politically and militarily. And if this happened, I think it is normal for them – Hadi sector – to re estimates their weight in the government and give the STC and other Northern parties more space, more responsibilities in the government itself or in the military operation. They must accept and recognize their military defeats and acknowledge that it was their wrong military, political, and financial decisions that led us to this bad position.
- [Q]: Would STC accept the independence of South Yemen if the north were completely under Houthi control?
[A]: It is very important to know that the South was invaded by former President’s forces in 1994 with effective participation of Al-Islah Party (the Muslim Brotherhoods of Yemen) who also helped send hundreds of Jihadis fighters after they came back from Afghanistan to fight with them against the southern forces. In 2015 the Houthi’s militia also invaded Aden before we managed to send them to their territory with the help of the Arab Coalition. According to all this we in the south think that all the Northern forces have the same intention toward our land whether they are Houthis, Islah Party or other political, military forces.
- [Q]: You are representative in Europe. Which role has played the European countries in Yemen War? Do you think that role has been effective to end the conflict?
[A]: Unfortunately, the European countries’ role in Yemen is not effective as it should be. They prefer to release some supportive statements to the peace process led by the UN especial envoy and that is good but not enough from my personal perspective. Talking about the miserable situation in Yemen needs to be followed by some serious action. We are in the STC still hoping from the European countries to understand the Southern issues and to respect the ambitions of our people. We still hope that they will evaluate and recognize our rights to live freely in our own land. The European countries have played an effective role in liberating nations in eastern Europe, and many states have emerged again because it was their right and because it was the will of their people. But not to showing any respect to the southern people desire of independence is a kind of stark double standard.
- [Q]: Thanks Ahmed bin Fareed for answering all our questions.
[A]: Thank you for the interview, and your important questions. Best regards.