Yemen’s President Abd Rabbou Mansour Haddi endorsed a plan on Monday to turn Yemen into a six region federation. The recommendation, from a special body established to help end tribal and sectarian unrest in the country, rejected an alternative plan for one northern and one southern Yemeni province.
The proposal outlines new regional boundaries where the more populous north of the country will be divided into four parts and the south will be split into two provinces; the capital of Sanaa would remain a special administrative area. Yemen’s leaders hope the plan creates a mechanism for dealing with tribal difference and paves the way for the drafting a new constitution. A vote on the borders and the new constitution will be held within the next year, according to government sources.
Yemen President Rabbou Mansour Haddi sits down with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on July 30, 2013. (Photo: U.S. DOD)
Monday’s announcement comes after months of political turmoil following the 2012 ouster of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh agreed to cede power under a Gulf Cooperation Council agreement to hold new presidential elections and create a temporary unity government and a National Dialogue Conference. As the sole presidential candidate, Haddi was elected to replace Saleh and helped guide the plan for regions.
The six state arrangement is meant to grant autonomy but not independence to South Yemen. South Yemen used to be an independent Marxist nation, but unified with North Yemen during the fall of the Soviet Union in 1990. Just four years later South Yemen tried to secede, but Saleh used the army to crush the rebels and keep Yemen unified.
Opposition leaders representing South Yemeni interests reject the new arrangement. They argue that the six state plan does not truly represent the results of the national dialogue. Some of the opposition includes separatists who seek independence for South Yemen while other opposition members are simply in favor of a two state north and south arrangement that will allow the south to retain greater control of southern oil reserves.
With opposition politicians in Southern Yemen unhappy with the proposed compromise, it remains unclear whether additional autonomy will help ease the continuing unrest. On Sunday, a car bombing killed a Yemeni intelligence officer and wounded 3 others. A strong religious extremist presence in the country, led by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, continues to challenge the government’s authority.