Letter to EU Foreign Ministers
EU Foreign Ministers,
CC: António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
Martin Griffiths, UN Special Envoy for Yemen
Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
14 June 2019
On behalf of the Southern Transitional Council (STC), I wish to bring your attention to the urgent military and humanitarian developments unfolding in South Yemen, as well as to highlight several priorities at this critical stage in the UN-led political process.
Despite hopes for progress through the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, the situation across Yemen is increasingly dire. Fighting between the Hadi government and the Houthi militias has escalated in different parts of the county over the past month. Worryingly high number of children have been killed or injured in the latter part of May alone. Such violence undermines prospects for a viable ceasefire and exacerbates an already serious humanitarian reality for all Yemenis.
The South is not an exception to this recent deterioration. As predicted, the fighting has extended beyond Hodeidah and we are now faced with a new assault on the South by the Houthi militia. Since the end of April, Southern forces have been defending the Southern population against the Houthi advance in Al-Dhale’ and other Southern border towns. The military onslaught has involved the use of ballistic missiles in civilian areas: Innocent people have been killed, many have been displaced from their homes, and access to goods and aid has been cut off. We are acutely aware of the consequences of further escalation to the stability of the region. It is for these reasons that Southern resistance forces have successfully pushed back the Houthi advance. In parallel, the STC is playing a key leadership role on the ground to reconcile and coordinate the political and military efforts of the South.
The STC’s primary objective remains defending our people, protecting their interests and livelihoods, and to securing a sustainable and just political solution to their suffering. We have continued to engage constructively with UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths and his team in Aden to feed our thinking into the political process. We acknowledge the difficult challenges Mr Griffiths has faced in reviving the political process, and we commend his efforts to end the violence and bring about peace for our people. But that cannot be achieved without engaging key actors on the ground, such as the STC.
The STC continues to make significant progress to alleviate the suffering of the people. We established a new Relief Committee as part of our responsibility to facilitate the humanitarian and relief efforts inside and via the South, particularly through the Port of Aden. Furthermore, at the end of May, the STC successfully facilitated the exchange of prisoners between Southern resistance forces and the Houthis. We are also, actively engaging with other Southern groups to formulate a vision for the future of the South. We remain at the UN’s disposal to be a partner in this much-needed support, and to translate these efforts into building confidence in the political process.
Your Excellencies, there remains no alternative to a political solution. Despite the bleak outlook, we must redouble our efforts to enable the political process under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy to succeed. Regrettably, the two parties to the conflict have demonstrated no such commitment in their persistent pursuit of a military solution and some of their recent statements. They also simply lack any credibility or legitimacy to represent the interests of the South. We, therefore, specifically urge you to:
(i) Support a broader and more comprehensive political process. The piecemeal approach to the process, thus far, has not yielded the desired outcomes. The current context proves that attention to a single issue or area has repercussions on other fronts. Progress on the key components of a political solution, including the Southern issue, must be addressed in parallel rather than sequentially.
(ii) Deliver on your commitments to an inclusive political process at all levels, including parallel UN consultations. We welcome the continued international commitments on the need for a broad and inclusive peace process. But this intent needs to be turned into action, including on the need to prioritise the Southern voice. For too long the South has been marginalised. That is no longer tenable. The Southern issue cannot be separated from the broader solution and neither can Southern representatives, including women.
(iii) Intensify the humanitarian response to proactively accommodate evolving needs. The on-the-ground developments bear implications for the humanitarian situation, especially for the growing internally displaced population in the South. Greater support for the humanitarian effort should include earmarking funding for Southern governorates affected by movement of goods through the Port of Aden, and measures to mitigate corruption and aid diversion risks.
(iv) Give the South the space and opportunity to engage and determine our own future. Continually trying to dismiss the South as another ‘secessionist issue’ is short-sighted and inaccurate. South Yemen was an independent state until 1990. There is considerable social division between the South and North with differences in culture, ways of life, and communities. We’re keen to explain these important nuances to our international partners, and that only works through genuine engagement and a shift away from using the territorial integrity of Yemen as an excuse to further marginalise the Southern cause.
Your Excellencies, we reiterate our commitment to a credible political solution to this crisis. While challenging, a solution is certainly within reach. We must be frank that this requires deliberate action to get the parties to the conflict to demonstrate the political will to do so, as well as tackling the root causes and not only the symptoms of the problem. This necessitates giving all legitimate actors on the ground, including Southern representatives, women, and civil society the opportunity to shape the solution and future they want. Ultimately, the solution should rest with the southern people to determine our own future.
I have copied this letter to the UN Secretary-General, Mr António Guterres, UN Special Envoy Mr Martin Griffiths, and EU High Representative Ms Federica Mogherini.
Ahmed Bin Fareed
Southern Transitional Council