The Southern Cause
The southern cause (al-qadiyya al-janubiyya) describes the fate of a former internationally-recognized state – the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (capital Aden), which entered into a unification agreement with the Yemen Arab Republic (capital Sanaa) on May 22, 1990, that failed with the end of the war on July 7, 1994 – as well as the struggle of the South Yemeni population for the restoration of its state.
Only four years after the unification in 1990, unity had failed and led to the first attempts by South Yemen to regain its independence according to its pre-1990 borders. The disengagement by South Yemen, which the regime of former North Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih tried to prevent, led to war between the north and south. War broke out on April 27, 1994, and ended with the seizure of the south by North Yemeni forces on July 7, 1994. Hundreds of thousands of South Yemeni state employees and army personnel were forced into retirement. The capital Aden and the South Yemeni territories were increasingly marginalized. Numerous North Yemeni military personnel and influential persons of the Salih regime profited enormously from the appropriation of South Yemeni resources (principally oil, fish, and land). Although a united state continued to exist formally, many South Yemenis have perceived themselves as living under northern occupation since the end of the war in 1994.
Since the beginning of the war in Yemen in 2015, the United Nations has tried to end the conflict. The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, emphasized the importance of finding a fair and satisfactory solution to the southern cause, but excluded the southern side from peace talks in Geneva in 2015, and again in Kuwait in 2016. In both negotiations, only the Houthis and the government of President Hadi were present. According to Cheikh Ahmed, the southern cause would have been included in the agenda at a later stage of the negotiations. Thereby, Cheikh Ahmed confirmed that the southern cause was considered to be an inner-Yemeni problem, and not an issue between two states, the former Yemen Arab Republic and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, which had only unified on May 22, 1990. The southern cause is unsolved to this day.