Vicar of Arabia: confused situation and risk of division in Yemen

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi seek to mend fractures in the anti-Houthi coalition. From Aden the clashes spread to Taiz. Bishop Hinder: international powers promote a policy of division. A Confederate State a possible "valid" solution. The common prayers of Muslims and Christians to open avenues of peace and justice.


Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews) - The situation in Yemen “is still confused and far from transparent"  comments Msgr. Paul Hinder, apostolic vicar of southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen) speaking to AsiaNews on the latest front to open up between pro-Saudi Arabia and separatists supported by the Emirates in their battle against Houthi rebels.

Based in Abu Dhabi, Msgr. Hinder closely follows events in Yemen thanks also to sources in the country, while he is waiting to be able to return after years of absence. "Just as the Sana'a region seems to be relatively quiet, battles have reignited in the south" especially in Aden.

Msgr. Hinder notes that at an official level, all external actors "declare they want to maintain unity". In reality, even "the alliance under the leadership of Saudi Arabia is no longer cohesive and is fracturing due to divergent interests".

President Abd Rabbih Manṣūr Hadi representing the internationally recognized government "does not enjoy great support". At the same time, Aden, which has been the capital in the past, "is pushing once again to become independent".

The war in Yemen began in 2014 as an internal conflict between pro-Saudi government and Shiite Houthi rebels close to Iran. It degenerated in March 2015 with the intervention of the Arab coalition led by Riyadh and has registered over 10 thousand dead and 55 thousand injured. Independent bodies set the toll  (between January 2016 and the end of July 2018) at about 57 thousand deaths.

For the UN the conflict has triggered "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world", about 24 million Yemenis (80% of the population) urgently need humanitarian assistance and the cholera emergency is still of concern. It is estimated that there around 2500 child soldiers and half of the girls are married before the age of 15.

The situation is further complicated by thefragmentation in the anti-Houthi coalition. In recent weeks the conflict has crossed the borders of Aden, spreading to Taiz in the center of the country. For days, clashes have been taking place along the Aden-Taiz highway between southern separatists and Abu Dhabi-sponsored Salafist groups and government forces linked to President Hadi's al-Islah party, under the Riyadh wing. Over the weekend Saudi and UAE diplomacies moved to reach an ally ceasefire in the disputed provinces of Abyan and Shabwa.

For the vicar of Arabia, the international powers are promoting a policy "that will lead to the division into two or three parts", because everyone "is afraid of a centralized Yemen" except those who "will have real power". In this context, a Confederate State would be a "valid" solution if the parties "were able to draw up a balanced and just Constitution, respecting the legitimate expectations of tribal and regional actors". But to achieve the goal, he warns, we need "the ability to accept reasonable compromises".

Any agreements, he warns, will be possible "only in a minimum climate of trust", in which "even the external powers" help to heal the country "instead of destabilizing it". The hopes of a short truce are few because too many aspects "are largely out of control" and “the civilian population is fighting against violence, disease and hunger", while the international community "does not know how to react. And stands by silent ", but this silence "could prove fatal".

The last reflection of the prelate is on the most effective weapon, which "however does not destroy: prayer. It is time for Muslims, Christians and others to pray for paths of peace and justice to be opened".

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