Turmoil Escalates in Yemen
As the multi-faceted conflict continues to spiral in Yemen, new developments illustrate the degree to which the situation remains largely irreconcilable. Most recently, Yemeni Transportation Minister Saleh al-Gabwani expressed his disapproval of actions taken by forces backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Specifically, al-Gabwani condemned UAE-backed troops for preventing his convoy from inaugurating a new port at Bahlaf, which is currently occupied by UAE forces. Furthermore, the minister alleged that members of these forces relayed how their orders came directly from the Emiratis, presumably using the term to refer to leaders in the UAE.
According to Al Jazeera, al-Gabwani asserted that “there are tribal and regional armies set up by the Emiratis,” additionally declaring in reference to Yemen that “we as a state can’t accept continuation of this situation.” He claimed that the UAE seeks to divide Yemen. The UAE-backed forces include those Yemeni troops only accountable to the Emiratis and the Southern Transitional Council, which seeks to create an autonomous region in the southern portion of Yemen. In supporting the latter, the UAE indeed aids and abets a known separatist group, suggesting that al-Gabwani’s claim is not so far-fetched.
In addition to these simultaneous domestic and regional power struggles amongst leaders and military forces, Yemeni civilians continue to suffer. Their struggles are the result of more than one problem. For starters, a cholera epidemic has plagued Yemen, killing upward of 2,000 people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this scenario is likely to continue at a greater rate if an impending period of heavy rainfall occurs. Peter Salama, the WHO Deputy Director General for Emergency Preparedness and Response, stated that, over the past 20 weeks, the number of infections has declined after “hitting the 1 million mark of suspected cases.”
That number is frighteningly high, and the likelihood of augmentation of the cholera epidemic suggests that such a high number of recorded cases is not only ostensible, but also likely to recur. Salama explained that the WHO expects a “surge” of cases in April, likely followed by another in August. With the complex conflict that continues without showing signs of stopping, the epidemic is especially challenging to combat due to both the violence and the resulting infrastructural deficiencies. As Salama noted, “less than half” of Yemeni health facilities are fully operational. The violence that has undoubtedly spawned such health and infrastructural crises continues to affect civilians directly.
Human Rights Watch has stated that, as of November 2017, upward of 5,000 people have perished and over 8,000 people have been wounded. Most recently, on February 24, two car bombs were set off in Aden, the southern port city that has, at times, been the epicentre of internal Yemeni power struggles. The attack reportedly killed at least 6 civilians, and left 43 wounded. It was the Islamic State (ISIL), and not the UAE, Yemeni forces, or the separatists, that ultimately claimed responsibility for the attack, appearing to target an anti-terrorist camp in the area. This situation only serves to further indicate how nuanced the conflict truly is, as multiple state and non-state actors continue to vie for control in a rapidly deteriorating situation.