Faisal Al Yafai writes: In the south of Yemen today, every outsider is a northerner. The red star on a blue border, part of the old South Yemen flag, can be seen everywhere. The “northern occupation”, as the unification with the north has been increasingly called since 2009, is now the northern invasion.
There’s a grain of truth in the expression and it has gained from repetition and reality. The Houthis, once confined to the furthest northern province of Saada, suddenly appeared on the roads of Aden a few weeks ago, armed with guns, missiles and fighter jets. They brought with them the remnants of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s army.
And, because of their appearance and attempt to take over Yemen’s second city, they also brought the fighter jets of the GCC and the warships of Egypt. Sanaa had become a remote city for southerners since the Arab Spring – now it appeared to have returned to the South with a vengeance.
The South has had enough. Once the Houthis have been pushed out, calls for secession will rise again. In the past, during the transition from Ali Abdullah Saleh’s presidency, such calls could be muted by offering federalism – especially if it came from the mouth of the new president Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, himself a southerner.
But after the ravages of the war are cleared away, it is unlikely anything will convince the southerners to stay. Even voices that once seemed open to autonomy within the union – in particular the former president of South Yemen Ali Salem Al Beidh, who still commands significant support – have turned against the Houthis and the North. Yemen’s south is marching towards the exit.
But going it alone has far more risks than either the southern movement Hirak or southerners themselves care to admit. Southerners may get their own country, only to regret it. [Continue reading…]