Committees to submit report on war-related damage [Archives:2008/1197/Front Page]

October 9 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Oct. 8 ) Three governmental committees are currently assessing war-related damage in Sa'ada governorate in preparation of a report to be presented a month from now, an official source at Yemen's Local Administration Ministry told the Yemen Times.

According to Akram Hamoud Al-Sheikh, office manager for Minister of Local Administration Abdulqader Ali Hilal, a security committee, a reconstruction committee and a popular committee of local councilors have been set up to assess reconstruction challenges in the war-ravaged governorate.

“The Sa'ada Reconstruction Fund, in charge of supervising and implementing the reconstruction process, gives priority to compensating citizens whose homes or farmlands were damaged during the four-year fighting between the Yemeni army and Houthi supporters,” Al-Sheikh said.

He added that, although a few damaged schools had been restored and equipped for students to start the school year 2008 – 2009, in other areas government agencies and international organizations had set up tents for students to attend classes in until local schools are repaired.

Refugees fear returning home

With regard to refugee camps, Al-Sheikh said that refugees still fear returning home although their houses were not damaged during the fighting, adding, “These refugees fear returning home for security reasons including revenge killings, but our ministry will work hard to facilitate their homecoming.”

Houthi representative Sheikh Saleh Habra cast doubt on the government's being serious about beginning reconstruction in the war-torn governorate according to promises it made earlier to residents.

“The authority attempts to convince people of what it says in its media, while in fact it doesn't listen to citizens' complaints, nor does it pay attention to what is taking place on the ground,” he went on to say.

Habra continued, “The government is controlled by a group of opportunists, who are only concerned with personal interests and pay no attention to the worsening humanitarian situation in the governorate.”

“We urge the government to deal with the Sa'ada cause responsibly, particularly as official media reports have nothing to do with what happens on the ground. Citizens are experiencing tragic situations in various areas,” Habra noted. “We expect that repeated visits by ministers to Sa'ada will positively reflect on the ground, specifically as the authority hasn't allowed displaced residents to directly receive aides from foreign organizations.”

Regarding the YR 10 billion allocated by the government for the governorate's reconstruction, the Houthi representative said, “The money was spent on restoring roads, electricity services and schools in areas not affected during the war. No attention was paid to citizens living in war-hit areas and none of the funds were allocated to affected services in these areas.”

Habra complained that as many as 400 youths from Sa'ada were still missing, and that the government had not fulfilled its promises to release those detained over alleged connections with the Sa'ada fighting or loyalty to Abdulmalik Al-Houthi.

“Houthi loyalists have freed hundreds of detained army members and pro-government tribesmen,” he noted. “We recently released as many as 275 army members and pro-government tribesmen after several months in captivity.”

In conclusion to his statement, Habra urged the government to be more serious in dealing with the Sa'ada cause and suggest workable solutions to the tragic situations in the governorate.

Anti-personnel mines: a major problem in Sa'ada

With regard to the security situation, tribal sources from the governorate said that anti-personnel mines killed Sa'ada citizens on a daily basis, but that the government paid no attention to them.

They complained that the government had not provided maps determining the location of these mines implanted by the army, nor had it authorized experts to remove them in order to help citizens avoid risk.

Abdulmalik Al-Houthi's media office has told that mines are still threatening citizens and cattle. In a press release distributed on Saturday, the office said that two mines exploded in the Nasreen and Mirran areas, but reported no casualties.

According to the office, Salim Mohsen and Abdussalam Thabit, two children, were killed and seriously wounded when a soldier fired a heavy machine gun from a military position in Mirran.

The office accused those whom it described as “government militias” of instigating citizens to establish new mountaintop positions in Sa'ada in order for a sixth war to break out.