How Many Times the Oil Pipeline was Pierced? [Archives:2000/10/Business & Economy]

March 6 2000

By: Hassan Al-Zaiedy
Yemen Times, Marib
The phenomenon of blowing up the oil pipeline extending from Safer field in Marib to the Ras Essa terminal in the Red Sea started in 1993. Since then such incidents continued, the latest of which was at the end of 1999. Those blasts caused the loss of huge quantities of crude oil and large sums of money were spent to deal with their consequences in addition to causing hazardous pollution to the environment and created damage against the citizens and their farms. These incidents are in fact considered act of sabotage whatever the motives, factors and justifications behind them were.
In this article, I will try to spell out the time this phenomenon started, the major factors leading to their occurrence, the incidents so far reported; the real motives behind such incidents, precautionary measures to avoid such incidents, consequent environmental damage, major damage and losses suffered by residents of these areas.
The first ever explosion of oil pipeline:
The first oil pipeline explosion was the eve of 22.7.1993 at Wadi Habab 110 km far away from the East of the capital, Sana’a. The explosion took place in mysterious circumstances and had led to mass condemnation, considering it to be a shameful act of sabotage. The quantity of crude oil leaking from the blown up pipeline was estimated at 20 barrels an hour and was presumed to cause great damage to the farms there especially at the falling of rain. A technical team was able to repair the damage in the pipeline in 20 hours after the incident which was the first of its kind in the country and which was registered against unidentified person or persons. Nevertheless, many reports had asserted that it was politically motivated act and committed by someone from the area and very much likely to be affiliate of certain political party.
During the secessionist war of 1994, the pipeline was exposed to an explosion in Serwah about 10 km away from the previous location of the explosion in 1993. The technical team was able to put out fires caused by the blast and repair it. The team found a Russian-made machine gun brunt at the site of the explosion. The machine-gun was tied up to the pipeline and buried two meters deep in the ground and was detonated by a remote control device. Security forces accused three residents from the area after tracing their footsteps. It was reported that the perpetrators had carried out the explosion under urging from elements from the separatist Socialist party and that the machine-gun was of the type distributed by the party at that time. However, these elements did not give clear and full confession on their responsibility for the incident. Besides, the government was not able to detain the attackers at that time and the matter was settled according to the tribal norms by taking hostage two persons belonging to the tribe however, they were set free after some time.
After these two incidents the oil pipeline was exposed to other two explosions in Al-Yamenia, 50 km away from East of Sana’a by some unidentified persons from the same area.
In 1996, conflicts came to surface between the army forces stationed in the area and some residents of Serwah especially after some kidnappings, attacks against some military positions and oil tankers had taken place. The attackers demanded the government to pay the suspended salaries of a number of civilian officials and military men, damages to the citizens affected by floods and rains and settling issues of some tribal people residing the area. Besides, so many other demands were made such as building water projects, recruiting unemployed people in the military service, employing the qualified ones in the oil companies and other jobs.
All those demands and others were repeatedly asked by the people of the area. Some of them had given threats and warnings against he state and those close to it to resort to other acts unless their demands were met. Such elements had created internal tribal feuds and in the area in general. Wrangles and quarrels began to develop certain officials in the government who are originally from the area whom the sheikhs usually describe them as trouble-makers. People response towards this situation has developed to three attitudes: The first is that of the sheikhs and those officials close to the government who think the stand of some residents in the area and the troubles they are creating with the state are meant against them and not for meeting the demands they are asking to be met.
The second group of people are of the view that sheikhs and those officials are not at all cooperative and helpful to them to get their legal demands. Instead they tend to create obstacles and fight them mainly because they want to serve their own interests.
The third group of people are of the view that sheikhs and those officials are not performing their duties well and that they are not devoted to find solutions to concerns of these people. They furthermore, may venture to use force against the people, which is actually a wrong and ineffective way for this has made some individuals take the law into their hands and start conducting destructive actions to take revenge. Consequently, leading a majority of people to suffer. Therefor, the government should re-consider its policy and to tackle the issues of the area in general, giving priority to the necessary ones.
Therefore, attempts of some officials and sheikhs to suppress some elements and sever the relationship between those of the second view and the government are wrong action and will do nothing but breed violence among these elements. So the government should help them and cooperate with them to learn their concerns and try to meet at least their essential needs so that there won’t be any selfish conflicts which may result in horrible consequences. However, this suggestion was not approved much by those of the first and the second opinions which have led to many tragic incidents, the explosions of oil pipeline was an example.
The Beginning of a Series of Explosions:
The beginning of a series of explosions was early in 1998, accompanied by other incidents that took place in the Marib governorate and the demonstrations that in various governorates of Yemen as a result of increasing oil and diesel prices in the period of the third rise of prices. However, it is noticeable that the oil pipelines incidents did not occur in other governorates as well where oil pipelines pass through. They were only confined to one specific place and on a line that does not exceed 100 km from Safer district in Marib passing through Serwah, also Marib has witnessed so many incidents of explosions, and ending up in the Yamaniyatain, Khawlan, Sana’a about 40 km away from East of Sana’a. On this line about 150 km long passing through all these areas, about 37 explosions had taken place; the first of which was in 22.7.1993 and the latest in November 1999.
That has been a brief and comprehensive account of all the explosion incidents perpetrated on the oil pipeline in Yemen from the first ever explosion to the latest one. Out of this report many queries can be raised about the motives and real reasons that urged the residents of the area to commit such acts. Some of which are: What are the real motives that pushed the people of these areas to conduct such actions? What were the government’s previous and present reactions to such actions? What is the volume of losses and damage of these incidents? What was the proportion of these losses if compared to the demands of the people in these areas? What is the environmental damage resulting from those explosions?
All such questions are going to be dealt with further in future reports.