Human situation in Sa’ada worsens amid indicators of relative quiet [Archives:2008/1131/Front Page]

February 21 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Feb. 20 ) The presidential mediation committee signed on Monday a schedule to implement an agreement reached by the government and Houthis last June, media sources said, adding the human situation in the governorate is worsening.

Humanitarian news website quoted aid workers as saying that children and teenagers in Sa'ada are suffering from psychological disorders and other health problems due to the repeated clashes between government troops and Houthis since June 2004. The website continued that this information is based on a field survey, conducted by the Charitable Medical Association in 15 Sa'ada districts between August and October 2007, funded by UNICEF.

The humanitarian news website, attributed to Social & Psychological Support Program Technical Coordinator Mohammed Al-Makrami, reported that survey results show that locals in the war-affected areas are suffering from grief, depression and trouble due to the fighting. Al-Makrami added that 53.2 percent of those surveyed suffer from acute depression and 49.2 percent are psychologically shocked.

The survey targeted 1,400 participants, among them 630 children and teenagers, with those who witnessed the Sa'ada war accounting for 92.4 percent of those surveyed.

In the midst of the suffering, there appears to be a relative peace. Noted mediation committee member and media officer Abdu Al-Janadi expressed, “Situations are stable in the Sa'ada governorate and both conflicting sides are abiding by the ceasefire agreement,”.

Al-Janadi continued that “We are optimistic about the Sa'ada situation and have nothing to worry about,” pointing out that the committee is practicing its activities flexibly and in cooperation with the Qatari team that arrived in Sa'ada last Thursday to oversee how committed the government and Houthis are to the ceasefire agreement.

Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) leaders stressed their rejection of the war, demanding that clashes be ended through a comprehensive national vision to involve all the Yemeni political parties and forces. Only this can ensure an end to the clashes, according to JMP leaders.

Yemeni Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar met JMP leaders on Sunday and briefed them on the government's viewpoint on the most recent Doha-brokered agreement to end ongoing confrontations between Houthi loyalists and military troops in Sa'ada.

Well-informed sources stated that Prime Minister reproached the opposition parties over their letter addressed to the president of the Republic, which he described as “unjust”. He ascertained the government was supporting JMP involvement in the presidential mediation committee; however, some JMP leaders declared they are boycotting the committee and rejecting any comprise between the conflicting sides.

JMP leaders denied what Mujawar said, affirming that their plan of forming the mediation committee comes as part of a national vision and that their letter did not indicate any objection to the committee, mandated to oversee the ceasefire agreement.

The JMP reviewed the Doha-brokered agreement after the opposition coalition's higher council sent out a letter to President of the Republic, demanding the government should announce the agreement terms so that the public can learn about both sides' obligations and commitment to the ceasefire agreement. According to the letter, citizens are constitutionally entitled to know more about their homeland's issues, and by keeping the terms secret, the government is denying the public its right.

The agreement reads that both sides must release prisoners of the war within one month, and the government must pull its troops out of citizens' villages and farms while Houthis in return lay down their heavy and medium weapons. These terms, according to the JMP, were the main reason behind the previous agreement's failure, signed in June 2007.

The current agreement also stipulates that a supervisory committee be formed to ensure that both conflicting sides are committed to the ceasefire agreement, and that Houthi supporters are allowed to express their ideologies and ideas freely and form a political party if they want. It also indicates that the government must abandon fining Houthis for waging a war against its troops, contribute to resolving tribal issues caused by the war and compensate citizens whose homes and farms were damaged in the war. The compensation funds are to come from the Sa'ada Reconstruction Fund, planned to be established and financed by Qatar.

Haq Party Secretary-General Hassan Zaid told Al-Nass Weekly that terms of the most recent Doha-brokered agreement are the same as those contained in the previous one. “Both sides agreed only on particular points representing a mechanism for implementing the previous agreement,” he went on to say. “Qatar's role was necessary because the local forces and parties are, in one way or another, involved in the war.”

“The agreement doesn't only reflect the government's defeat, since the whole society was defeated in the war and Sa'ada judicial figures were killed in the war because they refused to surrender. This is the real defeat,” Zaid commented. “In order to establish good relations with its citizens, the government wants citizens to be submissive and obedient to it. I think the government won by signing the agreement, and not vice versa.”

According to the JMP, the language used by the official media originates from strong totalitarian beliefs, and as the government doesn't acknowledge the JMP's role in settling the Sa'ada crisis, it caused the JMP to appear unconcerned about national issues.

In a statement released on Monday, the JMP denounced the official media's ignorance of the JMP letter sent out to president Saleh ten days ago. The letter contained the JMP vision and position toward the Sa'ada turmoil, as well as the reasons why it was prepared and addressed to President Saleh, which is that the government underestimated the effort needed to end the Sa'ada war, cease bloodshed and maintain law and order.