Mediation committee starts job to end ongoing clashes [Archives:2008/1129/Front Page]

February 14 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Feb. 13 ) The new committee formed by a presidential decree to oversee the ceasefire agreement, with the aim of ending ongoing confrontations in Sa'ada, started its job on Sunday, official Sana'a sources said.

Affiliated with the Yemeni Army, media outlet reported that the new committee has just arrived in the restless governorate to oversee how committed both sides are to the Doha-brokered agreement's terms.

The new committee is comprised mostly of Shoura Council members, with Mohammed Saleh Qura'a as chairman, and Mohammed Hatim Al-Khawi, , Mohammed Al-Moayadi, Qasim Sallam, Abdu Al-Janadi, Dr. Mute'e Jubeir, Ali Nasser Qarsha, Naji Bakhtan, Hemyar Abdullah Al-Ahmar, Abdulaziz Muqbil, Hussein Al-Sawadi, Hussein Thawra and Saleh Mohammed Sharafah as members.

“The committee has already started its job, and within a short time period, it achieved successful results, which the previous mediation committee couldn't reach in months,” committee member Qasim Sallam said in a statement to the Yemen Times. “Almost all the Sa'ada districts are quiet and both sides are committed to the ceasefire.” He expected the committee to take positive steps toward ending the war under the peace deal signed in Qatar two weeks ago.

Replying to questions critical of the role and intent of the newly formed committee, Sallam explained, “We want to say that [our] homeland is the largest thing, and that the security, stability, prosperity, happiness, dignity and blessings of its citizens from Sa'ada to Al-Mahra depend much on our sense of brotherhood, love for homeland, and collective efforts and responsibilities in addressing the persisting issues nationwide.”

“The comments made by Al-Haq Party Secretary General Hassan Zaid in the Yemen Times' last issue have nothing to do with balance, logic and objectivity. They only meant to trigger sectarian conflicts, which are condemned by principles, values and religions, and rejected by the Yemeni people,” Sallam reacted. “We don't want to say to Mr. Zaid anything more than 'Homeland is above every one'.”

In the Yemen Times' previous issue, the Al-Haq Party Secretary General criticized the way the new committee was formed, as he claimed it is composed of those who object to reaching any truce or peace deal between the government and Houthis.

“The new committee members, mainly Qasim Sallam, a Baath Socialist & Nationalist Party staff member who doesn't differentiate between Houthi in Yemen and Sistani in Iraq, belong to an extremist sect that only cares about escalating the Sa'ada fighting until it claims the life of the last Shia child there. Sallam is believed to be leading a Baathi battle against Shias here in Sa'ada,” Zaid asserted. He further stated, “The remaining committee members are not different from some irresponsible journalists, like Abdu Al-Janadi and Abdulaziz Muqbel, who are dissatisfied with any security, stability and peace in Yemen.”

Zaid concluded that the new committee will only hinder the recent Qatar-brokered peace deal. “I think that this committee shouldn't have been formed, since the Yemeni leadership's political will is serious about ending the crisis, clear-cut evidence of this is the deal signed by presidential delegate Abdulkarim Al-Eryani in the presence of Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, a powerful general in Yemen,” he added.

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“Sa'ada locals, in turn, show a strong and true desire to implement the agreement because they have being living in constant suffering since the fighting broke out in June 2004.”

Tribal sheikhs, who wished to remain unidentified, stated that the new mediation committee may succeed, but on condition that the government banish Salafi extremist volunteers from Sa'ada governorate, or force them to return to their original areas. Another condition is that the government sack military commanders belonging to the Salafi sect. According to the tribal leaders, if both conditions are satisfied, the committee can end the fighting even amid the current situations.

Armed tribesmen killed on Tuesday Sheikh Shayea Bakhtan, brother of Saleh Bakhtan, one of the new mediation committee members, along with two of his escorts, and wounded others in Al-Salem area. There has been conflicting news about motives of the incident. According to local sources, the murder was the result of disputes between the victim and his brother Naji, while other sources claimed that anonymous gunmen set up an ambush to Al Bakhtan family members on a road feeder and fired into the victim's car. The sources expect that the unidentified gunmen wanted to foil mediation efforts.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Naji Al-Shayef, Parliament member and Parliamentary Rights and Freedoms Committee Head, lashed out at the most recent Doha-brokered deal between Yemeni government and Houthis, describing it as “insulting the Yemeni government, army and people.”

He inferred that the deal contains some secret terms agreed upon by the government and Houthis, though Parliament authorized the government to end the fighting by military operations.

Al-Shayef and another 50 MPs demanded that defense and interior ministers should appear before Parliament to explain what is secret or invisible in the agreement, which they described as 'dangerous and insulting'. “By signing the deal, the government committed a legal violation against Parliament and its efforts to expose war-related facts,” Al-Shayef stated.

Sheikh Saleh Habra, the Houthi representative at the Doha Peace Deal between the government and Houthis, revealed that the Qatari committee mandated to oversee the ceasefire agreement arrived in Sana'a on last Thursday and then headed for Sa'ada. According to Habra, the deal stated that Houthis should be represented by five members in the new presidential committee, formed after the Qatari mediation.

He confirmed that the most recent agreement discussed the case file of those detained in several Yemeni governorates over alleged connections with the Sa'ada fighting, stating that the detainees must be released within at least one month from the deal's date.

“Other numerous files regarding those killed or injured in the fighting were brought to Doha to be discussed as part of the deal's proceedings,” Habra said. “The government has undertaken to treat all those wounded in the events in Yemen or abroad, as well as form a committee from Yemeni and Qatari officials, and Houthis to assess the damage on citizens' homes, farms and other property.”

Yemeni authorities allowed the family of MP Yahya Al-Houthi to fly to Qatar and return to Germany, where the MP is residing. The Yemeni Socialist Party-affiliated Al-Thawri weekly reported that such a step is the deal's first fruit, confirming that Al-Houthi's wife and her 9-year-old child, Mohammed Yahya Al-Houthi, and his cousin Mohammed Hamid Al-Houthi, 20, flew to Doha via Sana'a Airport on Wednesday after the government facilitated their flight procedures.