Saleh forms new committee to end Sa’ada turmoil [Archives:2008/1128/Front Page]

February 11 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Feb. 10 – Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh decided to form a new presidential committee to end ongoing confrontations between the army and Houthis in Sa'ada governorate, official media sources said on Thursday. Comprised of many social and political dignitaries, the committee is due to start the job soon.

The same sources noted the committee will conduct field visits to the restive governorate with the aim of ending the fighting, pointing out that President Saleh ordered military detachments deployed in Sa'ada to suspend all military operations, according to resolutions made by the National Defense Council last December.

Observers commented on forming a new committee to replace the previous one, made up of government, opposition and parliament staff saying, “The new committee is composed of dignitaries loyal to President Saleh and the ruling party. It will not act neutrally and will be partial to the government at the expense of containing the crisis.”

The new committee members are: Mohammed Hatim Al-Khawi, Mohammed Saleh Qura'a, 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.

Hassan Zaid, Al-Haq Party's Secretary General, criticized the way the new committee was formed, as he claims it is composed of those who object to reaching any truce or peace deal between the government and Houthis.

“The new committee members, mainly Dr. 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. “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.”

The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) Higher Council sent a letter to Saleh on Saturday, informing him that the five opposition parties are boycotting the committee.

Official JMP spokesman Mohammed Al-Sabri considered the boycott as his coalition's reaction to the government's disrespect for constitutional institutions, pointing out that the authority cancelled the former mediation committee one month ago and replaced it with another one. He criticized the authority for not reconsidering efforts expended by members of the former committee in June and July 2007 to end the Sa'ada fighting.

Al-Sabri added that the authority and Houthis are shedding the blood of Yemeni people and the opposition coalition refuses to engage in such crimes. He called for a national solution to the crisis before it worsens.

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 will arrive in Sana'a and then head 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.

Habra went on to say that the Qatari capital witnessed serous debates between him and Yahya Al-Houthi, an MP currently residing in Germany, on the one hand, and on the other, Political Advisor to Yemeni President Abdulkarim Al-Eryani and Northwest Military Flank Commander Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, adding that the debates reached positive results on how to bring a binding mechanism to ensure that both conflicting sides abide by the Doha-brokered deal.

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.”

In a statement to Al-Nedaa weekly, Habra explained that both sides reached an agreement by which the Yemeni and Qatari Red Crescent associations assess property damage in cooperation with the Sa'ada local council. “Both sides have agreed to form another committee to discuss the case of those killed in the repeated clashes, among them Hussein Al-Houthi. We provided a list of 280 people killed during the different Sa'ada wars, plus hundreds of detainees from Taiz, Hodeidah, Hajjah and Sa'ada, who should be released. Those dismissed from their government jobs over the Sa'ada events have to be reinstated,” the tribal sheikh maintained.

According to Habra, the problem will end if both sides abide by the agreement. “We discussed the legal violations committed by army members against Sa'ada citizens and their property, and demanded the government's removal of security checkpoints set up on different Sa'ada roads, to lift the government lockdown of Sa'ada, which denies citizens' access to hospitals, schools and farmlands, and prevented entry of drugs, food supplies and other consumables to the war-ravaged governorate.”

Houthi field leader Abdulmali Al-Houthi accused the government of violating the agreement and ordering its troops to fire at his supporters after both sides signed the Doha Peace Deal ten days ago.

“Government forces continue escalating their military operations in the Haidan district,” Abdulmalik Al-Houthi said during a conversation with the Qatari Al-Arab newspaper. He continued, “The 17th Military Division continues attacking citizens with tanks and rockets, destroying their homes and forcing families to evacuate their homes and live outdoors. This behavior obliged us to retaliate to defend ourselves.”

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi praised the efforts expended by the Qatari government to enhance Yemen's security and stability. In a statement to Qatar News Agency, the official noted that Qatar is always concerned about events in Yemen and supports Yemeni unity. He also expressed his deep gratitude to Qatari officials, mainly Sheikh Hamed Bin Khalifa Al Thani, for their mediation efforts to end the Sa'ada crisis.

Al-Qirbi described Yemeni-Qatari relations as 'unique', saying that institutions in both countries cooperate and coordinate mutual efforts to serve their common interests.

Replying to a question about the future of Sa'ada, the Foreign Minister stated, “Houthis should behave reasonably and learn that the security and stability of their area has a direct impact on their children's future.”

Al-Shamou weekly reported that the Doha agreement between government and Houthis came as part of a Yemeni-Saudi-Qatari compromise, aimed at providing the necessary support for the Yemeni government to contain the Sa'ada crisis and boost security and stability in its territory.

The weekly continued, “The Yemeni government's consent to reinforce the previous agreement is an important step toward saving citizens' lives.” Sources quoted by the weekly, a local paper that supports continuing the Sa'ada clashes, said that “The Yemeni government and Houthis exchanged guarantees to remain committed to the agreement.”

It revealed that a Qatari delegation, presided over by a Yemeni committee, will oversee both conflicting parties' abidance by the agreement, while Red Crescent associations in both states will assess property damage and determine the required compensation.

According to the weekly, a Qatar-Saudi-Yemeni compromise may be positive if Qatar and Saudi Arabia are truly concerned about the region's security and stability. Although the paper warned against transferring the case from the local to the regional level, it then stated that intervention by Qatar and Saudi Arabia may be positive in resolving the crisis, in the event that both states are serious about reconciliation between the Yemeni government and Houthis.

Political analyses published in pro-army newspapers warned on the eve of signing the peace deal that an agreement between the government and Houthi supporters may be dangerous, disclosing that a dispute between Yemen and Saudi Arabia forced the former to request a Qatari mediation committee to come to Sa'ada and oversee how committed both conflicting sides are to the agreement.