The Day of Independence [Archives:2001/49/Law & Diplomacy]

December 3 2001

Saeed al-Janahi
Some leaders of the Arab Nationals Movement started thinking of a military struggle against the British colonizers in South Yemen at the end of 1996. Actually, Yemen has been affected by the open conflict between pan-Arabism and the leftist communist ideology, causing the Arab Nationalists Movement to be bound by the principles of the National Front. Simultaneously, the movement expanded secretly in the North and the idea of overthrowing the tyrannical Imamate regime there was substantially reinforced in a drive to make the Northern part of Yemen a starting point for liberating the occupied Southern part. The Sana’a-based Southern Affairs Office, headed by Qahtan al-Sha’abi, interestingly contributed to establishing contact amongst the different struggling forces of the South. The Southern Affairs Office was also a center for assembling and maintaining a liaison among the different national forces, which all were resolved to gain independence. The leaders of these struggling factions eventually agreed to hold a general meeting on November 24, 1963 in Sana’a, which was attended by hundreds of people from the Southern part of Yemen, as well as important personalities from the leadership of the national movement of the South, including the People’s Socialist Party, which used to have offices in Taiz and Sana’a. Following the September 26 Revolution the British authorities could feel the serious danger posed against its interests in the South; thus, they promptly tried to arrange for what can be termed as de facto independence for South Yemen, through annexing Aden to the Union of Southern Arabia and forming a government headed by Hussein Bayumi , head of the National Unionist Party of Aden.
Apparently, the British authorities attempted through such a move to create a federal government that included Aden, sultanates, emirates and sheikdoms, as well to grant them a nominal government that would ensure that the British authorities maintain military bases in Aden. Consequently, the British government brokered a meeting that included representatives of political parties as well as a representative on behalf of the government of North Yemen. At this meeting, there were stark differences over the independence of the South, as Sheikh Al-Hubaishi, Secretary-General of the League of Sons of South Yemen, demanded the unconditional independence of the South and called for holding a UN-sponsored election. On the contrary, Mohammed Ali Luqman, Secretary-General of the People’s Constitutional Congress, renounced annexing Aden to the Union of South Arabia due to the substantial differences between Aden and the protectorates of the unity in terms of administration, development and available freedoms, stressing that Aden should be accorded self-rule. Furthermore, Saeed Subhi, representative of the People’s Socialist Party, emphasized that Aden and the protectorates are integral parts of Yemen, thus the committee should annex these areas to Yemen as well as dissolve the federation and the legislative assemblies. The viewpoint of the Union of Southern Arabia represented by its Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Fareed al-Awlaqi, stressed that the agreement signed between his government and Britain was based on the desires of the people and princes as well. Subhi Fareed added that the Union of South Arabia enjoys full independence, except for foreign affairs, which had been left for the British government, adding that Yemen had no right to claim sovereignty over any of these areas. Yet, the representative of Northern Yemen objected to the creation of the Union of South Arabia by the British government and described it as a means of occupation for maintaining dominance over that region and called for returning the Southern part to the motherland. The representative of the British government, on his part, expressed the wish of his government to maintain its sovereignty over Aden as well as its relations, and to establish contact with sultans and sheikhs of districts, adding that the claim of Yemen over these lands was baseless.
Concerning the member of the Occupation Dissolving Committee, the representatives of Iraq and Syria stressed the necessity of maintaining the territorial integrity of Yemen and showed the falseness of the Union of South Arabia. Similarly, the Iraqi and Syrian representatives called for holding a free and fair election under the supervision of the United Nations. Actually, this call was also approved by the representatives of the Eastern Pact as well as Asian and European countries, particularly with regard to sending a fact-finding commission to Yemen. Eventually, the Occupation Dissolving Committee came out with a number of recommendations concerning the existing situation in Yemen, as the Committee had admitted the right of self-determination for the people of South Yemen. Furthermore, the Committee recommended according the people of South Yemen a chance to express themselves regarding independence amid a free and democratic atmosphere and set up a subcommittee to consider this issue. However, Britain refused to allow the Committee to enter Aden; the Committee’s purpose was diverted to visit the areas where groups of people from the South are based, such as Sana’a, Taiz, Saudi Arabia, Baghdad and Cairo. The Committee met with a number of these people and then returned to New York to submit a report to the Occupation Dissolving Committee. Moreover, the Committee recommended in its report that South Yemen has the right to self-determination and in order to exercise this right a general free election should be held. Similarly, the British authorities should eliminate all laws that limit public freedoms, release political prisoners, and stop the despotic measures imposed on the people, particularly the military crackdowns against the people of the South. Furthermore, the report stressed that the United Nations should have a presence during the proposed general elections.
The British government entirely objected these recommendations, as the British Minister for the Protectorates in Parliament was quoted on July 11, 1963, as saying that the British government regards the report as a provocative act and that its recommendations are unacceptable as well. In September 1963, a meeting was held at the UN to this end and issued resolution No 1949, which was approved by the UN Occupation Dissolving Committee and the sub-committee. Similarly, the UN General Assembly expressed its concern over the continued deterioration of the situation in South Yemen, which could lead to violent turmoil threatening international peace and stability. In addition, the United Nations issued resolutions concerning the right of the people of South Arabia to self-determination and independence, stressing that presence of British military bases in Aden posed a threat to the safety of the region and removing them was a must.
The British authorities realized that the Republic established in the North was not in any way similar to the former Imamate regime, which with they used to maintain good relations. The new regime, in fact, supported the cause of the South for full independence by whatever means. Thus, the British authorities took precautionary measures for a revolution in the North in a drive to overthrow the Republican regime there and to reinstall the Royalist family. Actually, the British forces based in Aden were used for achieving this goal. Edgar O’ Palace mentioned in his book, “Yemen: Revolution and War,” that the British authorities allowed the Federal forces represented by the Emirate of Bayhan to supply the Royalist forces with means of transportation, arms and ammunition. Interestingly, the British authorities took advantage of the sympathy of the Princes of Bayhan for the Royalists, particularly as this region shared a border with the newly-established Republic in the North. When the Royalist forces endeavored to capture the area of Harib near Bayhan, the Republican air forces of the North foiled their attempt. However, the British air forces promptly carried out a counterattack on the Republican forces. On November 9, 1962 President Abdullah al-Salal of North Yemen officially revealed the undeclared war waged by the British authorities against the newly created Republic in the North, as the Harib front remained one of the outlets for supplying the Royalist forces in the North.
Afterwards, the strategy of armed struggle for liberating the South was coupled with defending the revolution of the North and defending the Republican regime as well, since they had been an integral part of the liberation of the South. Consequently, during a meeting held between the late Egyptian President Jamal Abdullnasir and the members of the General Secretariat of the Arab Nationals Movement in Cairo, the former said that he also wanted to fight the British authorities based in Aden, for they supported the Royalist forces against the newly created Yemen Arab Republic. Accordingly, Jamal Abdullnasir immediately gave orders to his General Intelligence Chief, Salah Nassr, to support the Nationalist Front by all available means. Admittedly, the Egyptian vision to support the independence of South Yemen was based on the fact that the existence of British forces in South Arabia would constitute a real threat to pan-Arab security, as the Bab Almandeb Strait constituted a strategic depth for the safety of the Egyptian revolution. Accordingly, the Egyptian authorities opened offices side-by-side to those of the National Front offices in Taiz with the view of training, financing and supporting the Yemeni forces in their struggle against British occupation.
While the Yemeni fighters were repulsing the British military campaigns and the National Front expanding the war zone, some political parties that opposed the armed struggle declared their renunciation of war, particularly the People’s Socialist Party which stated that “the People’s Socialist Party agrees with armed struggle as a means to gain political concessions and not merely for blood-shed to gain a military victory.” Similarly, the armed struggle was opposed by the Unionist National Party, saying that they did not believe in bloodshed, as they did not believe in military dictatorships and that they also rejected the interference of any country in their internal affairs.
The beginning of the armed struggle started after the tribal uprising took place in the rural areas. Al-Assefa, a covert organization formed by Mohammed Abdu Noman, Secretary-General of the United National Front, was one of the forerunners to attack the British forces. Earlier, Mohammed Abdu Noman was expelled to the North where he was warmly received, as the Imam had allocated a monthly stipend of 30 French francs to him. However, he did not quit struggling as he kept on moving from Taiz to Lahaj and Dar Sa’ad, where he enlisted a number of recruits for his organizations with the view of unleashing attacks against the British occupying forces. In 1958, the members of al-Assefa threw grenades at Rex restaurant and a cinema in Tawahi, and the Armed Police installations and oil pipelines located in Lesser Aden. However, the British authorities arrested Saleh Abdulrazaq and Abdulhafiz Saeed Noman, who acted as liaison officers between the fighters and the leadership of the organization. Consequently, these two men were presented to court for trial, but despite this short-lived experience Mohammed Abdu Noman’s resolve to liberate South Yemen from the British occupation remained vigorous up until it was achieved.