Tribes attempt to move stagnant water by initiating talks in Sa’ada [Archives:2008/1220/Local News]

December 29 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SANA'A, Dec. 27 ) Tribal sources in Sa'ada indicate that the situation is worsening between the Houthis and the government forces which have returned to strengthen their positions in several areas. The dominant fear among citizens is that war may resume, particularly as the government has failed to implement the previous agreements between President Ali Abdulla Saleh and Abdul Malek Al-Houthi, the field leader of Houthis.

The agreement stipulated that around 1200 Houthi supporters be released from prison, and that they be given safe passage to their homes and villages. In addition, the agreement included removing plantations from the control of the army and tribes that support the government, and reconstructing the areas where houses have ravaged by war.

The same sources said that Sheikh Fariss Mann'a, whom the president entrusted to mediate with the Houthis, sent messengers last Tuesday to Abdul Malek Al-Houthi calling on him to resume negotiations with the government. They demanded that the Houthis be flexible, and not insist on remaining in certain mountainous areas, in which they are currently still entrenched. They asked them to raise checkpoints and end armed confrontations, as a condition for lifting the siege which the government imposed on them, and before detainees might be released and reconstruction begun.

The sources made it clear that the mediation committee headed by Mann'a had reported to Saleh that the Houthis had demanded the release of detainees, and that Saleh had confirmed the government's intention to release the detainees if the Houthis end their mountain operations, put an end to armed confrontations, and show good will in maintaining peace and security within the governorate.

President Saleh emphasized that the mediation committee should not talk about any reconstruction in the area before the Houthis offer tangible concessions. In related news, local sources in Sa'ada reported that a number of Houthi Supporters are, at the time of print, surrounding the government supported Al-Khawaled tribe. This has apparently been ongoing for the past 10 days, resulting in a tense situation which may explode at any moment.

Last week, over a period of days, Marran area witnessed armed confrontations between army members deployed in the Almujrim and Alkhurban areas and Houthi supporters who passed near the two sites. This confrontations resulted in three Houthi wounded, along with one government soldier, according to sources which further suggest that the situation at Marran, the main stronghold of the Houthis, has been tense since Saleh announced war on 17th July.

Concerning the humanitarian situation, two people died in Al-Talh refugee camp in Sa'ada due to the cold weather in the area. Residents of the camp maintain that the two people died of exposure and shortage of available health care, stating also that others, including children and the elderly, suffered many ailments resulting from the cold. They complained about what they called “official retardation” in tackling the situation of the displaced people. Last November, five Houthi loyalists died in the camp from the same problems.

Al-Talh camp houses hundreds of evacuees who were forced to leave their homes due to the fierce fighting between the army and the Houthis.

Human Rights Watch organization has already accused the government of hindering the delivery of food and medical aid to the evacuees.

It demanded that the Yemeni government allow the international human rights organizations to reach the citizens in Sa'ada and deliver necessary aid to those in need.

The organization said in its report of the Sa'ada war that the government imposes tough restrictions on the movement of organizations which assist those affected in Sa'ada. According to the report, the government forbade the organizations from reaching rural areas, and demanded that they seek prior permission before making any trips to Sa'ada to deliver aid.

Yemen Times had already warned that the humanitarian situation would worsen in the Sa'ada refugee camps with the onset of winter, especially due to shortages of blankets and facilities, as well as the tribal mismanagement of aid offered by some organizations. It further reported that camps lacked toilet facilities and sanitation services, which can be the cause of disease within such environments.

Sheikh Saleh Habra, the spokesman for the Houthis, has already appealed to all humanitarian organizations, asking them to pay attention to the situation in the camps, and pointing out that evacuees are in dire need of blankets and medical supplies to help combat the diseases that have broken out due to lack of proper services by the government and relevant organizations.

Concerning the reconstruction of Sa'ada, media officer of Abdul Malek Al-Houthis denied, through the online web site that belongs to Houthis, any compensations by the government for the affected people in some districts. “Citizens in Sa'ada no longer believe any such speech circulated by media