United Yemen: A Recent History (2) [Archives:2005/842/Opinion]

May 16 2005

By Ibrahim Hasan Mohammed
After the South Yemeni civil war of January 1986, the economic situation deteriorated, and the changes in Moscow also left their impact; so voices began to rise arguing for political and economical relax and policies.

Hawks within the military and security system opposed any change. The party leadership have by far left behind the mid-level leadership and cadres, to the extent that the party organization in a country-side community issued an internal document condemning the Secretary General of the Soviet Union, Gorbatchov, as a revisionist and a traitor of Marxism, calling for a high position against him.

While the ideology fanatics were following developments at Moscow stage unaware of the internal economic strains facing the country, the Politburo was watching the up-coming disaster. The anti-reform faction within the Politburo party was weak and had limited influence.

In North Yemen the conditions weren't better; the Islamists and conservative tribal sheikhs were watching cheerfully the breakdown of the Soviet Union and some other Socialist countries, they continued to consider the regime in the South as even more Marxist than Moscow.

In North Yemen, although the economy was relatively better, the situation had its own weaknesses such as corruption and fragility. Despite this, Sana'a was capable of developing initiatives towards while the later confined itself to receiving only.

The first meeting between Ali Abdulla Saleh and his counterpart in Aden, Ali Salem al Bydh took place at Taiz, April 1988, and was followed by a second in the following month in Sana'a. It was clear that Al Bydh was somewhat uneasy after a wide range of the party cadres, especially in the military, became aware of the internal difficulties in general, especially on the economic side here were indicators of a looming brewing crisis similar to that of 13th January 1986.

I remember that Fadhl Mohsen Abdulla, who was then heading the Economic Department at the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Party was very agonized because of the unawareness about the looming crisis and ideologist outbidding arguments which were no more justified. He said that he will stay at his home in case any internal fighting erupted. Fadhl was one of the main minds behind economical reforms since 1987.

At the same time there were reports of movements by Islamists and their allies who were against any unity with the 'infidel south'. The security forces seized several water-tank trailers full of explosives in Sana'a. President Saleh felt that an armed Islamist opposition is organizing itself, and might take the form of armed conflict.

The only option for President Saleh and his counterpart Al Bydh was to speed up moves towards unity; each of them had his fears and enough internal justifications for 'burning the phases' and jumping forward in order to avoid any bloody breakdown in the two parts of Yemen. In addition to that the international factors were favorable towards unity.

Moscow had in 1988 advised Aden firmly during the visit by the Deputy Secretary General of the Party of South Yemen that unity with the north was inevitable. Moscow by then had its own cracks, and South Yemen was no more within its agenda, nor was it able to continue providing its support as before.

On the other hand, President Saleh had secured the approval of the U.S.A. as a move of containment of communism in this part of the Arabia. In addition to that a pro-Sana'a Arab President endorsed unity with the South. It was reported that his advice was: “Unite with them, then accuse them”.

The moves towards unity were accelerated: Several meeting were held at Sana'a, Aden and Ebb. President Saleh was disposed towards a gradual unity that starts with the merge of Defense, Interior Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Education, Information and Public Works. In Aden, Al Bydh was with full and direct merger, supported by Salem Saleh Moh'd and Mohammed Saeed Abdulla (Mohsen), while others such as Haider al Attas, Yassin Saeed Noa'man and Saeed Saleh weren't more towards gradual unity.

(To be continued)