United Yemen: A recent history (3) [Archives:2005/843/Opinion]

May 19 2005

By Ibrahim Hasan Mohammed
Both sides agreed on the date of 30th November 1990, for declaring the reunifying of Yemen, but President Saleh and Secretary General al-Bydh, felt there are internal and external forces trying to derail their project, so they brought it forward and declared Yemen united on 22nd May 1990.

The visit to Aden by Prince Saud al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia, was a last minute desperate and unfortunate effort to stop the Southerners hastening towards Unity. The Saudi offer was very lucrative financially and diplomatically and included membership in the Saudi dominated GCC. The Leadership in Aden responded firmly: Unity is a local and internal affair.

Saleh and al-Bydh went through the Gold Mohr Tunnel (between Maalla and Tawahi in Aden) for a walk. It took them 3 minutes and al-Bydh was happy to get away from the party checks. Saleh was stunned by al-Bydh's resolution that it is the time for full and direct merger.

Although arrangement were reached upon how to divide authority and posts between the two sides, many high officials were busy trying to secure or improve their personal positions. A voice was heard aloud in Aden demanding that the Southerners share of authority in the future regime shouldn't be shared with (party) officials of Northerner origin. The Southern Leadership insisted the Zumra Leadership (The party faction which lost the battle of 1986) leave Yemen. Their number was big so the demand was finally reduced to fit Ali Nasser Moh'd , the ex-President and Secretary General in Aden, who left Yemen.

About 20th May 1990, Aden announced the merger of the Northerner Popular Unity Party with the Socialist Party. The North Yemeni Leadership was better aware of future developments and absorbed in Government representatives of the Zumra (Socialist Party), while the comrades in Aden found themselves compelled to include party officials of Northern origin (Mohsen, Abdul Wasa'a Sallam ..etc).

The leaderships of the new United Yemen was able to pass the regional shares hurdled in dividing cabinet portfolios. The problem in the South was much more complicated; there were hundreds of the National Democratic Front (of North Yemen) and officials of organizations (Such as the Peasant's and Youth Unions) which had no counterpart in the Northern system to merge with. It was agreed, however, that they must be absorbed anyway, and they were dispersed in several organs such as the security, local government, foreign affairs ..etc.

The Northerners complained that their Southern brethrens included in the foreign ministry lists many unqualified names: turning drivers into minister plenipotentiaries and cooks into first secretaries.

The time bomb remained in the Southern Side because of the way their share of power was regionally distributed. The cadres of the Popular Unity Party were kept out. In pre-unity times they had suffered oppression and torture in the North and thought that the arrival of their comrades to Sana'a brings an end to their years of emaciation. Nobody gave them a hint so some of them changed sides. The PGC was aware of the problem and was quick to absorb some of them in party building, and others were just absorbed as informers and the like.

In Southern pupular circles, the suffering was hard and the people said: “We have been sold”. Sana'a generously heaped upon the leadership its bonuses. For the Southerner officials and employees, they began getting of allowances: Housing, graduation, travel, security, appearance tc. Hundreds of luxury vehicles were granted for Southern high officials. It was somewhat similar to what happened in Moscow. A lot of honey was given, but it contained a poison that didn't kill immediately. They started to pay a high price only a year later.