22, May 2017
Thousands of Yemenis have rallied in the port city of Aden in support of a so-called autonomous body set up to rule the south by officials of ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Protesters, who had reached the southwestern city from several southern provinces, chanted, “Independence is our objective,” the Middle East Eye news portal reported.
The autonomous body to manage the war-wracked country’s south was launched by Hadi’s governor for Yemen’s port city of Aden after he was fired by the Saudi-backed former president. Hadi sacked Maj. Gen. Aidarous al-Zubaidi over his perceived close ties with the United Arab Emirates after accusing the UAE of acting “like an occupation power in Yemen rather than a force of liberation.”
The autonomous body gathers 26 members, including the governors of five southern provinces and another Hadi minister. It has proclaimed that it aims to “run the southern provinces” and “represent them inside and outside” the country.
Hadi’s loyalists have accused the men of setting up secret liason with the Emirates, buying arms from it and forming military units. Yemen’s Houthi movement has also rejected the new council, calling it a “threat to the territorial unity of the Yemeni republic,” and a part of a “colonial plot.”
Aden has been racked by armed clashes, explosions and assassinations since Houthi fighters were pushed out of the city in July 2015 by Saudi-backed militants. Al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorists are now audaciously driving their armed vehicles around the city, passing checkpoints set up by Hadi loyalists.
The United Arab Emirates has a strong military presence in the area as part of a Saudi-led coalition which has been pommeling Yemen for more than two years now in order to return Hadi to power and dislodge Houthis and their allies from their areas of control.
Aden has been grappling with a spread of arms, where arms possession is unprecedented, especially among young people. Residents in the city have complained that armed groups usually clash with one another in the streets and go unpunished when they kill civilians.