Ceasefire in Sa'dah
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
The outside pressure so many were hesitant to put on the Yemeni government finally seems to have taken a toll. The government announced last night a conditional ceasefire. (The official Yemen Embassy statement is below, and a version of the Arabic statement is here.)
But despite the cease fire the AFP is reporting continuing fighting.
The five conditions that the government has set out are non-starters for the Huthis, so if the current ceasefire is to last it will have to be either unilateral (the Huthis have also said they were willing to stop fighting without conditions) or the government will have to ignore the conditions it imposed. How long it will last is unclear at this point, but the government's failure to find a military solution (I don't really think there is one to the conflict) will almost certainly embolden others in the country.
Already Ali Salim al-Bid, the former president of the south, is using the government's bombing of the 80-90 civilians as a new weapon in the war on words. The bombing was almost certainly an accident - the victims were family members of tribes allied with the government, but given the government's prosecution of the war and general disregard for civilian causalities few seem willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Mohammed al-Qadhi has a good report in The National.
In other disturbing news, Muhammad al-Maqlih, a journalist and writer, has reportedly been kidnapped. I have chewed qat with Muhammad a number of times and have always found him to be an articulate, thoughtful and intelligent man. The Journalists Syndicate and many others are calling for his quick and speedy release. This is a crime that only makes matters worse.
Embassy of the Republic of Yemen
Office of Media & Public Affairs
18 September 2009
For Immediate Release
Upon the directive of the political leadership, and confirming an earlier announcement by the Supreme Security Committee, the committee has set conditions for a ceasefire, and in addition to the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr, and in response to the requests of the citizens in the province of Saada, and taking in to consideration all appeals to the government, particularly the appeal of the Secretary General of the United Nations and international relief organizations, to secure passage of supplies and assistance to the civilians who are internally displaced due to the strife ignited by lawless insurgents. The government will cease military operations in the north western regions from this point forward. The ceasefire will be officially implemented starting 12:00pm Saturday upon the condition that the insurgents commit to the following:-
1. A commitment to a ceasefire by removing road blocks and barricades, demining conflict zones, and descending from higher terrain;
2. Complete withdraw from the districts and end interference in the affairs of the local authorities;
3. Returning looted civilian and military property;
4. Releasing detained civilians and military personnel, and;
5. Adhering to the constitution and law and order.
Accordingly, the government calls to insurgents to respond to the voice of reason and commit to peace and an end to the bloodshed. The government is committed to a comprehensive restoration of the damage caused by this conflict.
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