Monday, March 26, 2012

Yemen's Electricity Supply Cuts

By Fatik al-Rodaini
SANA'A: March 26, 2012- Over more than a year of protests and consequent political crisis in the Arabian Peninsula millions of Yemeni people all over the country badly suffered of continued cutting electricity power of up to more than 20 hours a day.
During that time Yemeni government continued promising its citizens of completely solving the situation. However, the ongoing lack of electricity provoked anger among Yemenis who lost their confidence in the government after repeated, failed promises that the situation it would be resolved.
Yemenis have to contend with power cuts that have become a daily occurrence since the protests. "I became familiar with this situation, after more than a year of cutting power," a resident living in the Yemeni capital Sana'a told
Last month Yemeni Electricity Ministry, Saleh Somea announced the fixing up of Marib’s Gas-Powered Generation Center after being shut down for more than five months.
Actually, Yemenis enjoy from three to four days of electricity, but suddenly all Yemenis surprised of the power off since that time. '' We enjoy hours of electricity nowadays but I still afraid of being in the darkness again," Ahmed Senan said.
Last year, Yemeni government blamed power outages in Sana'a on attacks mounted by anti-Saleh tribesmen against electricity grids. But the opposition accuses the government of deliberately disrupting electricity supplies to distort the image of anti-Saleh forces.
"Despite the trade accusations between Yemeni government and the opposition, citizens are only the ones who suffer the absence of electricity. Most of the government and the opposition leaders or officials have their own generators, thus they don't suffer the same problem," Hamdan Raheem commented.
Last week, local newspaper reported that that the manager of the Marib Gas Power Station, Abdul-Rahman Fatahi, was relieved from his duties of running the station affairs.
"Fatahi was sacked from his position as the manager of the Marib Electricity station, the biggest power station in the country, and his deputy, Mohammed Sabolan, was appointed to replace him, the newspaper said.
The decision came one day after the supply lines were targeted yet again that the station had to completely halt its operation, leaving thousands of households in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a deal with the inconvenience caused by the lengthy power outages.
Even with replacing another manger the problem is continued, on Friday morning Yemeni government said that the electricity towers in Marib province were attacked by tribesmen belonging to Al Shabwan tribe. Despite the interference of Yemeni army and entering in clashes with tribesmen to handle the lack of electricity and returning the power to Yemeni cities the problem is continued.
Yemenis solve the problem
Over the past year, Yemenis who could afford generators spent thousands of rials buying fuel to power their homes. And despite the power cuts, Yemenis continued to receive high electricity bills.
Despite the attempt by Yemenis to solve their problem in their manners, they still facing different kinds of obstacles besides.
As a part of their solution, many people have bought electricity generators to get power,   however they face a shortage of diesel or oil.
"I have bought an electricity generator so that I can do my job," Mohammed Hatem said. But he is facing another problem: a shortage of diesel fuel necessary for operating his generator.
 “Diesel is not available in Sana'a. I have to go outside the capital to get it at prices, which are at least twice as high as before,” he added.
''Before the eruption of the anti-Saleh uprising the electricity supply was erratic but not as bad as it is now,'' a residents in Sana'a said.
Yemenis lost their jobs
Many people lost their jobs because of the problem of the electricity. "I closed my own workshop; I couldn’t pay my workers, I couldn't meet orders from my customers as well," said Fateh Hamir, who runs a smith workshop in Taiz.
A worker in a factory in Yemen's eastern province of Hodeida said that his boss fired him along with others. "Our boss fired us because he couldn't pay our salaries."
In the capital Sana'a, Rodha Mohssen, a dressmaker told that she stopped receiving new orders, she cannot obligate with the customers.
Several businesses were shut up due to the same problem.
The residents of the Yemeni capital showed their satisfaction with the firm step taken by the leadership to track and pursue those responsible for targeting the basic services that they direly need.
The recent attack took out Marib electricity plant out of the system causing the loss of 400 Megawatt of power in addition to financial damage. The station feeds about 60 percent of Yemen's cities.
Last month, the Ministry of Electricity released a report on the difficulties it is facing.
It indicated that Yemen's General Electricity Corporation has been suffering financial problems since the Gas-powered Generation Station in Marib shut down five months ago.
The Minister of Electricity promised to solve Yemen’s power cuts in December but continued attacks made this impossible.
In February, the cabinet ordered the Ministries of Interior, Defense and Electricity to repair damaged power supply towers and protect both the towers and stations from any further attacks.
The cabinet said that any attacks were seen as banditry, ordering the Ministers of Interior and Defense to take strict legal action against those involved.
As usual I'm doing my work while the electricity is off, I depend on the electricity generator but it costs me a lot of money.

Southern Yemen exiled leader returns home

ADEN, Yemen, March 26 (Reuters) - A leader of a failed secessionist rebellion in southern Yemen returned home on Monday after 18 years in exile and at a time when separatists are still demanding an independent state in the south.
"Mohammed Ali Ahmed will carry out contacts with opposition figures in the south with the aim of achieving a united southern stand," an aide told Reuters.
Ahmed, an interior minister in a short-lived breakaway government in south Yemen in 1994, flew to the port of Aden from London after a stopover in Dubai, Yemeni news websites said.
Yemeni factions, including separatists who want to reinstate a southern state which united with the north in 1990, have been invited to a national dialogue ahead of a parliamentary election in 2014.
The dialogue was agreed as part of a Gulf-brokered deal that allowed former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave office after a year of protests against his rule, and the election of a new president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The protests and factional fighting have allowed al Qaeda's regional wing to seize swathes of south Yemen and Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels to carve out their own domain in the north.
The United States and Saudi Arabia are keen for the Gulf plan to work, fearing that a power vacuum in Yemen is giving militants space to thrive alongside a key crude shipping strait in the Red Sea.
Many southerners complain northerners have discriminated against them and usurped their resources. Most of Yemen's fast-declining oil reserves are in the south. The central government has denied there was any discrimination against the south.

Yemeni president arrives in Saudi capital to discuss Sanaa crisis

26 March 2012
Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi arrived in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Monday, for the first trip abroad since he was elected last month in line with a Gulf-brokered deal aimed at ending Yemen's one-year political crisis, officials said, Xinhua reported.
Hadi is scheduled to meet Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Monday evening to discuss the latest developments in Yemen and the implementation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) deal that transfer power from former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh after mass anti-government protests, Yemeni government officials told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The two leaders will also talk about "Friends of Yemen" donors' meeting, an international conference scheduled to be held next month in Riyadh for assisting Yemen's economic sector, according to the officials.
Hadi was elected as a consensus president on Feb. 25 in elections agreed by Saleh's party General People's Congress (GPC) and the opposition coalition in accordance with the UN-backed GCC deal.
Under the deal signed in November 2011, 66-year-old Hadi, who has served 17 years under the GPC, is supposed to carry out reforms during his two-year interim period.
Key terms in the deal's second phase include reforming the Yemeni army, disarming warring forces, conducting a national dialogue to settle the disputes among all rival parties, stabilizing the economic and security situation, rewriting the Yemeni constitution and preparing for the parliamentary and presidential elections.

Family of American slain in Yemen return home

By Associated Press,
Sunday, March 25, 2012
The father of slain American Joel Shrum says Shrum's wife and children have returned home safely to the U.S. from Yemen.
Al-Qaida's Yemen branch claimed responsibility for Shrum's death last Sunday, saying he was trying to spread Christianity in the mainly Muslim Arab nation.
The 29-year-old Shrum, of Mount Joy, Pa., was gunned down in Taiz, where he had been living with his wife and two sons. He was studying Arabic and teaching English at a language institute. Shrum's parents, of Harrisburg, Pa., said he went to Yemen to learn Arabic, not to proselytize.
Shrum's father, James Shrum, said Saturday in an email that he does not know yet when his son's body will arrive home. He said a PNC Bank fund has been set up for his son's family.

It's All Very Medieval

March 25, 2012:
The new president, Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, is, as many expected, having problems with Ali Abdullah Saleh (his predecessor). Saleh has a lot of supporters in the government and among the army leadership. Saleh was forced out of office last month and was supposed to leave the country. But Saleh's corrupt allies were at risk of losing their lives, liberty and fortunes without their savvy and ruthless leader; so Saleh stayed. The new president, Hadi, was Saleh's deputy for 17 years and got that job for helping Saleh end the 1994 civil war. Hadi is a southerner and more low key and conciliatory than Saleh. Despite his long association with Saleh, most Yemenis see Hadi as a potential solution to many of Yemen's problems. But this is going to be difficult as long as Saleh is still around and demanding protection for his allies in the government and some tribes. This loyalty is admirable, but it threatens to cause a full blown civil war. Many Yemenis see killing Saleh as the solution. Killing Saleh would not destroy his faction, which has grown rich and powerful from decades of corruption. Saleh's allies include leaders of powerful tribes and wealthy families. People like this have their own private armies. It's all very medieval in Yemen, and that's a big part of the problems.
Former president Saleh's relatives still control much of the security forces. But that will only last as long as they can scrounge up enough cash to pay the troops. Often even that is not enough. The air force, commanded by a half-brother of Saleh, has been on strike for two months. In effect, the air force has ceased operating since January. The main reason is the corruption of its commander. Saleh's brother had, for years, stolen funds meant for maintaining aircraft. Pilots were ordered to fly the unsafe aircraft, which crashed more and more often. The usual solution to this was to keep aircraft on the ground most of the time. But heavy use of the air force against rebels and al Qaeda in the last year has led to more crashes and, eventually, the strike.
Food shortages, caused by growing poverty and extended violence (between security forces and rebels), have left over five million people hungry. Foreign aid is hard to obtain because attempts to bring in food aid have been met with hostile groups that steal the food or extort cash to allow it to pass. This discourages foreign donors from supplying food aid.  Economic conditions in Yemen have been declining for over a decade, which played a major role in causing the rebellion. A year of unrest has created even more poverty and hunger, which gives more people more to fight about. Those who have the means (mainly cash) are trying to leave Yemen. That's not easy, as few countries welcome poor Arabs, including wealthy Arab states.
In the south, al Qaeda has attracted a lot of recruits from unemployed young men. There are a lot of guys in that situation, and al Qaeda's ruthless terror tactics have a certain visceral appeal. Al Qaeda now has more men than it has weapons, and tries to avoid direct encounters with the security forces. Many other Yemeni men have obtained jobs with the police or army, and will kill to stay on the payroll. Al Qaeda continues to get some cash from wealthy Gulf Arabs (who are Islamic conservatives), but a lot of what they get in Yemen is looted from other Yemenis.
One of the few businesses that are flourishing is people smuggling from Africa to Saudi Arabia. Fishing boats are used to move people (mainly Ethiopians and Somalis) to Yemen, and then overland to Saudi Arabia. The migrants pay thousands of dollars for this, but the smuggling gangs are increasingly trying to squeeze more money out of the families of the migrants. In effect, the smugglers kidnap the migrants, usually at the Saudi border, and using cell phones (which are quite abundant in Somalia and Ethiopia) demand more money (often delivered via cell phone as well) to prevent the captive from being killed or maimed. Yemeni police recently rescued 170 of these captive migrants from a tribal compound along the border.
The smuggling gangs are actually groups of separate crews that specialize. Former fishermen get people across the Gulf of Aden while other gangs in Somalia and Ethiopia handle the recruiting. Yemeni gangs take care of moving the migrants to the border, and then getting them across it. Gangs in Saudi Arabia can get migrants to Europe or other oil-rich Gulf States (for a price), where there are better paying jobs. This sort of extortion and violence is not common, because the migrants eventually get in touch with their families and report on what happened to them. Bad treatment means less business for the smugglers involved.
Down in Abyan province, where al Qaeda has been putting up a major fight for over a year, more home-made bombs are being used by the terrorists. But these devices are often poorly designed or used, and few casualties result. The most effective attacks involve guns, which most Yemeni men are more familiar with.
The fighting in the south has caused some 200,000 people to flee their homes. Although nominally between the security forces and al Qaeda, much of the firepower is supplied by tribal militias. Some of the tribes are pro-al Qaeda, some are not. Some tribes just oppose the government. Everyone is upset down south by increasing poverty and water shortages.
The rebellious Shia tribes up north are receiving cash and weapons from Iran, according to Yemeni, Saudi and American officials. Several ships, loaded with weapons, have been intercepted trying to deliver weapons to the Shia tribes. It's believed that some shipments got through. The Shia tribes are also receiving regular deliveries of cash, and Iran is the most likely source. Iran denies all of this.
March 23, 2012:  In the north, ten people were killed by landmines, which the army uses to discourage movement by hostile tribesmen. Some mines are also placed on the Saudi border. The minefields are usually marked, but people try to carefully make their way through them anyway. Sometimes that works.
March 22, 2012: Outside the southern town of Zinjibar, army artillery killed 29 al Qaeda men in the last two days. This happened when terrorist locations were identified and the big guns used to attack the targets. To the southeast, a senior intelligence officer was kidnapped and killed by al Qaeda. Police hunted down and attacked those responsible, killing at least two of them and losing a policeman in the process. The al Qaeda attacks on military and police intelligence officials are increasing, as this form of terrorism discourages the security forces from collecting information on who belongs to al Qaeda and where they hang out.
March 21, 2012: In central Yemen, tribesmen kidnapped three Filipino sailors who were travelling to the port city of Mahra.
March 20, 2012: In southern Abyan province, army artillery killed five suspected al Qaeda men.
March 19, 2012: In southern Abyan province soldiers arrested six men suspected of belonging to al Qaeda. Further south, gunmen attacked an army barracks and killed three soldiers.
March 18, 2012: Al Qaeda murdered an American teacher, who they accused of trying to spread Christianity. For Islamic conservatives, trying to convert Moslems is punishable by death. The dead man had moved to Yemen three years ago to teach English. He was very popular with the locals and there were demonstrations protesting his murder.
On the first anniversary of the uprisings in Yemen, it's estimated that 2,000 were killed (mostly unarmed protesters) and over 20,000 wounded.
Outside the southern town of Zinjibar, missiles hit several al Qaeda camps, killing at least 16 men. The missiles were believed fired from ships off the coast.
In the southern port city of Aden, a gun battle broke out between police and al Qaeda men after an al Qaeda leader was arrested.
March 14, 2012:  In eastern Yemen tribesmen kidnapped a Swiss woman, to be used to obtain the release of other tribesmen held by the police. At first the kidnappers were believed to be al Qaeda. In port city of Aden, police fought al Qaeda gunmen, killing two of them. Al Qaeda also attempted to kill the police chief of Aden with a bomb, but failed. Elsewhere in the south, four soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb.
March 13, 2012: In the south, fighting between troops and al Qaeda left at least ten dead.
March 11, 2012:  In southern Abyan province, missile attacks by American UAVs over the last three days have left over 60 al Qaeda gunmen and leaders dead.

Where are Yemen's friends?

Mar 25 2012
 (MENAFN - Arab News) Last Wednesday (March 21), the Gulf Cooperation Council convened an international conference to discuss the humanitarian challenges faced by Yemen. It was attended by about 30 countries and international and regional organizations.
The objective of the meeting, which received wide press interest in Yemen and elsewhere, was to draw attention to the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in that country and to appeal to Yemen's friends to help in containing the crisis. You would think that Yemen's friends would rush to provide the required assistance. Unfortunately, that has not happened yet, as 80 percent of the UN plan to meet humanitarian needs has yet to get funded. Indeed, the fact that you needed to hold this meeting at all speaks volumes about the apathy of some influential members of the international community toward the suffering of Yemen.
Since the beginning of Yemen's political crisis that started with the refusal of its former president to give up power in the face of popular protest early last year, Yemen's friends have not tired of telling Yemenis what they should do. Now some are too busy claiming credit for ending the political impasse to pay attention to the unfinished business of governance and, most urgently, humanitarian crisis. Yemeni politicians, especially remnants of the old regime, are too busy fighting over the spoils of the civil strife to give the humanitarian situation the priority it deserves.
According to UN findings, one of the main challenges to providing humanitarian assistance in Yemen is the still volatile security situation, which reflects the still unresolved conflicts underlying the political crisis. While there has been reduction in the number of checkpoints and military presence in major urban areas, including Sanaa, security remains a challenge, especially outside major cities. In some areas, tribal elements as well as terrorist groups have the upper hand. Obviously, alleviating human suffering is not a priority of these groups and they have no qualms about preventing aid groups from reaching affected populations.
The factual basis of the GCC meeting last Wednesday was a number of reports by the Yemeni government and an especially detailed report prepared by the United Nations, which painted a grim picture of suffering among Yemenis and refugees alike. Among the key findings of the report:
- Between eight and 10 million Yemenis (33-40 percent of the population) are suffering some form of humanitarian deprivation. Women, children and refugees are affected the most.
750,000 children under the age of five are suffering from malnutrition, which is double the number at the beginning of the crisis in 2011.
- 500,000 children are at risk of dying this year if adequate support is not provided.
- Clean drinking water is in short supply in many areas, causing a severe rise in water-borne diseases.
- Lack of vaccines and medical facilities has led to a 20-fold rise in childhood diseases in some locations since the start of the crisis last year.
- Children in many areas are not able to go back to school because their school buildings have been severely damaged or else occupied by armed groups, government forces, or internal refugees.
The Riyadh conference made it very easy to help Yemenis face their humanitarian challenge. After establishing the facts by experts as I summarized earlier, three options were presented to participants:
- To contribute to a humanitarian fund established by the UN to meet Yemen's humanitarian needs, which are estimated to cost about $450 million.
- To take on some of the projects identified in the UN response plan.
- To divert some of previously allocated aid from longer-term development projects to humanitarian assistance.
With this worsening humanitarian crisis, time is of the essence. Unfortunately, some of Yemen's friends are satisfied with giving Yemenis more lectures on what they did wrong in the past and how they got to where they are now. But those lectures are of little benefit to the millions of Yemenis who are suffering the consequences of a senseless fight over power, a fight that has every indication of continuing. Let us hope that the Riyadh conference could change that!