It would appear that President Hadi has flown the coop of Sana’a and now has a room with a view at the Presidential Palace in Aden in south Yemen. Whether he left of his own accord hidden in a food truck or otherwise is not known, but what is clear is that he had enough under Houthi house arrest and under Houthi rule in Sana’a. His move to Aden is symbolic not only because he is originally from the south, but also because of southern secessionist views and their outright opposition to “Houthistan” in the north. People in Yemen worry about what will happen next. The situation remains tense and Hadi’s next steps will be crucial. We paint some futures scenarios for Yemen.
Future One – Resign: President Hadi continues on the path to resignation to facilitate the necessary dialogue which appears to have faltered with him still in power. The Houthis placed him in house arrest and recently signed an interim agreement with other political groups marshaled by the United Nations Yemen Special Envoy, Dr. Jamal Benomar. The agreement will form a National Council which would include the existing parliament plus new players as an interim council including the youth, other dissatisfied factions and also the Houthis.
Future Two - Tough it Out: President Hadi withdraws his resignation and confirms his legal right to the Presidency under the Gulf Cooperation Initiative and Implementation Mechanism. He forms a new government. In so doing he would declare the north under siege, the Houthis’ action illegal, thus calling for liberation from Houthi oppression and for military intervention despite the potential for a civil war.
Future Three - Declare Independence: President Hadi may go along with southern aspirations and declare separation from the north and create an independent south. It might be a peaceful parting and return to the pre-1990 status quo ante. It is assumed that the Houthis would declare the north divorced from the south and hopefully South and North Yemen would live peacefully together ever after.
Future Four - Preserve the Union: President Hadi could use his move to Aden to call for a last ditch best effort for peace and encourage dialogue for all Yemeni parties orchestrated by the United Nations and Dr. Benomar. This firm stance to preserve Yemen’s unity would likely boost the ongoing dialogue and maybe even nudge parties to consensual agreement and resolution. The peace would be fragile, at best, but the union might be retained. President Hadi still has the respect of many people in Yemen and could rally a consensus if personally involved in closing the deal once Dr. Benomar has set the right conditions.
While some internal and regional actors may push for separation, the arguments for retaining a united Yemen are equally compelling. The international community has an active role to play within this dilemma and it would help significantly if key international actors would message directly to demonstrate their desire for a stable and unified Yemen.
If no one steps up, then inaction will give birth to a hostile hydra squirming between conflicting national, regional and international interests and thrashing between a President in the south and a presidential council in the north; two governments, two parliaments, two armed forces and a plethora of angry armed groups and violent extremists.
We hope the President makes the right decision; we pray for the people of Yemen and for dialogue. Everyone is waiting for Hadi.