Slow but steady, demilitarization begins
SANA’A, Dec. 18 — The roadmap for removing the military from urban centers is slowly being implemented by the new military committee. However, armed clashes in Hasaba north of Sana’a remain a challenge.
According to the plan, within one week starting Saturday December 17, signs of the military such as check points and security barriers will be gradually removed from Yemen’s main cities as part of the Gulf initiative agreement to stabilize the country. Already some check points within the capital Sana’a have been removed.
“I feel happy to see that large tanks and military vehicles are going; it is a good sign,” said Ahmed Ateeq a local from the city.
However, armed fighting continued on Friday night and Saturday morning in Hasaba between Al-Ahmar tribes and state security forces. Moreover, armed tribes in the area built up the existing trenches and checkpoints despite the demilitarization agreement, according to locals.
Some of the checkpoints that were removed on Saturday also returned the same day, including the state security checkpoint on Hadda road and a defected First Armored Division checkpoint in Madhbah.
“The Interior Ministry will provide the military committee, headed by Vice President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi, with all the resources needed to carry out this plan and will do what it takes to make it happen,” said Minister of Interior, Abdulqadir Qahtan.
In a press conference last Friday, UN special advisor on Yemen Jamal Benomar warned that progress will not be made without the agreement and political will of all stakeholders in Yemen. He added that Yemenis need to feel safe in their own streets without being intimidated by the presence of the military.
“It is a process that will not happen overnight but it requires the involvement of all political elements for it to happen. The key for Yemen’s future and prosperity is inclusion,” said Benomar.
The military committee is also responsible for reforming the army and military institutions at a later stage. The success of the demilitarizing of cities will build the foundation for future successes and credibility of the committee and its commitment to reform.
“Although some checkpoints were removed, there are still armed men from various parties and the barriers and trenches are still there,” said Um Ahmed who lives on Hayel Street, which was a battle zone between the state and the First Armored Division in Sana’a.
The military presence and trenches behind Change Square, towards Al-Adel Street are still in place, added Um Hayat, a resident of the area. “We heard that they removed ones in other areas, so we hope our turn will come.”
The demilitarization roadmap
Starting from Saturday, December 17, the following should be completed within one week. Members of the military committee will be distributed across the various military and security bodies to ensure the effective implementation. Progress reports should be delivered regularly to the command control center at the Ministry of Defense.
- Military and central security units must return to their permanent camps and evacuate the streets of the main city, removing all signs of military presence, whether vehicles or arms.
- All armed tribal elements and militia must also retreat and evacuate their locations on the streets and in public buildings.
- All buildings, whether schools, hotels or private premises where armed men are stationed must be cleared and any checkpoints or barriers established since January 2011 must be permanently removed.
- If needed, the Ministry of Interior should be provided with backup from the armed forces as per the Minister’s request to protect vital locations such as hospitals and government buildings.
- The security belt around Sana’a should remain as it was set up prior to January 2011 with checkpoints as the military committee sees fit to protect the capital.
- Sana’a’s mayor and the Minister of Public Works should work to remove the built barriers and trenches from the streets and repave areas to facilitate public movement and restore any damages from the conflict.