Different armed groups govern Aden
Samar Qaed (author), Abdulrahman Anees (author), Abdulrahman Anees (photographer)
Seeing the security forces everywhere in Aden, you would think that it is the most secure town in Yemen. However, on closer inspection you find armed men not from the security forces positioned in different areas, individually or in groups.
“Thugs carrying weapons, blocked roads, acts of sabotage, Ansar Al-Sharia, the Southern Movement, armed men with covered faces, and a complete lack of security. It’s a very bad situation to live in,” said Aryam Al-Marfadi, a resident in Al-Muala district.
“I wonder who causes all these problems? The current government promised to find solutions, but nothing has happened,” she added.
Ghasan Al-Qaisi, a resident in Al-Memdara area in Sheikh Othman district, affirmed that it isn’t very safe to go out at night because armed men and robbers are everywhere.
The current situation reflects that there are many parties which cause conflict in Aden, like Ansar Al-Sharia, the Southern Movement, the remnants of the former regime, thugs, members of the Islamic Islah Party and Salafists.
“The governor officially rules Aden city, but now his authority is very weak for the state itself is weak,” said Abdulraqeeb Al-Hadiani, a political analyst in Aden. “Confusion dominates Aden nowadays,” he added.
Al-Hadiani said that Ansar Al-Sharia, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has started to expand its operations as far as the naval harbor in Al-Tawahi district. At the same time armed men linked to the Southern Movement fight against the security forces.
Deployment of armed men
Marzooq Yaseen, a journalist in Aden, explained that because of the oil and diesel shortage from last year, armed men have been deployed in the city.
Unemployed youth established armed groups to protect cars at gas stations and get money in return. However, many thugs later joined these groups to implement acts of sabotage, according to Yaseen.
Redhwan Farea’, another journalist, affirmed that the political parties, Ansar Al-Shariah, the members of the Southern Movement, and those affiliated with the former regime in Aden all own weapons.
He added that armed tribesmen were brought into Aden along with some armed marginalized people at the beginning of the popular uprisings against Saleh’s rule.
“Aden is a time bomb unless the problems are solved,” he continued.
Yassen accused local former senior leaders of distributing weapons to some groups in Aden aimed at causing conflict.
Sadiq Haid, Aden’s security manager, announced in a press conference last month that two trucks loaded with arms sent by the Ministry of Defense to Aden’s security forces had disappeared.
The absence of security enabled many fundamentalists like Ansar Al-Sharia, who are centered in Al-Qaloa’a and Al-Sheikh Othman areas, to establish themselves and fight against the security forces.
Al-Hadiani told the Yemen Times that some mosques call for jihad. He affirmed that some mosques in Al-Mansura urge people to engage for the sake of Allah to fight against atheism, while brochures related to Al-Qaeda are being distributed in Al-Hashemi mosque in the Al-Sheikh Othman area.
He added that some Afghans, Pakistanis, and Indians linked to Al-Qaeda gather in the Al-Basateen area in Dar Bani Saad district to give daily speeches that call people to travel for jihad.
Armed men of different political affiliations
Talking to the Yemen Times, Qasim Askar, the secretary general of the Supreme Council of the Southern Movement in Aden, accused all parties in Aden, including the remnants of the former regime that he charged with occupying the south of Yemen, and the opposition Joint Meeting Parties of acts of sabotage in Aden.
Askar denied all accusations of militarization among Southern Movement members.
“The movement appeared in the southern governorates to stop the violence. Peace is the way the movement follows, but choices are still open to us,” said Askar.
Abdulnasser Bahabeeb, head of the Islah Party’s political department in Aden, denied Askar’s statements.
“During election day (Feb. 21), armed men affiliated to the Southern Movement prevented people from voting, while Askar praised the actions by the members of the movement and their armament,” said Bahabeeb.
Role of General People’s Congress (GPC)
Bahabeeb said that what has happened in Aden was because of remnants of the former regime who distributed weapons to create disorder.
“The role of the GPC leaders was negative for they encouraged such acts,” he said.
“The role of the GPC was very weak because they weren’t able to arrange any supportive campaigns in Aden for the ousted president Ali Saleh,” said Abdulrab Al-Salami, the head of the Islamic Renaissance Movement (Harakat Al-Nahda Al-Islamiyya), affiliated to the Salafists.
Farea’ claimed that Abdulkareem Shayf, former acting governor of Aden was the most prominent of the GPC leaders who distributed weapons after the beginning of the youth revolution.
“He [Al-Shayf] then also printed10,000 flags at the military moral department which represents south Yemen to be distributed in the streets to spread disorder in the city,” said Farea’.
The Yemen Times did its best to contact leaders of the GPC in Aden, but they declined to comment.
Absence of the national unity government
Farea’ said that, “The reconciliation government is just like the previous governments during former president Saleh’s rule.”
“People in Aden find no development in the governorate. The situation is sill as it was. The government is still weak and can’t change any of this tragic situation and there is no hope to get out of it,” he said.
“Many residents in Aden were hopeful that the civil war had ended but they started to lose hope as they realized the poor performance of the government is not any different from the previous GPC governments,” added Al-Salami.
Al-Hadiani said that that the reconciliation government is exerting major efforts to help improved the current situation. “But we aren’t sure that the government is able to hold the reins of the city for there are different parties.”
The people’s defense committees
Mohammed Muhsen, a student from Al-Qalwaa area, says that the situation in the district is better since the establishment of the people’s defense committees which has solved the problems of insecurity there.
“The establishment of the people’ defense committees came as a reaction against the absence of the local council in the district which halted its duties,” he added.
Ahmed Lamlas, the general manager of Al-Mansura district said, “There are campaigns to enlighten people about the importance of putting down their weapons in cooperation with the youth of Al-Mansura.”
He added that efforts are being exerted to deploy the people’s defense committees in the districts as a primary solution to the problems to make the governorate safer.
Bahabeeb said that the governorate has two solutions: to give peaceful solutions a chance to stop the destruction and fighting, or to use force in the case that the concerned parties refuse to abide by peaceful solutions.
The governor’s choices
“There are many obstacles in the way of obtaining security because of last year’s problems,” said engineer Waheed Ali Rasheed, Aden’s governor.
“Soldiers who stopped working last year must be recruited again. They must be taught the concept of civil life because security can be performed through an agreement between residents and the security services,” he added.
“The security forces mustn’t intervene in everything. Ordinary people and community leaders have to cooperate with us to open blocked roads because we can’t use soldiers everywhere,” the governor continued.
The governor tried not to talk about the parties causing conflict in Aden. However, he said “All people can sit together to find solutions, but everyone tries to prove himself right.
“There are many common things between us and the difference of opinions must not make us kill each other and cut the electricity wires,” he added.
The governor complained that the administrative departments needed reorganizing and capacity development .The situation in Aden is very complicated,” he concluded.
Security forces in Aden with no weapons
The Yemen Times tried to contact Brigadier Sadeq Haid, Aden’s newly appointed security chief, but he refused to talk to the paper.
However, in a press conference the security chief said, “The capacity of Aden’s security forces is such that it cannot deploy ten soldiers to protect a police station.”
“We face many problems in Aden. There are large quantities of weapons that were leaked and now we are about to get them back,” added Haid.
“There are many things that I don’t want to talk about now, but I will talk about them at the right time,” said Haid.
“We conveyed to the Ministry of Interior and the government that we needed weapons, and they promised to send us new weapons, but as yet they have not,” he said.