Houthi spokesperson Ali Al-Bukhaiti talks to the Yemen Times
Mohammed Al-Hassani (author), Mohammed Al-Hassani (photographer)
In an interview with the Yemen Times, Ali Al-Bukhaiti—spokesperson for the political wing of the Houthis, Ansar Allah, discusses the assassination of Dr. Ahmed Sharaf Al-Deen and denies that his party had any involvement. Al-Bukhaiti also discusses the decision to boycott the closing ceremony of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) and Ansar Allah’s take on the Regions Defining Committee. The committee, he said, does not represent all political factions and groups that participated in the NDC and its decisions should be reached by consensus.
This interview was conducted on January 28.
You have objected the Regions Defining Committee. Can you lay out some of your objections. Are you opposed to Hadi forming the committee, to Hadi’s personality, to something else?
No, the objection had nothing to do with Hadi’s personality. What is being said by some political partisans is a desperate attempt to stir up discord between us and the president. We stressed the importance of setting up a committee that will represent all political factions. The representation should be in the same percentages as it was for the NDC. The committee’s decisions should be taken using the consensus mechanism that was used in the dialogue. This will help make the decisions effective. However, some of the political factions do not recognize this committee because they feel that they are not appropriately represented. Consequently, this will pose challenges in the future to the outcomes of the NDC.
Some say your objection does not carry a lot of weight, since you signed the Southern Issue Solutions and Guarantees Document that mandates president Hadi form a committee to determine the number of regions. What do you have to say about that?
When we signed, we expressed our reservations on the mandate. We signed the document in spite of our objections because we saw that the majority of the political factions were signing it. Anyway, we have recorded our stance for posterity and all of the Yemeni people will know that Yemen will be divided along regional and religious lines, and this will lead to dire consequences in the future.
Was your objection to the president’s mandate meant as an objection to the Regions Defining Committee?
We objected to the president’s mandate because he was not clear about the structure of the committee. The parties from which the committee was formed are loyal to the president one way or another. So he [hand-picked the members] of this committee in order to [rubber stamp] the program that had [already] been drawn up at the NDC.
Let us move to another topic. Why did you boycott the concluding plenary session and closing ceremony of the NDC?
This happened for two reasons. The first was the assassination of Dr. Ahmed Sharaf Al-Deen. We were expecting President Hadi to suspend the plenary for at least 24 hours in light of what had happened. We were taken back when the plenary continued [without pausing to pay respect to Dr. Al-Deen, who at that moment was lying in a pool of blood].
The second reason is that the NDC Guarantees Document was signed in the plenary without taking our view into account, even though we are an [important political entity]. It looked like the outcome was already predetermined. This provoked a very negative reaction from us, and as a result, we withdrew. What happened made us wonder: if the dialogue was built on consensus, what was the rush? We expected the plenary session to be suspended that day [due to the assassination] and resumed the following day, [when everyone would have a chance to discuss the document, voice their opinions, make up their minds, and vote accordingly].
Moreover, there were a number of problems with the concluding plenary of the NDC. The voting mechanism changed from consensus to majority. This is a heresy. There is nothing called a “majority” at the NDC because the dialogue regulations clearly state that there must be 90 percent consensus [on a particular issue] in the first vote. If this percentage is not reached, the issue is brought forward for discussion again and then, if the vote exceeds a 75 percent consensus, it passes. But what happened is that during meetings to mandate President Hadi to form the committee for designing the regions and during the voting session on the NDC Guarantees Document, the vote was based on a simple majority. We had hoped that laws and regulations would be respected, but unfortunately the dialogue participants tried to establish a new state by changing the rules.
If this was so, why were you the only ones to object?
Everyone has the right to decide for themselves and to take their own position on an issue. [That being said,] we were not alone…. the Socialist Party objected as well, and its leaders, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sakkaf and Qadri Ahmed, signed the same petition we signed. Some Nasserite youth also voiced objections.
If we delve deeper into the assassination of Sharaf Al-Deen, some say he agreed with the NDC Guarantees Document and he was on his way to the NDC to sign it. Is this so?
The issue is not Al-Deen’s agreement or disagreement. He was at the NDC to represent Ansar Allah. In the end, it is the decision of [Ansar Allah], not the personal decision by Sharaf Al-Deen. Whether he agreed or disagreed was his personal business. But his death became the issue of [Ansar Allah]. Those who claimed that Al-Deen was on his way to sign the document—do they really know what happened between him and [Ansar Allah]? Moreover, Al-Deen’s stance was clear regarding our rejection of the items in the document. However, Al-Deen was not confrontational. Being an academic and a patient listener, he was good at controlling his emotions. In his role as a representative of Ansar Allah, he would [closely follow a discussion to its end] and only then express his reservations about certain points, just prior to a vote.
So Sharaf Al-Deen supported Ansar Allah’s position in terms of signing the document?
Sharaf Al-Deen was definitely committed to the party’s position and also to law and order both inside and outside the NDC. He was a good man and did not hesitate to reformulate some articles to be [legally more precise]…. He was opposed to the continuation of the current government because he found that most of the [NDC participants] had agreed to maintain the current [form of] government based on the wishes of President Hadi. Although he did not always agree [with the content], he volunteered to draft some articles because he is a constitutional expert.
Some accuse [Ansar Allah] of assassinating Sharaf Al-Deen because he adopted a different political stance. What do you say?
This is not true. The parties that accuse Ansar Allah of assassinating Sharaf Al-Deen are trying to deflect blame because they themselves were involved in the assassination. These parties assassinated leading figures of the Yemeni Socialist Party in 1993 and killed a lot of its strongest members, activists, writers and politicians in preparation for the 1994 war against the south and at the same time accused the Socialist Party of assassinating its [own] members due to dissent within its various factions. The same thing is currently happening to Ansar Allah. The groups involved in assassinations always try to blame others. [They would not have blamed Ansar Allah if they were not themselves involved in Sharaf Al-Deen’s assassination.] We challenge the security apparatus to prove the involvement of [Ansar Allah in his death].