Skip to main content

After victory over Houthis, divisions emerge in Aden's Resistance

AQAP forces have appeared on the streets as Resistance militias demand back pay from Saudi-led coalition and Hadi removes governor
Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah (C) speaks during a press conference on 17 September, 2015, the day after he returned with other exiled members of the Yemeni government to the southern port city of Aden. (AFP)

After more than four months of war in Aden province, the Southern Resistance, supported by the Saudi-led coalition forces, have expelled the Houthis rebels from Aden, leaving the province under Resistance and coalition control.

Gradually, regular life is beginning to return to the city. However less than two months since the Resistance's victory, divisions have opened up in the anti-Houthi camp, with Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) appearing openly in parts of Aden.

Residents of the city are desperate to see reconstruction and utilities restored after months of devastating fighting. However schools, universities, hospitals, hotels and all governmental institutions still remain closed in the city, which still lacks any effective government.

On Wednesday, the Yemeni government returned to Aden, with ministers holding their first meeting in Aden on Thursday, and the Prime Minister Khalid Bahah, who has been in Riyadh since the government fled the country in February, promising that security and essential services would be restored in Aden.

This return came after three ministers of the government were replaced in three days and the governor of Aden removed by President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. So far only five ministers are in the city, trying to facilitate the restoration of the Yemeni government.

Divisions in the Resistance

All the fighters in Aden who participated in the war against the Houthi rebels fought under the name of the Resistance. During the fighting there was no dispute between the fighters, however after the Houthis left the city and the Saudi-led coalition forces took control, those fighters started to divide into several groups.

On 15 September, dozens of Southern Resistance members blocked the main street in Al-Sheik Othman district, demanding the government pay their salaries and protesting against the replacement of Aden's governor, Naif al-Bakri, in addition to other demands.

Nader Al-Hawt, the leader of Al-Sheik Othman Resistance, told Middle East Eye as they protested on Tuesday: "We do not have money to eke out a livelihood for our families as we haven’t received our salaries for three months."

He accused Yemeni ministers based in Riyadh of not supporting the fighters of the Resistance on the ground. "The Yemeni officials in Al-Riyadh enjoy their time in five-stars hotels. We are here under the hot sun to protect the country, and the government does not help us." 

He stated that he needed to pay salaries for 400 Resistance members who work under his authority in the Al-Sheik Othman district. "Eid is coming and we need money to buy clothes and plant happiness in the hearts of our children."

Another main demand of the protesters was to send those people injured during the war for treatment abroad, instead of suffering inside Yemen. "We call for the government to solve these problems as soon as possible, otherwise we will resort to escalation," Al-Hawt added.

Nasr Al-Yafei, 25, a member of the Resistance in Khour Maksar district, participated in a protest on Thursday, demanding that President Hadi withdraw his declaration replacing the governor of Aden, Naif Al-Bakri.

"There is not any reason for replacing the governor of Aden. He is the best governor and he is loyal to Aden. Al-Bakri participated in the war against the Houthis and he did not do anything wrong," Al-Yafei told MEE.

Hadi appointed Al-Bakri as the governor of Aden in late July after the Resistance and the coalition forces expelled the Houthis from the city. On 14 September, Hadi appointed Al-Bakri as the minister of youth and sports, "and this is an unimportant ministry," according to Al-Yafei.

The director of Aden's security office Mohammed Mosaed told MEE that security in Aden is under the control of the coalition forces from the United Arab Emirates, stating that Emirati forces are rehabilitating police stations in Aden.

"There are some negative incidents in Aden and there are armed men of the Resistance in the streets with their weapons and military vehicles, but all of these things are normal after a war in any country, and we are going to deal with this issue in the coming period," Mosaed told MEE.

He stated that the coalition forces have a plan for the rehabilitation of the security forces in Aden, and the Emirati forces will implement this plan. During the last month, 620 troops have been sent for training in the Emirates and 310 have already returned to Aden, he said.

Mosaed added: "We are waiting for the Emirates and Saudi Arabia to pay the salaries of the Resistance and army as the Yemeni government cannot pay any salaries in these conditions."

Aden's residents complain

When the Houthis fled Aden, residents had high hopes that conditions would rapidly improve and the crisis would end following the withdrawal of the Houthis, however the problems facing residents have persisted.

"When the Houthis left Aden, I thought that the problems will finish soon, but the problems have not finished yet, as the militias of the Resistance are still out in every street, and their military vehicles remain in all neighbourhoods of Aden," said Mazen Abdulghani, an Aden resident.

He stated that the government was still absent in Aden, and only the militias under the observation of the coalition forces are controlling the city. “I need to see the government. I do not want to see the militias everywhere in the streets," Abdulghani added.

The Resistance have said that they are present in the neighbourhoods to protect the province from any attack that may happen.

Abdulghani pointed out that the prices of basic goods are still expensive in Aden even if there is support from the coalition, and not all of the people have access to aid from the coalition. "I think all of these bad conditions in Aden led President Hadi to change the governor Al-Bakri," he added.

AQAP in Aden

After the war between the Resistance and the Houthis rebels ended in Aden, Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters appeared in the Al-Tawahi district of the city.

AQAP fighters were part of the Resistance during the war, and once the Houthis left they spread freely in the city with their slogans and weapons, sometimes setting up checkpoints, and facing no opposition from other Resistance groups.

Yasser Ameen, 33, a resident in Al-Tawahi district, said that the AQAP members appeared suddenly in the district after the Houthis left the city. "This is the first time that I see AQAP members walking in our city with their weapons," he said to MEE, stating that no one in his neighbourhood knows where these fighters are from. 

Ameen pointed out that the residents of Al-Tawahi fear the breaking out of a new war against AQAP fighters in the area. The existence of AQAP fighters in Aden is well-known, but the Yemeni government has not acknowledged their presence.

Fadhl Al-Rabei, a political analyst and the head of Madar Strategic Studies Centre in Aden, told MEE: "Aden is not a stronghold of AQAP fighters, and those fighters came to Aden from Abyan to fight the Houthi rebels and they can return home if they feel that the Houthis will not return to the city again.”