INTERVIEW: General Ali Moqbel, Head of the Yemeni Retired Military Consultive Association, “We demand equality in citizenship.”
In an effort to enlighten our readership on the true nature of the growing civil unrest in Southern Yemen, Armies of Liberation obtained an exclusive statement from Brigadier General Ali Moqbel, organizer and member of the Yemeni Retired Military Consultive Association (MCRA). In the statement, General Moqbel clarified the goal of the protests, “We demand equality in citizenship and the return of all our officers to their positions.”
General Moqbel explained the goal and purpose of the protests, “The goal of the MCRA is to return all southerners to their previous employment in the same positions, both civilians and soldiers, who were referred to retirement after the war in 1994, many of whom were termed as in excess positions.”
The statement continues, “All of our achievements in the South were lost upon unity which was announced May 22, 1990. We demand compensation for all persons without exception who sustained material losses at the hands of the state during these years.
Our demands are not arising from the air as indicated when President Saleh himself frankly admitted mistakes. We have the right to these demands and to equal citizenship. If the ruling party does not correct these mistakes, then the world will know who refused the unity of May 22, 1990.”
Context and timeline:
North and South Yemen unified in 1990. After Yemen’s civil war in 1994, the ruling northern elite failed to reconcile with the South as a whole. The decade that followed was perceived by many Southerners as characterized by institutionalized discrimination, engineered poverty, widespread looting and political exclusion. These long simmering tensions came to a head beginning May 22, 2007 when a series of popular protests lead by the MCRA began in several governorates. The Yemeni regime responded with increasingly repressive measures, provoking greater popular outrage.
As a result of the protests, President Saleh has returned hundreds of former soldiers to their posts; however tens of thousands were not. Instead the government announced it will reinstate the draft. The well over 100,000 forcibly retired Southern military and civil workers charge that they were illegally discharged as a punitive measure after the war. The pensions they receive are lower than their northern counterparts, below a sustenance level and contravene national law, they maintain.
Governmental media rhetoric has heightened tensions, for example labeling the 1994 civil war “a secessionist and apostate war”. Protests around the former PRDY resulted in the deaths of several protesters and hundreds of arrests and injuries as security forces broke up the demonstrations with live fire, tear gas, water cannons and batons. Riots ensued.
Movement leader, retired Brigadier General Naser al-Noba will stand trial in a military court, officials announced. The Defense Ministry announced early in September that 20 protesters arrested would be charged with treason, a death penalty offense. Increasingly repressive measures by the Yemeni regime against its citizenry will certainly foster increasing frustration as the public loses hope in gaining equality through peaceful means. The inability of the Yemeni government to honestly reconcile legitimate grievances has created instability throughout the nation and over time. Meanwhile President Saleh recently dubbed the protests “a tempest in a teapot”.