“The separatist movement does not represent those who live in the South
Mugahed is studying to become a pharmacist at the University of Aden.
The South was where Yemen’s anti-government protest movement really kicked off. You have to remember that the first victim of the uprising against Saleh was in Aden. I was at the very first demonstration and I can tell you that there wasn’t a single flag representing the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen [pre-reunification South Yemen]. Of course there were separatists at the protests, but they’re demands were the same as those of the anti-government protesters – liberty, equality, justice… Six months later, leaders of Yemen’s Southern movement said that the protests were going nowhere, and abandoned the cause to resume calling for independence.
Many in the South didn’t appreciate this sudden shift in attitude, and interpreted as a lack of direction. Not only have they distanced themselves from the support base here in Yemen, they are also financed by Yemenis living abroad - for example, in other Gulf countries, or in Britain or the United States. Even the owner of the separatist television station, Aden Live TV
, is funded by expatriates. It leaves you with the impression that the movement is completely disconnected from the reality on the ground.
I think that the leaders of the separatist movement are not representative of those who live in the South. It’s true that there are still people who are protesting for independence, but it’s their way of making sure that their voices are heard in the North. They’ve put their demands very high to make sure that they get something in the end. But when you speak with these people, they have no real, concrete political or economic ideas of what they’re going to do in the event that the region does gain independence.
What’s more, Sanaa has recently named a new police chief and security chief in Aden who have shown a desire for change that many locals support. And, you can’t forget that Mansour Hadi is originally from the South, even if he is part of the system. Since his election, it’s no longer fair for opposition leaders to say that the South is not represented in government.
There are certain towns in the South that are determined to fight for their independence, partly because they haven’t been able to forget the violence between the Syrian army and the separatist movement, in particular during 2007 [the year when the South Yemen Movement was founded]. There were also a number of military leaders who were ousted from power over their role in the civil war against the North in 1994. But I think that the majority of people in the South, especially in Aden, support the idea of redefining the terms of reunification to make it fairer rather than seceding from the North as a whole”.