A Yemeni solution for Yemen

On the Panel (l-r) Anas Al-Hamati, Dr Abdulkader Al-Guneid, Ambassador Mohammed Dangor and Mohammed Bhabha
Seated (1st row r-l) Ambassador Ahmed Hassan, Chargé D’ Affairs of the Republic of Yemen,  Ambassador Sultan Bin Abdullah Al-Angari of Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Tariq Al-Ansari of Qatar and Ambassador Ashraf Suliman of DIRCO


15 November 2021

Will the total defeat of the Houthi rebels in the ongoing conflict in Yemen bring about the desired peace and stability in that Middle Eastern country? What does the South African experience of reconciliation and nationhood provide to the people of Yemen to bring an end to this dispute?

A workshop titled ‘Peace Initiatives in Yemen’ challenges and possible opportunities for building peace in Yemen was hosted at the Future Africa campus at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The workshop was moderated by Anas-Al-Hamati, a humanitarian and development worker and graduate of Sana’a university. The six year long civil conflict has devastated this ancient land and is causing an unprecedented humanitarian and environmental crisis.

In a statement, Dr Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Yemen said that Yemen will need many years to recover from the enormous destruction. He pointed out that 80% of the population now need humanitarian aid, a situation that has been exasperated by the corona virus pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of Yemini have died; many have been wounded and imprisoned which has led to children being recruited as militia. The Minister called for a ceasefire and for Iran to stop its support of the Houthis and to prepare an atmosphere to enter into negotiations to end this absurd conflict.

Dr Abdulkader Al-Guneid, a 71 year old physician, expressed his anguish and despair as he shared his experience of being kidnapped and held for 300 days. He explained that he has had to flee from his beloved country, having built a life there and with plans to retire there in peace. As a panellist at the workshop he raised the concerns of this conflict in Yemen being a proxy war between The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and The Islamic Republic of Iran. Both of these nations have been blessed with enormous energy resources in the form of oil.

Brigadier General Turki Al-Malki leading the Saudi armed Forces reported on the current situation on the ground saying the Houthis have to comply with a ceasefire agreement so peace mediation can begin. The Saudi initiative announced in March 2021 to end the crisis included a comprehensive ceasefire, opening of Sana’a Airport, entry of all ships to the port of Hodeidah with the deposit of taxes and customs in the joint account based on the Stockholm Agreement.

Speaking on the South African experience was Mr Mohamed Bhabha, a former MP of the South African Parliament and experienced negotiator. He spoke about nationhood, a sense of ownership, inclusivity and building trust. He referred to independent institutions to create an element of accountability and stability for governance.

Ambassador Mohammed Dangor, Former Ambassador of South Africa to Syria, Libya and Saudi Arabia called for a Yemeni solution to Yemen’s problems as was the case when South African’s negotiated a settlement to end the brutal apartheid regime. The death of former apartheid era president FW de Klerk has once again focused on the transformation of South Africa. The United Nations track for peace in Yemen is supported by South Africa and it is ready to mediate in this regard said Dangor.

Qatar will support a South African initiative to mediate in Yemen said Ambassador Tariq Al-Ansari, Doha’s envoy to South Africa. Qatar supports a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Yemen.

If reports of South African arms manufacturers supplying arms in the Yemen conflict are correct, what impact will this have on South Africa as a mediator? What is the significance of Qatari-Iranian relations in finding a solution to the conflict in Yemen to bring about stability in the region including in Lebanon and Syria?