UAE blasts Houthis for disregarding Hodeidah ceasefire and blocking Yemen aid access

Houthi militants patrolling a street in Hodeidah in December. The militia is blocking access to crucial food supplies in the city. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2019

UAE blasts Houthis for disregarding Hodeidah ceasefire and blocking Yemen aid access

  • UAE minister says Houthi’s are the real impediment to peace in Yemen
  • Red Sea Mills in Hodeidah contains enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month

DUBAI: The UAE has accused the Houthis of disregarding a Yemen ceasefire agreement after the UN slammed the militants for blocking access to vast food supplies.

The Red Sea Mills in Hodeidah contains enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, but aid officials have been unable to access the stores since September, despite Yemen’s desperate food shortages.

Houthi militants have  blocked the UN from reaching the food and last month destroyed some of the stores with shelling.

Mark Lowcock, under-secretary of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), on Thursday implored the Iran—backed Houthis to allow access to the stores.

Anwar Garagsh, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Friday that the UN’s plea for access to the stores showed that “the Houthi’s are the real impediment to peace in Yemen.” 

“This will be clearer with their every move to derail the political process,” Gargash said on Twitter.

“The Stockholm Agreement offers us a unique opportunity to end the war in Yemen. 

“Nonetheless the Houthis are working hard to undermine this opportunity by their obstinate disregard to their commitments.”

Gargash said the way forward for the Houthis is to withdraw from “the ports and Hodaidah city” as per the agreement signed in December. 

“The militia is dragging its feet & threatening the overall prospects for peace,” he added.

Talks were held this week in Hodeidah in an attempt to find a breakthrough in implementing the agreement. Mediators said Friday that talks in Jordan on a prisoner swap deal had made "important progress."
The huge prisoner exchange is seen as a crucial confidence-building measure in the UN-led push for peace.

The city of Hodeidah became the main front in the war, which was sparked when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Pro-government forces supported by an Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, had surrounded the city and prepared to retake it last summer. 

Hodeidah serves as the country’s main port for aid supplies but the UN and the coalition accuse the Houthis of blocking those supplies from reaching those desperately in need.

“Access to the mills grows ever more urgent as time passes and the risk of spoilage to the remaining grain increases,” Lowcock said in his statement.

“I implore all parties, in particular Ansar Allah affiliated groups, to finalize an agreement and facilitate access to the mills in the coming days,” he said, referring to the Houthi’s political wing.

The UN has described Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian emergency, with 10 million people on the brink of famine.

Bouteflika-era tycoon jailed for six months in Algeria

Updated 18 June 2019

Bouteflika-era tycoon jailed for six months in Algeria

  • Ali Haddad was earlier arrested in possession of two passports
  • Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire

ALGIERS: Algeria’s top businessman Ali Haddad, a key supporter of ousted president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, was jailed for six months on Monday for holding two passports, in the first conviction in a string of corruption probes.

The business tycoon was arrested in late March on the border with Tunisia in possession of two passports and undeclared currency, days before Bouteflika resigned in the face of mass protests.

Haddad, who owns Algeria’s largest private construction company, is the first high-profile figure with ties to Bouteflika to be jailed since the president stepped down on April 2 after two decades in power. He was found guilty of the “unjustified procurement of administrative documents” and also fined 50,000 dinars ($420), state television reported.

Described by Forbes as one of Algeria’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Haddad is widely perceived to have used his links to Bouteflika to build his business empire.

The businessman, a key election campaign funder for Bouteflika, had denied breaking the law and said he obtained his second passport legally after seeking an interview with then-Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal.

The ex-premier and Haddad are among many businessmen and former politicians caught up in a separate anti-corruption investigation launched since the president stepped down.

Earlier this month Haddad’s lawyer, Khaled Bourayou, decried a “political trial” and told journalists the passport case had no legal basis.

The sentence is significantly lower than the 18 months term and fine of 100,000 dinars requested by the prosecutor.

Hassane Boualem, then-director of titles and secure documents at the Interior Ministry, was given a two-month suspended sentence and fined 20,000 dinars for issuing Haddad’s second passport in 2016.

He told the court he was following the orders of his superiors — Interior Ministry head Hocine Mazouz, Sellal and Algeria’s current premier, Noureddine Bedoui — who were not investigated over the affair.

Last week, a judge placed in detention two former prime ministers, Sellal as well as Ahmed Ouyahia, who served four terms as premier.

An investigating magistrate on Sunday conditionally released former Finance Minister Karim Djoudi as part of the corruption probes. Karim Djoudi, finance minister between 2007 and 2014, appeared before the supreme court’s magistrate in connection with the disappearance of public funds and abuse of office.

The supreme court is the only judicial body with jurisdiction over offenses committed in public office by government members, local officials and high magistrates.

Former Transport Minister Amar Tou was also conditionally released after appearing before the investigating magistrate.

Djoudi and Tou are among 12 former Algerian officials subject to preliminary probes for alleged criminal offenses.

Former Trade Minister Amara Benyounes has been detained in El Harrach prison, in an eastern suburb of Algiers, and former Public Works Minister Abdelghani Zaalane has been conditionally released.

Army chief General Gaid Salah, the key powerbroker in post-Bouteflika Algeria, vowed Monday that no one would be spared from the corruption probes.

The judiciary must “bring to justice all the corrupt regardless of their function or their social rank,” he said. “The fight against corruption knows no limit and no exception will be made to anyone... it’s time to settle accounts,” Salah said, adding it was “time to clean up our country.”

The graft probes have also seen a dozen Bouteflika-linked businessmen placed in preventative detention.

Demonstrations have continued since the ailing head of state stepped down, as protesters demand the fall of regime insiders and the establishment of independent institutions.