AL-MUKALLA: People in the small town of Shouqra in Yemen have been living without electricity or drinking water since May this year, when fighting broke between government forces and southern Yemeni separatists.
Shouqra, in the province of Abyan, has become a gathering point for government forces since loyalists launched an offensive in the province to expel the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) forces from the capital and neighboring Aden.
Residents complained that the protracted conflict had ravaged vital services and undermined peace and security.
“The situation is so miserable. The electricity lines have been destroyed due to fighting and water services have been completely unavailable since May,” Hussein Al-Hathel, a fisherman, told Arab News.
In April the STC announced self-rule in Yemen’s southern provinces, including Aden, seizing control of government bodies. Facing well-armed separatists who had been preparing for the offensive for months, government forces plunged into a military stalemate, unable to make major territorial gains.
Residents in the contested areas in Abyan told Arab News that thunderous explosions and shelling had ruined businesses and jobs, and destroyed already poor infrastructure. “Many people get stuck in Shouqra every day, as fighting cuts the main road that links Abyan with eastern provinces such as Hadramout and Mahra,” Al-Hathel said.
Fighting in Abyan subsided since last month, when the Saudi-led coalition began to monitor the situation. Residents,, though, are concerned about the fighting will resume if talks fail. “We urge them to implement Riyadh Agreement, we are tired of the war,” Al-Hathel said.
Aden, the second most important city in Yemen, has been ravaged by several conflicts since early 2015 when Houthi militias reached the outskirts of the city during their rapid military expansion. After its liberation, the city saw sporadic fighting between government forces and separatists. Residents say that basic services have crumbled.
“We are victims of this conflict. Warring factions trade blame and accusations at each other over who is responsible for the problems,” Mustafa, a young man who has recently lost his job, told Arab News.
The government argues that it cannot fix services or pay salaries in Aden since the STC prevents it from resuming its duties and has seized control of billions of riyals from the central bank. The STC said that the government was responsible for paying public servants.
Residents say the city has been plagued by long power cuts and severe water shortages as roads and the sewage system, damaged by heavy rainstorms, have not been repaired.
Government employees have complained that their salaries are paid late. “What worries me most is the resumption of fighting in the city. Security is fragile and fighting might break out here if government forces made gains in Abyan,” Mustafa said, calling upon both sides to stop fighting. “The war has affected everyone here in Aden. We want peace,” he said.
Under the Riyadh Agreement, the separatists would be included in a new government in exchange for exiting Aden and other cities. Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi would name the government and appoint new governors and security chiefs to contested southern provinces.
Over the last several days, the government and STC officials, who are currently in Riyadh to discuss ending hostilities, have been hailing the Riyadh Agreement as the only available option for putting an end to fighting in southern Yemen.
Ali Al-Katheri, a senior STC member, told Arab News that the agreement would unify efforts to fix services in the liberated provinces and would bring Yemenis together in the fight against the Houthis. “It provides the means to end tensions and enhances security, stability and development in the southern provinces. It also unites everyone’s efforts toward stopping the crumbling public services and addresses corruption,” Al-Katheri said.
Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said “tangible progress” had been achieved toward the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement following intensive talks between his government and separatists.