AL-MUKALLA: Houthis in Yemen have said that they will sell the seized properties of supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and use the proceeds to pay public employees after members of Saleh’s party in Sanaa supported intensifying demands for salary payment.
In a sign of deteriorating relations between the two allies, Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi announced on Saturday that he had ordered authorities in Sanaa to put up for auction the homes and other properties of Saleh’s supporters and other Yemenis who backed the internationally recognized government in Sanaa and other areas under their control in order to pay public employees who have not been paid since late 2016.
The Houthi leader’s order came days after Sadeq Ameen Abu Ras, the leader of the former president’s party, the General People’s Congress, for the first time in years voiced support for the expanding public salary demands, a statement that infuriated the Houthis.
“People have the right to speak about their salaries. We must look at them with compassion and provide them with what we can,” Abu Ras said on the occasion of the GPC’s 41st anniversary on Aug. 24.
“We must be transparent. As a state, we must present our budgets, our resources, and everything else to the people and state that these are our budgets. We say we spent this amount on the military and that amount on security.”
The Houthis killed Saleh, a former ally, in late 2017 after he led a brief military uprising against them in Sanaa.
While many of Saleh’s loyalists fled Houthi harassment after their leader’s death, others, including Abu Ras, remained in Sanaa and continued to serve in the Houthi government.
Speaking to a gathering of supporters on Wednesday, Mahdi Al-Mashat, president of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, referred to Abu Ras and other Yemenis who requested that their movement pay public employees as “fools,” claiming that their militia lacks the finances to do so.
Since last year, pressure on the Houthis to pay tens of thousands of public employees under their control has increased, as reports indicate that the militia generated billions of riyals in revenues from Hodeidah port during the UN-brokered ceasefire that went into effect in April 2022.
Teachers in Sanaa and other Yemeni provinces have been on strike for over a month to pressure the Houthis into paying their salaries.
University professors in Houthi-controlled areas have also threatened to cease teaching if their salaries are not paid.
The Houthis responded to the requests by replacing instructors with allies, brutally assaulting journalists, and sending threats to activists and politicians.
Observers in Yemen assert that Abu Ras’ criticism of the Houthis signifies not only an escalating rift between the two parties but also the GPC’s desire to abandon the Houthi camp.
Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, told Arab News that the Sanaa-based GPC has used public salary demands to position itself as independent from the Houthis and is concerned about public resentment over unpaid salaries amid reports that regional and international mediators are pushing to designate the GPC in Sanaa as a separate entity from the Houthis.
“International efforts are being made to include the GPC in Sanaa as an independent party in the negotiations. When negotiations take place, the GPC in Sanaa is usually part of the Houthi delegation,” Al-Fakih said.
He anticipated that the Houthis would respond to the GPC’s criticism by harassing its members or attempting to discredit the party, given that their status as the “sole” representative of Yemenis would be undermined by the GPC’s independent participation in the political process.
“Houthis view parties that address the concerns and demands of the people as a potential menace,” Al-Fakih said. “As a result, they will continue to fragment the remainder of the party that resides in their regions and will limit its leadership, which employs a speech outside of what is permitted.”