Yemen’s Fractured South: Shabwah and Hadramawt
In Yemen, nearly five years of conflict have contributed to an extreme fragmentation of central power and authority and have often eroded local political orders. Local structures of authority have emerged, along with a plethora of para-state agents and militias at the behest of local elites and international patrons. According to the UN Panel of Experts, despite the disappearance of central authority, “Yemen, as a State, has all but ceased to exist,” replaced by distinct statelets fighting against each other (UN Panel of Experts, 26 January 2018).
This is the first report of a three-part analysis series exploring the fragmentation of state authority in Southern Yemen, where a secessionist body – the Southern Transitional Council (STC) – has established itself, not without contestation, as the “legitimate representative” of the Southern people (Southern Transitional Council, 7 December 2018). Since its emergence in 2017, the STC has evolved into a state-like entity with an executive body (the Leadership Council), a legislature (the Southern National Assembly), and armed forces, although the latter are under the virtual command structure of the Interior ministry in the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Investigating conflict dynamics in seven southern governorates, these reports seek to highlight how Southern Yemen is all but a monolithic unit, reflecting the divided loyalties and aspirations of its political communities.
This first report focuses on the oil-producing regions of Shabwah and Hadramawt (highlighted in the map below). Both governorates have long enjoyed a high degree of autonomy from the central government but have been struggling to invest their oil and gas revenues into local development projects. Alongside an endemic presence of Islamist militants affiliated with the local branch of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a fragile security situation has exacerbated tensions between the state and the local authorities.