by Shoks Mnisi Mzolo, Cii Broadcasting
On the surface, the roots of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to rain bombs on its southern neighbouring are hard to determine. The kingdom, whose military and their personnel are turning Yemen to a wreck, defends its involvement, in the violence and political strife gripping its neighbour, to its determination to stop an illegitimate government from taking over in Sana’a. Many have scoffed at not only the theory but also lamented Riyadh’s brutality that, in the name of pursuing rebels, has claimed thousands of civilian lives and displaced scores more while destroying infrastructure such as water tanks, schools and hospitals.
Without explaining the rationale behind the deaths directed at civilians, with the death toll now approaching 4,000, Riyadh claims its violence is meant to stop Houthi rebels, who staged a coup d’état earlier this year – that brought down then-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government.
Scratching the surface, Prof Najib Ali Abdullah Alsoudi, an academic at the University of Ta’if, insists that it all boils down to money. In an interview with Cii, he dismissed the much-recycled pretext about ethnic or creed chasm or threat to the region’s security. Central to the political turmoil manifesting itself today is the rich kingdom’s thirst to economically subjugate the Middle East’s southern-most part, the professor said, going as far back as the 1960s.
King Faisal, a successor to deposed King Saud, was in charge of the oil-rich monarchy for the greater part of that decade. Imam Yahya, a king of Yemen, was succeeded by Imam Muhammad, also known as Sayf al-Islam al-Badr, in 1962. Their descendants’ struggle for control, by their countrymen or scions, revolved around Yemeni land and resources. Decades later, according to Alsoudi, Saudi Arabia is not keen to let go and is seizing Yemeni lands now.
The problem started when Imam Yahya’s impoverished then-monarch conceded to his neighbours, the professor said. “Imam Yayha was in a bad situation so he agreed to sign agreements, between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, that Najran and Aseer will be under Saudi as rental land for 20 years. When the 20 years finished, Ali Abdullah Saleh (then-president) he also re-signed the agreement between Yemen and Saudi,” Alsoudi added. That term came to an end last year, during Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s presidency. The then-incumbent turned down Saudi Arabia’s request to extend the land rental tenure. In a matter of months he was ousted and Yemen has been in the throes of the regional superpower’s bombs since then.
“After the revolution Yemeni people started talking about our land and the Saudi. So, the Saudi didn’t want the Yemeni people talking about that land. And, they want also, the Yemeni people to make Aden an international port. If Aden [were to become an] international port, that means Dubai and Jeddah will close already because all the ships will be coming to Aden because Aden is in the middle. So, if the ship is going to South Africa, it will stop in Aden,” the professor of in Arabic linguistics and Quranic studies pointed out.
The same goes for Australasia-bound ship and those headed for Asia, as far as Japan, among other destinations, Alsoudi explained. The UAE, which makes a fortune from the Dubai jackpot, would be one of the biggest losers if such a move passed and the kingdom the biggest winner given its landlord position. The two regional players, he added, have been at loggerhead over this with the impoverished Yemen finding itself in the middle.
With all of this in the background, Saleh, the former president, struck a relationship with Houthi. The latter was part of the 2011 revolution, among others. So, because of its role, Houthi is obviously no ally’s of the powerful kingdom. That said, its rise to power, not least after Hadi refused to extend the lease agreement, was bound to be solicit anger from Riyadh. Sadly, the Saudi military has since turned around and targeted civilians.
“[Saudi Arabia] don’t want to bring [our land] back,” as the academic summarised it, looking at some of the factors in the background. “They don’t want Yemeni people to take their oil from their land. We have a lot of oil… Saudi doesn’t want Yemeni people to take their oil and sell it to the world. They want us just to be poor people, a poor country. You know, in this [country] people eat leaves. Saudi has closed all the borders. We cannot receive any food [or aid]. I don’t know what’s wrong with that. I mean, we are Muslims, we are brothers. Why did the Saudi do that?”