Mareike Transfeld

KAS: POLICE, AQIL, SUPERVISORS: LOCAL SECURITY FORCES IN ANSARALLAH HELD AL-HODEIDAH


October 11, 2019

The Stockholm agreement brokered between the internationally recognized government under President Hadi and Ansarallah (also known as Houthis) in the Swedish capital in December 2018, raised hopes of a possible political solution for the Yemeni conflict. More than 8 months after the Stockholm agreement was struck, the deal’s implementation is making no progress. Even if the parties to the conflict had a genuine interest to withdraw, the deal’s success hinges on factors that weren’t clarified prior to implementation. It is important to review the requirements of the agreement in order to learn from mistakes. The first step of the implementation of the agreement is the redeployment of troops from the major ports in al-Hodeidah. Ansarallah has announced twice its redeployment of forces from the ports; a move that was not accepted by the internationally recognized government, as the latter views Ansarallah as having handed the ports to its own forces.

The withdrawal of the forces is to be followed by the redeployment of troops belonging to both sides of the conflict from the city of al-Hodeidah. The agreement mandates that all parties should “commit to remove any military manifestations from the city”, while security “shall be the responsibility of local security forces in accordance with Yemeni law.” Further the text states that “legal lines of authority shall be respected and any obstructions to proper functioning of local state institutions, including supervisors, shall be removed.” The requirements of the UN Agreement on the City of Hodeidah and Ports of Hodeidah, Salif, and Ras Isa raise the question of the status of the police as a “local security force” in the governorate of al-Hodeidah.

The pre-Ansarallah security arrangement was composed of state and non-state actors, particularly the Aqil and to a lessor extend sheikhs. The question with regards to a successful implementation of the Hodeidah-Agreement is: how deep did Ansarallah penetrate local security structures? Al-Hodeidah has been under complete control of Ansarallah for over four years; however, since 2018 parts of the governorate are controlled by the forces supported by the Saudi-coalition. Throughout this time, the police remained an important security actor in urban areas. Ansarallah entered al-Hodeidah with eyes on the country’s largest port in October 2014, immediately after their takeover of the capital in the previous month. The group relied on the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s networks in the military and other state institutions to take control of the governorate of Al-Hodeidah. Since Saleh’s death in 2017, Saleh’s supporters either shifted their loyalty to Ansarallah, or – if they were not imprisoned or killed – switched to the Coalition’s side. The group took over the institutions that were in place and adjusted them to serve its own purposes. Ansarallah relies on its supervisor system, which the group inserted into the semi-formal institutional arrangement, as a mechanism of control. It is important to differentiate between Ansarallah and Ansarallah-loyalists in order to understand how Ansarallah penetrated local security institutions. The former is part of the group based on their family and tribal ties or their geographic origin. The latter is loyal to the group because of salary-payments, personal benefits, coercion and the Saudi “aggression.” They are, however, not completely trusted by Ansarallah leadership. Ansarallah is gradually taking over state institutions more directly, as supervisors are not just shadowing, but taking over positions.

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References :

[1]YPC nationwide representative survey, April–July 2019. Data cited in this paper is drawn from this survey unless otherwise indicated.

[2] UN News “Humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world, warns UN” Feb 2019. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1032811 (Accessed 3 March 2020).

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