Mareike Transfeld, Mohamed al-Iriani, Maged Sultan and Marie-Christine Heinze

Local Security Governance in Yemen in Times of War


April 2021

With funding from the Government of Canada, between April 2020 and November 2020 the Yemen Policy Center with the support of CARPO researched local security structures, conducting interviews with over a hundred security officials, security experts, civil society figures and journalists. After six  years of war, Yemen and its state institutions have undergone dramatic changes, having fragmented along multiple fault lines. The security sector is no exception. In the north west, Ansar Allah took over the capital Sana‘a by force in September 2014, before seizing large parts of the highlands: from the Saudi border in the north, to the Red Sea in the west, Marib in the east and al-Dhali‘ in the south. Ansar Allah consolidated its control over the state, systematically weakening tribal structures and using security forces to crush any space for dissent or opposition. With this takeover of Sana‘a, not only did the already porous boundary between state and non-state actors completely crumble but also national-level politics suddenly became ineffective, with old elites fleeing the country, national institutions falling under the control of Ansar Allah or becoming impaired, with territory becoming increasingly divided.

“Local Security Governance in Yemen in Times of War” by Mareike Transfeld, Mohamed al-Iriani, Maged Sultan and Marie-Christine Heinze

Given their role as the security governance structure’s central nodes, this report explores governorate-level Security Committees in three governorates that have been particularly affected by violence and institutional fragmentation: Ta‘iz, al-Hudayda and Aden. As well as seeking to understand the institutional set-up and functions of the Committees, this research looks at how the Committees have evolved in the context of state fragmentation and what, if any, capacities they have to play a potential role in local-level mediation (for instance, regarding humanitarian access) or transitional security governance arrangements. The study looks at the state of security institutions at the local level, and how state disintegration processes are reflected in governorate and district-level institutions. Local security governance institutions with functioning procedures exist even in governorates with significant political fragmentation, albeit with varying degrees of functionality, capacity and legitimacy. State fragmentation has shaped three different trajectories in the three governorates. In Ta‘iz, one political group came to dominate the institutions, while political divisions are relatively minor, and the Security Committee functions most effectively. Al-Hudayda provides an example of parallel institutions, but with Ansar Allah in control of the original Security Committee, it is also an example of a security institution that was newly established from the ground-up. Aden presents an example of a Security Committee that was captured by a political group within the state, with the IRG having gradually lost control.

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