This is the 2nd part of a short explainer article series on the current crisis in Yemen. To read the 1st part of the series click on the link.
After the overthrow of the monarchy in 1968, Yemen existed as two countries — North Yemen and South Yemen. These two countries united in 1990, after several years of conflict with one another.
Unified Yemen: Simmering discontent between North & South
A unified government was formed and the work on constitution progressed, however the relations continued to be strained between the two regions. It's important to note that unification was finally achieved after the defeat of the former Marxist state of South Yemen at the hand of North Yemen with active collaboration of Saudi Arabia.
South got a raw deal in the post unification reconstitution and re construction of the country. The government controlled lands, enterprises and other resources in the South were confiscated and given to the ruling elites belonging to the North. However some political representation and economic benefits were given to the southern elites as well.
1st Elections of Unified Yemen: Cracks in unity
The first elections to elect a new parliament of unified Yemen began in 1993. This election was won by the pro-Unification group led by the former President of North Yemen, Abdullah Saleh. The Yemen Socialist Party (YSP) which represented the interests of former South Yemen, was able to win only 54 of the 301 seats.
After losing the democratic election, the leader of YSP, Ali Salim Al-Beidh, withdrew to his base in Aden. He refused to return to the capital unless his grievances of economic marginalization of the south and violence against his party members did not end. This conflict among the ruling elite impacted the general security situation and created an opportunity for the tribal leaders to make a space for themselves as well.
This sense of marginalisation and victimhood of Southern leadership and assertiveness of tribal leadership created a fertile ground for the first civil war of Yemen.
The First Civil War of Unified Yemen
Unlike the political forces, the armed forces of North and South Yemen were not unified at the time of political unification of the country. The political differences between the pro-unification forces and the southern faction led by YSP reached the Northern and Southern armed forces as well. The political infighting soon turned into armed conflict where the armed forces used heavy equipment and air power against each other.
Southern faction leaders withdrew from the reunification and on May 21, 1994, established the Democratic Republic of Yemen (DRY). However they failed to win recognition from the international community. After heavy fighting in the southern part, the government forces captured Aden on July 7, 1994. This led to the collapse of resistance and thousands of political and military leaders left the country. They tried to revive the secessionist movement from Saudi Arabia, but failed to make any impact.
The Ceasefires were called from nearly all sides, including the USA and Russia. The war finally ended in 1994, with Abdullah Saleh being elected as president after an amnesty signing with the Yemen Socialist Party leaders.
However, the YSP was left toothless post-elections, a grievance that would later lead to the forming of the Southern Seperatist Movement (also known as al-Hirak) in 2007.
Keep tune in for the 3rd part of the series.