Throughout the reporting period, Yemen continued its slide towards humanitarian and economic catastrophe. The country remains deeply fractured, with the growing presence of armed groups and deep-rooted corruption exacerbating the impact of the armed conflict for ordinary Yemenis within both Houthi-held areas and liberated governorates. Although there has been activity on some fronts, notably along the coast of the Red Sea, the ground war remains predominantly confined to relatively small areas. Most Yemenis therefore carry on with their lives within an economy broken by the distortions of conflict.
Talks held in Sweden in December 2018 overseen by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, between the Government of Yemen and a delegation from Sana’a have raised hopes that a political process may quell the primary conflict in Yemen. Following the talks, and in support of a new initiative to reduce threats to Hudaydah, the international community placed considerable pressure on the Saudi Arabia-led coalition (the coalition) and the Houthis to suspend fighting in Hudaydah, an event that may have escalated the conditions of food insecurity to a state of famine.
The Houthi leadership has continued to consolidate its hold over governmental and non-governmental institutions. In the first months of 2018, the General People’s Congress (GPC) leadership in Sana’a was reduced and co-opted, forced to realign under Houthi leadership. Despite that consolidation, Houthis have met with some dissent from communities within Sana’a and its periphery.
Gaining access has continued to be problematic for the Panel. The Panel regrets that the Houthis have thus far been unwilling to allow the Panel to visit Sana ’a to meet with victims of air strikes and commodity traders. The coalition has given the Panel access to view captured weapons, but the granting of access frequently takes longer than is desirable.
The lack of common interests within the alliance against the Houthis continued to exacerbate the fragmentation of the country. Although the Government of the President of Yemen, Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, and its coalition partners have made significant progress on the ground against Houthi forces, the aim of restoring the authority of the Government throughout Yemen is far from being realized. Strong parallel security forces continued to emerge in 2018, while local leaders posed significant challenges to the fulfilment of the duties and obligations held exclusively by government officials and security forces.
The southern transitional council remains the primary source of opposition to the Government of President Hadi throughout the southern governorates. Southern transitional council allies, such as the United Arab Emirates-supported units of the Security Belt Forces, the Hadrami Elite Forces, the Shabwani Elite Forces and local government officials, continue to advance so-called “southern political agendas” while advancing secessionist aspirations. Some of the southern groups regard al-Islah party as a terrorist organization.