Shabwah Fighting: A Test That the Presidential Leadership Council Has Failed
Soldiers loyal to the Yemeni government stand guard at a demonstration against a years-long siege by the Houthi rebels on the city of Taez on May 25, 2022. (Ahmad al-Basha/AFP via Getty Images)

Shabwah Fighting: A Test That the Presidential Leadership Council Has Failed

The PLC, considered to be the best bet to ensure the continuity of Yemen’s unity, has been unable the quell the outburst of fighting last month that has reached the highest levels since this past February

The republican flag has fallen in Yemen’s Shabwah Governorate, and with it, many expectations that the Presidential Leadership Council (PLC) might be able to fully control the diverse components of the Yemeni government’s army. The PLC, considered to be the best bet to ensure the continuity of Yemen’s unity, has been unable the quell the outburst of fighting last month that has reached the highest levels since this past February.

The parties to Yemen’s fighting are the army’s Second Brigade, which adheres to the Yemeni Islah Party (Muslim Brotherhood), and forces affiliated with Shabwah Governor Awadh al-Awlaqi, which are loyal to the Southern Transitional Council’s (STC) forces and to the Southern Giants Brigades, a pro-government Yemeni militia.

Shabwah on the United Arab Emirates’ road map

Victims; injuries; accusations of violating national sovereignty and of cooperating with Ansar Allah (the Houthi movement), the de facto authority in northern Yemen; insulting the symbols of Yemen’s unity; and dramatic changes in the agenda of recently appointed PLC Chairman Rashad al-Alimi – these are just some the challenges facing al-Alimi in steering the PLC out of the storm in which it was placed by members who are implementing the agenda of external parties.

Journalist and political analyst Saddam Muhammad told The Media Line that Governor Awadh al-Awlaqi recently dismissed leaders from the Islah Party in control of the Transitional Council over events, while the forces loyal to Islah fear the STC’s forces and the Giants Brigades movement toward Hadhramaut Governorate and Al-Wadeah Port, under control of the Second Brigade.

“The confrontations in Shabwah will not end yet, and the warring parties are still seeking to push toward this governorate,” said Muhammad. He described the fighting as a “bone-breaking phase” between the forces on the ground. “Even if the picture is not clear to many about the reality of events in the oil-rich Shabwah Governorate, the UAE has begun to draw its own road map in Yemen,” he asserted.

“The UAE has begun, in many incidents, to transport and smuggle oil from the governorate [Shabwah] to unknown places,” Muhammad added. “Shabwah comes after Aden and Socotra on the list of the UAE’s interests. This is a governorate of great importance to the Emirates, and it is not easy for them to give up a governorate of such importance.”

His conclusion is the PLC has failed this time, and the recent fighting has created a rift between members of the PLC. “The events were a real test for the PLC in uniting the ranks and efforts aimed at confronting the Houthis, building the country, and ushering a phase of sustainable peace, but the PLC has failed its first test.”

The PLC cake

Imad Hassan, a member of the Second Brigade in Shabwah Governorate, spoke to the Media Line about the origin of the current crisis. He argues that members of the internationally recognized government started splitting the cake among themselves, while the Islah Party controlled parts of the gas-rich governorate of Ma’rib and was trying to control the oil-rich governorate of Shabwah, through some of its loyal military leaders and through the former governor of Shabwah.

“The STC, which sees the Muslim Brotherhood as an enemy on the ground, sensed the danger of the Islah Party controlling the governorate,” Hassan stated. Thanks to pressure from the UAE, the Saudi ally in the coalition, a governor who is loyal to the STC was instated, and thus a campaign began against the Muslim Brotherhood in the governorate.

“The Brotherhood will not leave the matter so easily,” Hassan asserted. “Heads are turned toward the east, specifically to Hadhramaut Governorate, which the Islah Party controls, including the Wadi’a land port with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). These governorates generate huge revenue for the Islah Party, which contributes to its survival and funds its war with the de facto authority [the Houthis].

“Even if the military confrontations calmed down, the confrontations between the parties to the conflict will continue and the pressure on the PLC will mount,” Hassan added. “The Islah Party threatened to withdraw from the PLC if such confrontations continue. The parties of the PLC are settling accounts and obtaining satisfying shares to secure the political future of Yemen.”

Unknown agenda

According to Mohammed Namish, a staff member in the Shabwah Governor’s Office, divisions continue within PLC over events in Shabwah, with “the sackings of security leaders, the bombings, and assassination attempts that took place [last] Thursday and Friday against leaders loyal to Governor Awadh al-Awlaqi. While this strife continues, its results are reflected on the citizens, who have become afraid to leave their homes and lead normal lives.”

Ammar al-Awlaqi, a Yemeni citizen who owns a shop in Ataq, the capital of Shabwah Governorate, told The Media Line, “The situation is frightening. Most residents fear it will continue, and it has already destroyed homes and businesses.”

He added that residents are being accused of being loyal to either of the war parties, which could lead to arrest or even death.

Namish also noted that the governor of Shabwah and leaders in the governorate summoned forces from the Abyan Governorate and other forces affiliated with the Giants Brigades to join the Shabwah to fight against the Second Brigade. In turn, the Islah Party itself summoned forces from Marib Governorate to join the fight.

Namish told The Media Line that, contrary to what was circulated in the media, the confrontations were not aimed at putting down a rebellion by some military leaders but rather were among major factions and members of the PLC. The PLC called upon the warring parties to stand down but the request was rejected. Following that, the governor decided to purge the security leaders who are loyal to the Islah Party.

The Media Line contacted leaders in the Second Brigade, the Giants Brigades, and the Shabwah Governor’s Office for comments on the events in Shabwah but received no response.

Yemeni media outlets have circulated a video showing armed men firing a barrage of bullets at the Yemeni flag. Some observers described these events as the beginning of Yemen’s unity. The UAE-backed STC took control of the southern governorates, specifically the oil-rich ones, in what some considered armed confrontations aiming to eliminate the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Yemeni Islah Party.

The PLC is divided into several political components that differ in terms of ideologies and interests and is in a transitional stage that began in early April when former Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi abdicated power to it.

Give the Gift of Truth This Jewish New Year

The Media Line has been leading for more than twenty years in pioneering the American independent news agency in the Middle East, arguably the first in the region. We have always stayed true to our mission: to provide you with contextual sourced and trustworthy news. In an age of fake news masquerading as journalism, The Media Line plays a crucial role in providing fact-based news that deserves your support.

We're proud of the dozens of young students we've trained in our Press and Policy Student Program who will form the vanguard of the next generation of journalists to the benefit of countless millions of news readers.

Non-profit news needs public support. please help us with your generous contributions.
The Media Line
We thank our loyal readers and wish you all the happiest of holidays.

Invest in the
Trusted Mideast
News source.
We are on the
front lines.

Personalize Your News
Upgrade your experience by choosing the categories that matter most to you.
Click on the icon to add the category to your Personalize news
Browse Categories and Topics
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.
Wake up to the Trusted Mideast News source Mideast Daily News Email
By subscribing, you agree to The Media Line terms of use and privacy policy.