Ould Cheikh's Surprise: Ending War in Yemen
02 April 2016
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
U.N. Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks to the
media after the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland in Bern December 20, 2015.
The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, deserves
appreciation for planning an integrated project to end the war in Yemen. The
plan will start with a ceasefire on the 10th of April. Ould Cheikh has laid
down a roadmap for the three committees of the parties involved and has set
the foundation for dialogue among warring factions based on Security Council
Eight days after the truce begins, negotiations will be held in Kuwait. Ould
Cheikh has defined five themes to be discussed then, which are withdrawal of
militias, handover of heavy and medium weapons to the government, agree on
temporary security arrangements, activate state institutions through public
dialogue among Yemenis and form a committee to resolve the issues of detainees
Of course, no one can guarantee that things will work out exactly as per the
detailed plan, which was developed by the international mediator. However, it
is clear that Ould Cheikh has reached out to all Yemeni parties and then
announced his plan in New York. He has also received support from various
powers, including the United States and Russia.
This plan constitutes future political plan. However, on the ground, today's
map reveals that the rebels, Houthi militia and the forces of ousted President
Ali Abdullah Saleh, have lost control and have started defending their areas
of origins, in Sana'a and some governorates like Saada. The new important
development on the ground lies in the fact that many of the local forces are
joining the military coalition; thus, rebels can no longer return to fight in
areas they lost or withdrew from.
Nevertheless, the answer for why rebels would accept negotiating now, knowing
well that they will lose, is simply because it is their only chance. After
failing to take over the country, they had two choices, either participate and
get a stake in the governance or end up with nothing.
Similarly, why would the coalition accept to negotiate if they are the winners
in this battle? One of the participants in the plan asked: ''Why doesn't the
campaign continue as most of the 22 provinces that make up this country have
been liberated, considering that the area of Yemen is more than that of Syria,
Lebanon and Jordan combined?'' His answer was that the goal of the military
campaign was not to neutralize any party but rather to restore the country's
''We did not want Yemen to be left in the hands of Yemeni groups by force of
arms,'' he added. ''If they accept to negotiate in accordance with the
Security Council resolution, it means that we have achieved the desired
objective of this war as neither of us wants to fight, and we don't want to
neutralize any party.'' It is better to resolve the conflict through
negotiating and making compromises. It is much better than a military victory
without a political solution.
Ould Cheikh's plan is based on the re-adoption of the GCC initiative, based on
which Saleh signed his resignation and gave Houthis the chance to participate
in the government. If parties in Yemen travel to Kuwait next month and agree
on the essentials, I think they will come up with reasonable solutions that
can end the war and restore legitimacy. Yemeni people would then reconstruct
the country and resume normal life. At least that is our hope.
Al Rashed is the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. He is also the
former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly
magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of
Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass
communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is
currently based in Dubai.