The war-torn country announced a power-sharing government this weekend, but it excludes women for the first time in 20 years.
Yemeni women’s activists denounced the new power-sharing government in Yemen over its omittance of women for the first time in two decades.
In December, a feminist movement launched a campaign on social media titled, “No Women, No Government”, which described this action as an "unfair discrimination against women’s rights to political participation".
"While we appreciate the formation of the government as a fruit of consensus among Yemeni political powers in the Riyadh agreement, we denounce women's exclusion from the government," it added in the statement signed by over 70 youth and women’s networks.
The government was sworn in on Saturday with a 24-member cabinet representing major political blocs in Yemen, headed by Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik.
The formation of the government is part of an effort to end a power struggle between the Saudi-backed government of Abdrabbu Mansur Hadi, and the UAE-backed separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC), both officially in coalition against the Iran-backed Houthis. The rivalry between the two Gulf powers has complicated international efforts to end the Yemen war, which has raged since 2014.
The women’s groups stated that the lack of women in the new cabinet violated the National Dialogue Conference, which convened from 2013 to 2014, and the results of which were to be the basis of the constitution. The signed document put a 30 percent quota for women in government.
Anadolu Agency also reported objections to the cabinet from within, including 12 lawmakers from the Tihama region who, in a written letter, opposed the formation of a new government without a minister from their region, which includes the provinces of Hudaida, Rayma, Mahwit and Hajjah. Hudaida, the main port city in Yemen, is the entryway for over 70 percent of food, humanitarian supplies, and other goods entering the country. It was the site of a major struggle between the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-backed Houthis in 2018, deeping the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The new Minister of Local Administration, Hussain Abdul Rahman, also reportedly refused to travel to Riyadh to take his oath before President Mansur Hadi, in accordance with the Riyadh Agreement, which states that the ministers were to be sworn in before the president in the southern Yemeni city of Aden.
Reviving the Riyadh Agreement
The government was formed under the Saudi-initiated Riyadh Agreement, which was signed between the internationally-recognised government and the STC in November 2019, after weeks of bloody clashes between the two sides.
The aims of the deal were twofold: to put an end to the military confrontations and help overcome Saudi-UAE differences in Yemen and strengthen strategic relations to “re-focus efforts on bringing an end to the conflict with the Iran-backed Houthis”.
According to the deal, a new government would be formed in Aden, and all military forces would be integrated into the unified defence and interior ministries. The agreement also stated a desire to “revive the role of all state institutions, create job opportunities for Yemenis, ensure payment of overdue salaries, increase the capabilities of state institutions...[ensure that] all state revenues (including oil exports, customs, etc.)...be deposited in the central bank of Aden” and other other civil, social, and economic stipulations.
Experts thought the agreement’s vague language would make its implementation challenging.
And it was not implemented.
In April 2020, the STC declared self rule, and a series of negotiations in the following months led to a reactivation of the deal in July. On December 10, the coalition announced that the parties that signed the Riyadh Agreement had agreed to form a new government.
Despite the formation of the government many political, economic, social and civic hurdles remain: hundreds took to the street in the southern city of Taiz on December 19 in a “revolution of the hungry” to protest a deteriorating currency and economy; the Hadi government, whom they accused of living in Saudi hotels distant from the struggles of ordinary citizens; the Saudi-led coalition; and the Houthis.
Both the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthis have been accused of war crimes, as civilians continue to bear the brunt of the devastating war. Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, has been embroiled in conflict since 2014 and has seen an estimated 233,000 deaths, including over 130,000 from indirect causes like starvation, lack of health services and infrastructure.