Yemen bomb shows need for Mr Hadi

The return of Yemen’s president is necessary to stop sectarianism taking hold

Yemeni president Hadi  visits the headquarters of the UAE force in Aden. (Wam)
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From the perspective of the UAE, it was pleasing to hear of the visit of Yemen’s president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi to the headquarters of the UAE’s forces in Aden on Friday. Mr Hadi expressed his gratitude for the sacrifices that Emirati troops had made and continue to make in stabilising Yemen as part of the Saudi-led coalition. Those words will bring comfort to the families of the martyred in this country.

The day before Mr Hadi visited UAE troops, two explosions in a Sanaa mosque provided proof – if more proof were needed – of why it is so important that stability and legitimate government is returned to Yemen. A group claiming loyalty to ISIL claimed the double-suicide bombing of a mosque frequented by Houthi supporters in the capital, killing at least 25 people.

ISIL’s strategy in Yemen is clear; it is the same strategy it used to such devastating effect in Iraq. By attacking Shia communities, it seeks to position itself as the true “champions” of Sunni Muslims. This is exactly what it did in Iraq, drawing its support from Sunnis in the western provinces who were sidelined by the sectarianism of Nouri Al Maliki.

That strategy must not be allowed to take root in Yemen. Firstly, Yemen’s Sunni community does not need any champions – it has the legitimate government in Sanaa to do that. Nor is the quarrel that Yemen and its allies have with the Houthi rebels anything to do with their faith. The Houthis are a relatively small offshoot of Yemen’s Shia Muslims – they do not represent all of the country’s Shia community, any more than Al Qaeda or ISIL represents all of its Sunni population. But just as Al Qaeda has flourished in the absence of strong government, so have the Houthi rebels – with assistance from supporters of the deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh – been able to take advantage of growing instability to mount a takeover. It is for that reason that Yemen needs Mr Hadi back in Sanaa. The best defence against instability is a strong government that has legitimacy from all sectors of Yemen’s society.

It is also why the two-pronged approach taken by the UAE in Aden is so important. For it is not merely a question of getting rid of the Houthi rebels. Cities and the country will have to be rebuilt, as the UAE is helping to do through its extensive funding of aid. Only by doing both will the country be rid not only of the Houthis’ control, butalso of the sectarian way of thinking.