Yemen's biggest telecoms company back under government control

The Ministry of Telecommunications and Information has moved Tele Yemen to Aden

THULA, AMRAN, YEMEN - February 3, 2010: A doctor speaks on a cell phone outside the Thula Hospital where the World Food Program has an assessment and distribution program. Yemen is the 3rd most malnourished country in the world, where 58 percent of the children suffer from malnourishment and 45 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. ( Ryan Carter / The National )
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Yemen’s Ministry of Telecommunications and Information has regained control of the country’s biggest telecommunications corporation from the Houthis and moved its headquarters out of rebel-held Sanaa to the interim capital of Aden.

Minister Lutfi Bashareef said that moving Tele Yemen will give the government more control over revenue brought in by the country’s sole telecommunications company capable of providing international service.

"The plan aims to deprive the Houthi militia of millions of dollars in income used to receive from the telecommunications service," Wagdi Al Sadi a spokesman in the Yemeni ministry of telecommunications and information told The National.

Mr Al Sadi called the headquarters move the ministry’s “second blow” to the Houthis. Until recently, the Houthis controlled Tele Yemen and the exclusive rights to provide the country’s 28 million access to international communications. To undercut their control, the ministry launched Aden Net in September of last year.

The newly appointed director of Yemen's biggest telecommunications company told employees to relocate to Aden. With the control of Tele Yemen back in the hands of the government and the launch of Aden Net, the government is now able to pressure telecommunications company to comply to standards or lose their license.

“When we launched Aden Net company in Aden, which was a high step taken to break the siege imposed by the rebels on the telecommunications, launching Aden Net was a first blow towards ending the Houthi monopoly over the service and stop their pillage for the public assets,” Mr Al Sadi said.

Mr Al Sadi called upon the private telecommunications companies such as MTN-Yemen, Yemen Mobile and Sabafon to join to register officially under their authority if they want to continue their investments in the sector.

According to the ministry, these private companies continue to function out of Sanaa are indirectly financing the rebels war efforts by paying the Houthis millions of dollars in taxes.

Between 2014 and 2017, the Houthis received $2 billion in taxes from the telecommunications companies functioning in Yemen. The UN sanctions committee, in a report in 2018, said these funds were used to finance the Houthi war effort.

“Keeping the link with the Houthis is unacceptable, we call them to move to Aden to work under the authority of the legitimate government of Yemen which is internationally recognized otherwise we have the right to replace them with new operators, “Mr Al Sadi added.