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Why southern Yemen is pushing for secession

With bleak housing blocks and rusty wrecks for taxis, south Yemen residents pushing for secession say they've been sidelined by the government.

Anti-government protesters shout slogans as they carry a flag of former South Yemen during a rally in al-Malah December 7. The rally was organized by the Southern Movement, a group calling for the south of Yemen to secede from the north.


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As Yemen struggles to quell Houthi rebels in the north, a secession movement gathering steam in the south threatens to deprive the central government of badly needed resources. While outside analysts have become increasingly concerned that the two conflicts are creating an unstable state where Al Qaeda could more freely operate, the chief domestic concern is more pressing: survival.

“The south has all the resources and only one third of the population. We cannot allow them to secede,” said a member of the opposition party Islah in the capital, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the party. “Northerners will fight to keep Yemen together. They know it is a matter of survival.”

More than 70 percent of Yemen’s revenue comes from its oil exports. Studies by both the World Bank and the United Nations Development Fund predict a precipitous decline in Yemeni oil production over the next five years, raising the stakes for control of the dwindling supplies.

“Eighty percent of Yemen’s oil comes from the south but where does the money go? It goes to Sanaa,” the capital, said a member of the Yemeni Socialist Party in Aden who did not want to be named for fear of government reprisal. “The people of the south have not benefited from any of this wealth and now it is running out.”


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