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Houthi rebels announced they were assuming country of Yemen on Friday.  (Image:  Google maps)

Yemen: Shiite Rebels Announce Takeover of Country

Houthis issue "constitutional declaration" amid continuing unrest

Andrea Germanos

Unrest continues in Yemen on Friday as Shiite Houthi rebels announced a "constitutional declaration" and that they were assuming control of the country.

The group issued the statement in a televised address from the Sunni majority country's capital of Sana'a.

A 551-member Transitional National Council would be formed to replace the parliament, and that body would appoint a 5-member council to assume the presidential role during a "transitional period," according to their statement.

President Abed Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Khaled Bahah, and members of the Yemeni cabinet resigned last month after the rebels had reportedly seized the presidential palace. 

The Houthis' announcement follows a Wednesday deadline set by the rebels for political parties to "to reach a solution and fill the vacuum."

That power vacuum, however, did not appear to prevent U.S. drone strikes on the impoverished country.

From the New York Times:

“The revolutionary movement has always been quick, it won’t take that long,” said Ali al-Imad, a member of the Houthi political bureau. “It’s not important when, so much as it is that we now have a political road map.”

Independent journalist Iona Craig, who was based in Yemen or four years until December, tweeted Friday that the Houthi's action was essentially formalizing a coup:

The Houthis have been described in media reports as being backed by Iran, but Vijay Prashad, George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, dismisses this claim. As Inter Press Service reported last month:

On the one side, [Prashad] said, the government of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and then Hadi, suggested to the U.S. [the Houthis] were anti al-Qaeda.

But, on the other hand, they used the fact of al-Qaeda to go after their adversaries, including the Zaydis (Houthis).

“This double game was well known to the Americans. They went along with it. It is what allowed AQAP to take Jar and other regions of Yemen and hold them with some ease,” Prashad said.

He dismissed as “ridiculous” the allegation the Zaydis are “proxies of Iran”. He said they are a tribal confederacy that has faced the edge of the Saleh-Hadi sword.

Journalist and co-founder of the The Intercept Jeremy Scahill has stated that U.S.-backed former President Ali Abdullah Saleh "is sort of the not-so-hidden hand behind some of the power grab efforts of the Houthis."

Meanwhile, a humanitarian crisis continues to grip the lives of many Yemenis.

Anti-poverty organization Oxfam warned last month that over half the population was in need of aid, and that millions of Yemenis did not have enough to eat or have clean drinking water or basic healthcare services.

"It is simply unacceptable that the real story of 16 million Yemenis in need of help keeps going unnoticed," Grace Ommer, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen said. "Despite the challenges, we continue to deliver desperately needed aid to Yemenis in some of the poorest areas outside the capital. But if the international community continues to stand by and watch while Yemen risks going from a fragile to a failed state we will find it even harder to maintain this lifesaving support."


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