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Exclusive - Fate of Sanaa General People’s Congress Thwarts Regrouping Efforts

Exclusive - Fate of Sanaa General People’s Congress Thwarts Regrouping Efforts

Monday, 29 October, 2018 - 08:15
Members of the General People's Congress party attend a meeting of the party's leadership in Sanaa, Yemen January 7, 2018. (Reuters)
Cairo, London – Ali Rabih and Badr al-Qahtani
Differences between General People’s Congress (GPC) leaders living inside and outside of Yemen have hampered efforts to regroup the party after the assassination of its founder and chief, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The differences center on coordination between GPC leaders living Sanaa, which is controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militias, and Congress members living abroad. Disputes have emerged over the nature of the relations between these two branches given that one is forcefully subject to the will of the Houthis.

Efforts to form a united GPC leadership abroad have been hampered by these divisions.

Saleh was killed by the Houthis in December after he announced that he was severing his alliance with them and seeking to open a new chapter in ties with the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

His death left the GPC divided between figures forced to yield to the Houthis and others still loyal to their slain former leader. Others still bore lingering negative sentiments towards current Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and distanced themselves from the legitimate forces, while others opted to join his camp.

Efforts had been underway during the past two months to regroup the GPC, whose members had fled Yemen after Saleh’s murder. The members have settled in Cairo, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Muscat, while others have remained in Yemen. Hadi had traveled to Cairo in August in an effort to unite the two branches of the GPC.

The divide between them came to light in recent days through tweets by prominent leaders Abou Bakr al-Qorbi and Sultan al-Burkani, both of whom occupied the position of assistant secretary in the Saleh-led GPC wing.

Qorbi, who also served as Yemeni foreign minister, said that the purpose of the formation of a leadership abroad would not be a departure from the Sanaa leadership, which was established under the command of Sadiq Amin Abou Rass. It was formed soon after Saleh’s murder.

Burkani, meanwhile, said that the united leadership would not be linked to the Sanaa branch, whose voice has been usurped by the Houthis.

Qorbi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Cairo meetings were aimed at uniting the GPC branches so that they could reach a joint vision for the party and push it forward to achieve peace in Yemen.

Uniting the GPC will give the legitimate forces a powerful player on the international scene that will help champion their fight against the Houthi coup.

The GPC members residing outside of Yemen are an integral part the internal branch of the party, stressed Qorbi.

The united leadership would help coordinate and organize the GPC activities abroad and unite their ranks in Yemen, he explained.

Burkani countered Qorbi’s statements, by saying that they only reflected his own position.

He described as “sad” Qorbi’s stance, adding that the formation of the committee is aimed at uniting the external branch of the GPC, not linking it to the internal one.

“Has Qorbi forgotten Saleh’s blood that has been shed by the Houthis?” he asked.

The members of the Sanaa GPC are simply pawns in Houthi hands, he warned.

Burkani could not be reached by Asharq Al-Awsat for comment. Qorbi also refused to comment on Burkani’s remarks.

Burkani had sought in recent months to achieve rapprochement between pro-Saleh and pro-Hadi GPC members.

Earlier this month, Abou Rass had issued a decree appointing Saleh’s son, Ahmed Ali, as a member of the GPC’s permanent main committee.

Meanwhile, GPC sources revealed that the party’s ongoing meetings in Cairo had reached an agreement to form a committee tasked with managing its foreign affairs. It is comprised of Ahmed Ali Saleh, Burkani and Qorbi. Calls have been made for other officials to be included in it.

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