“If 2013 has been the year of anything in Yemen, it has been the year of the National Dialogue Conference. Conceived as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative that led to President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down in February 2012, the much-anticipated conference did not begin until March 2013. It started as it meant to go on, with President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s opening speech interrupted by Houthi delegate Ali Al-Bokhaiti, until Hadi showed him where the door was should he wish to use it. In that opening session, delegates from the Southern separatist Al-Hirak movement waved the flag of the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, popularly known as South Yemen. Chaotic scenes have been a fixture throughout, with the General Secretariat struggling to maintain order at times, or to enforce the strict time limits that speakers are supposed to stick to.
As of the first half of December, the national dialogue is still being talked about in the present tense precisely because it is continuing. That was not part of the plan. Scheduled to end in September, ongoing issues, specifically the Southern issue, have caused considerable delays, with constant assurances that a conclusion is near. The Southern separatists of Al-Hirak have repeatedly boycotted sessions or threatened to pull out completely. The leader of their delegation, Mohammed Ali Ahmed, has said that he has now pulled out completely, but he could not take all Al-Hirak delegates with him, a sign of the discord within the movement—the delegates to the national dialogue represent only a portion of the wider movement, many of whom boycotted the conference from the outset.”
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