Yemen’s pro-secession Southern Movement kicked off its first meeting calling for independence for the south from the central government in Sanaa on Sunday, amid the boycott of more than 20 senior separatist leaders.
The prominent separatist leader, Ali Salem al-Baid, a former vice president who lives in exile, along with more than 20 high-ranking separatist leaders announced a day earlier that they had disagreements with the other factions of the pro-secession movement and boycotted the conference.
The three-day-long conference kicked off Sunday morning with the presence of Hassan Baoum, leader of the pro-secession Southern Movement, and attended by thousands of separatist youth activists in the Martyrs’ Square in the port city of Aden.
“We believe in peaceful protests to restore our independent southern republic, but the ability to control younger and more violent supporters is not our responsibility,” said Ali Haitham Ghareeb, one of the Southern Movement leaders.
“People in the south have the right to self-determination and at the same time we have the right to defend ourselves if they continue to kill us and imprison us violently without any causes,” he added.
In an opening statement, the participants said they have agreed on a number of principles and also stressed the importance the importance of “peaceful struggle as a strategy to achieve the south independence.”
“The leaders focused during the meeting on the necessity to unify all the separatist factions to achieve the southern people’s aspirations in the goal of advancing the fight for independence through non-violent means,” the separatist television station, Aden Live TV reported.
On Sunday, thousands of supporters of the South’s separatist movement staged a march in downtown Aden, where protesters peacefully brandished flags from the former People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, according to a Xinhua reporter in the city.
The newly elected President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour, first president from southern Yemen since the country’s two parts unified in 1990, pledged to southern secessionists that he will address their problems by launching a responsible national dialogue, within the framework of the constitutional institutions.
However, youth activists and politicians in southern part of the country, have dismissed Hadi’s call for the national dialogue that would include all political groups inside and outside the country, with many saying it was just a lifeless and empty gesture.