Serious Challenges Remain In Yemen's Transition Process: UN Official

A senior United Nations official warned Thursday that serious challenges remain in Yemen's political transition process despite the recent opening of the national dialogue conference, including the ongoing unrest in the south of the country.

Nevertheless, Special Adviser Jamal Benomar described the national dialogue conference, which will lead to a constitution-making process and pave the way for general elections in 2014, as a "major milestone for Yemen's political transition Yemen.

Speaking to reporters in New York after briefing the Security Council in a closed-door session, Benomar noted that Yemen is the only example in the region of a peaceful negotiated transition that is based on a comprehensive roadmap and a genuine national dialogue.

"The National Dialogue Conference has opened a new chapter in the transition for which Yemenis are now writing their own pages… They are now deciding their own future. Groups, which only a year ago were engaged in armed clashes, are now gathering in the same hall discussing a common future for their country," he said.

Benomar, however, warned that "serious" challenges remain in Yemen, including unrest in the south of the country. Currently a civil disobedience movement demanding a peaceful secession from the rest of Yemen is now attracting large numbers to the streets in the south.

"The calls for secession have grown. After nearly two decades of discrimination, repression, and unaddressed legitimate grievances, the people in the south are weary and skeptical of promises of reform," he said.

Urging the Yemeni government to undertake immediate confidence-building measures in the south to address the long-standing grievances of southerners, Benomar said many of the leaders in the south "have reaffirmed to me their rejection of violence and their commitment to dialogue."

Yemen has been undergoing a democratic transition process under a National Unity government headed by President Hadi, who came to power in the February 2011 election. A Transition Agreement signed later that year outlined a clear path for fundamental reforms of governance systems in the wake of the resignation of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh under a peace initiative mediated by the GCC grouping of Gulf States.

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