For once the description “historic” was no exaggeration when, on 3 February 2019, Pope Francis I stepped foot on the Arabian peninsula. This was the first time, since the establishment of the Muslim faith fourteen centuries ago, that a pontiff had ever done so. He was visiting the Sunni Gulf state of the UAE (the United Arab Emirates), at the invitation of its crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The visit was arranged to demonstrate the reality behind the UAE’s designation of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance.
Within ten months of his appointment as UN Special Envoy for Yemen, British born Martin Griffiths has succeeded in what has for years been regarded as the near-impossible – bringing the two main protagonists in the Yemen conflict to the negotiating table.
Yemen has become a vast battlefield, the scene of unending armed conflict. As a result the civilian population is now in the throes of what is universally described as “the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.” On the brink of famine, the nation faces mounting rubbish, failing sewerage and wrecked water supplies, all of which have led to the worst cholera outbreak in recent history. The UN reckons three-quarters of Yemen’s 28 million people need some kind of humanitarian aid. What has led to this catastrophic state of affairs? Even more relevant, of course, is what can be done to bring it…
Yemen has further split with Aden under the control of southern separatist movements. Fighting broke out after the government ignored a separatist demand for the Prime Minister and his cabinet to be dismissed. Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr was widely blamed for food shortages in the region, and this is also a major blow for Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is already battling Houthi rebels in the north.