SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A key Yemeni panel tasked with devising a new system to address the local grievances that have fed the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation's instability agreed Monday to transform the country into a state of six regions.
But the system of federalism chosen by the panel, to have six regions rather than two, is opposed by southerners who feel dominated by the more populous north.
The decision comes at the end of two weeks of talks by delegates from across the country on a new political map to end decades of centralization that fed internal conflicts in the north and south. The federalism plan will be included in the new constitution, to be put to a referendum.
The panel led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi announced its decision that there will be two regions in the south — Aden and Hadramawt — and four in the north — Saba, Jenad, Tihama and Azal. Sanaa, the capital, will not be affiliated to a region, while Aden, the largest city in the south, will have special status giving it more power than the province in which it is located.
The plan is opposed by many politicians in southern Yemen, once an independent state, who have demanded that there be only two regions. Four provinces in the north would have more power than only two in the south, they say.
In recent years the central government has faced a southern secessionist movement, as well as a six-year insurgency in the north led by the Hawthi tribe, members of a Shiite sect, that officially ended in 2010. However, a recent escalation in fighting between the Hawthis and ultraconservative Sunni tribesmen has turned several northern cities into war zones.
Both groups rose up against what they describe as discrimination by the central government under ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh who was removed from power following uprisings in 2011.
The government is also challenged by radical groups outside the political process, notably al-Qaida. Washington considers al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to be the terror network's most dangerous offshoot.
The 21-member panel included representatives of Yemen's main political parties, civil society, youth and women.