Jane Marriott, British Ambassador to Yemen

Jane Marriott

British Ambassador to Yemen

Part of UK in Yemen

29th November 2013 Sana’a, Yemen

November 30 – a day to reflect

Today, November 30, marks the 46th anniversary of the independence of the southern part of Yemen from Britain.

Following my recent visit to Aden, I was touched by a story in the media reporting that I would be attending the unveiling of the cleaned and refurbished statue of Queen Victoria which sits in the Victoria Gardens in Aden.  Sadly, the story is not true, but it was a reminder of the warm feelings that many in Aden have towards the British – and that many British have towards Yemen.


But I think it is a sign, too, that we tend to idealise the past, and to some extent the future also. I see three trends in the National Dialogue Conference that has been unfolding not far from this Embassy in Sana’a:

–          an older generation, mainly from the south, who remember good times, good business, and order and modernity in the days of the British, and those from the north who can remember when life was hard and simple, but safe;

–          a middle generation who have lived through revolution and the turbulent years of the two republics, some prospering and some not but who remember too well the coups and counter-coups, and the bloody conflicts between north and south before and after unity;

–     and a younger generation full of ideals and hope, many aware of the opportunities that were wasted in the past and who desperately want to ensure that Yemen’s natural riches are managed to give them a safe and secure future.

It is a time for Yemenis to reflect on whether they made the best use of the opportunities that their republics, born in the 1960s, offered.  And likewise a time to consider very carefully which challenge is greater: to make the union work better, or to cut through all the structural ties – economic, social and institutional – in the knowledge that those broken ties will leave enormous voids.

Neither path is easy. We would be fooling ourselves to think that either of them will lead quickly to a brighter and better future.  We need to see the stability that will allow the economy to develop, major improvement in the quality of health services and education, the development and maintenance of infrastructure, and provision of security and justice, whichever path is taken.  There is no instant solution, and it will be hard and sometimes painful work. There are injustices and grievances felt by the south – many of which President Hadi is trying, in difficult circumstances, to address. The UN Trust Fund, with $350 million for pensions to the south, is a prime example – although quick disbursal will be essential.

To be frank, I have been a little disheartened by some of the debates going on in the National Dialogue that seem sometimes to lose sight of these pressing priorities for basic services, dignity and self-respect.  I know from my conversations with Yemenis in Sanaa, Aden, Taizz and Ibb that many, especially the young, feel the same way.  My personal view is that Yemenis will be stronger if they address these issues together.

Let us all hope that this anniversary gives everyone an opportunity to focus on what really matters.

7 comments on “November 30 – a day to reflect

  1. I do not know what to say in these days when we see our beloved brothers killed so boldly, from people have not any kind of sense of live even some times aggressive animals have some mercy in them but, the so called human beings absolutely haven’t. We are my dear therefore in the same boat.

  2. Dear Jane Marriott,
    I am sending my best wishes to your Excellency for a Happy 2014 New Year with seasons greetings.
    Your episode shed partial light on past memories of ours in Aden being a British Colony and the decades after the departure of the British troops from Aden.
    If I may introduce few corrections in respect of the independence said to be related to South Arabia. In fact South Arabia was a Federation of 21 Emirates, Sheikdoms,and Sultanates of the Eastern Protectorates, while the Eastern Protectorates of Hadramut and Al-Mahra refrained from joining the Federation which was declared in 1956 and 1959, Aden being the only British Colony joined in 1963 upon the signature of a 25 conditional Agreement witnessed by the High Commissioner then.
    In 30th November 1967 all these States where named to be parts of the newly invented Peoples Republic of South Yemen, revised later in June 1969 to read People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen which was at a later in May 1990 adjoined to the Yemen Arab Republic.
    From all this chaotic fiasco the people of Aden found themselves drastically heading no where and have been, and still subjected to vicious treatments through every stage of change. Independence was meant to be for Aden only , being the only British Colony among the mentioned States .
    Now the majority of Adeneese or Adenites born as British subjects forming the people of Aden raise an eligible question “when did we have our Independence?”, taking into consideration that Aden is the British Colony, and that the rest of so called ” South Arabia ” with or without “Hadramut and Al-Mahra” Sultanates where self ruled and basically independent and tied with HM Governments by conventions and individual agreements of friendships and protections, thus Protectorates.
    I trust that what had been said above will help to make a relevant overview of the Aden issues . at last .
    With my best regards


    Tareq AH. Ghanem

  3. Dear Jane
    I would like to wish you and all British subjects a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I could not resist though to share with you why Southern Yemenis may not as happy and festive like their British friends today Friday 27 December 2013. Criminal incident happened today in Sanah, a peaceful border village in Dhala in the true sense of a massacre. I opted not to load news captions or horrific photos on my understanding that they will be moderated. The perpetrator, as it seemed, was a soldier firing a tank shell on a peaceful gathering of a community mourners. While the incident is being investigated by a special committee, I felt the need to do my part to bring to Her Majesty’s Government attention the need to pay specific attention to these atrocities against the Southerners and the likely scenario of continued formation of similar committees in future.

  4. As a young lad I grew up in Ma’alla and counted the Colony as my home, which it was for almost five years. Like many others of my age I wish to return to see the place, briefly, for old times sake. Sadly, it’s not to be.

  5. You are talking about disappointment towards dialogue and we are disappointed by the reaction comes from representatives of major countries such as Britain and others seem to delay the issue of the southern and confined in a tight box ( human rights ) While it bigger and greater , Britain , although it occupied the south 129 years , but it did not destroy the South on the contrary, sought to unify: the opposite of what the occupier of Yemen in the south is doing since occupation of the south in 1994. The South suffered genocide that targeted human southern identity and the acts of killing and dragged and the imprisonment and torture of southerners as Menhjt looting the destruction of the land of the south Arabian all under the silence of a global shameful . Raseltna .. you people of the South ‘s past toward the liberation of the occupied South Yemen

  6. Dear Jane
    Truly appreciate your Excellency deep thoughts on the current issues facing Yemen and the pressing priorities. While basic needs are being die hard addressed, unanswered soft ones come to haunt any impact. You see, neither idealization of the past (my generations) nor romancing the future (NDC generation) could ever prequalify for a new phase or regenerate a “safe mode” geopolitical unity again. Being a Southerner who lived in both sides, I am just as disheartened as you are to see partitions heading to points of no return. I think the best way forward now is to encourage independent minded and non-partisan elite on both sides to fortify current pools of thought towards addressing the “identity” needs of nation. The right of self determination of the Southerners I think is a courageous root solution and a due entitlement, on the hind sight, well back to the independence of the South. It is a huge political task which involves, what I term, national programming preparations during a transition period. I pray to God though such programming will be tasked to those able to master it technically and away from political agendas. It will be the South white document and its first Nation Building Plan. A Basahi 02 December 2013.

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