After months of local protests, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates-led coalition has given up control of Al-Ghayda airport in eastern Yemen according to Al Jazeera.
Local tribes in Al-Mahrah governorate have protested against Saudi-UAE military presence, undermining its goals in the country. The residents of Al-Mahrah had announced an open sit-in nearly three weeks ago, demanding the preservation of national sovereignty, the handing over of the two land outlets of Shahn and Sarfit and the Saudi military forces’ withdrawal from Nashtoon Port and Al-Ghaydah International Airport.
With conflict dynamics shifting in southern Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s projects in Al-Mahrah governorate are becoming tense. In November 2017 the Saudi-led coalition had an altercation with Al-Mahrah governorate security forces when it prevented Saudi forces from taking control of Al-Ghaydah airport. Whether the latest withdrawal from Al- Ghaydah is a display of frustration over Al-Mahrah governorate is yet to be seen.
The Saudi-led coalition was invited to enter the Yemen civil war by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in March 2015. Its main goals were to neutralise threats posed by the Houthi group emanating from northern Yemen. The UAE remains fixated with southern Yemen, even supporting the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which directly opposes Hadi’s government.
In December 2017 Saudi Arabia sent military reinforcements to be stationed at Al-Ghaydah International Airport and land and sea outlets, under the pretext of combating smuggling. Tribesmen and politicians rejected this at that time, before it reached agreements with the local authority to ensure the non-militarisation of life in the governorate which is known for being peaceful and avoiding political conflicts the country is witnessing.
Success in Al-Ghayda has inspired protests in Taiz, where Yemenis are protesting over the lack of governance, crime and food security according to Al Jazeera.