The exertion of UAE control in key strategic sites in war-torn Yemen, has been detrimental to the Yemeni economy.
According to a report by Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, five years of Emirati “occupation” has led to an almost complete disruption of the production and export of oil and gas in addition to disruption of port activity and airport operations.
According to observers and officials, the nine sites controlled by Abu Dhabi are Mukha, Bab El-Mandab, Aden, the port of the interim capital, Aden airport, Rayyan airport in Mukalla, Socotra, Mayon Island and Balhaf port in the oil producing Shabwa governorate in southern Yemen.
The recent Riyadh agreement between the Yemeni government and UAE-backed southern separatists, overseen by the Saudis was intended to quell the tensions that existed over Emirati support for the Southern Transitional Council (STC), whilst the Saudi-backed Yemeni government sought to maintain unity of the country.
Although a draft has been agreed upon, which entailed the handover of Aden to the government from the STC, informed sources say that the terms are vague regarding the issue of the UAE’s continued presence in strategic areas, in spite of the widely reported gradual withdrawal of UAE forces in recent weeks.
A consequence of this, is that Yemen has lost more than $5 billion directly, which could have been pumped into the state over the past five years due to a halt in oil and gas exports. Furthermore, about ten international companies who had invested in the oil and gas sector left Yemen in early 2015 and dozens of local companies working in this and other economic sectors stopped, leaving the UAE to step in and fill the void since mid-2016.
A recent report by the Ministry of Planning’s Economic Studies Sector, in collaboration with UNICEF, estimated the cost of lost opportunities in Yemen’s GDP as a result of the nearly five-year-old war at about $66 billion, reducing employment.
Current developments on the strategic Yemeni island of Socotra have witnessed growing anti-government sentiments, with protests and sit-ins aimed at ousting the governor, Ramzi Mahrouz, although it has been reported that the UAE has been building up logistically and increasing deployment of mercenaries, in an attempt to stage a coup.