Degraded services in Houthi-controlled areas due to infighting

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Yemeni fighters loyal to the Houthis stand with Kalashnikov assault rifles during a tribal meeting in Sanaa on September 21st. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Yemeni fighters loyal to the Houthis stand with Kalashnikov assault rifles during a tribal meeting in Sanaa on September 21st. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

As internal conflicts between the leaders of the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) rage on, Yemeni citizens are paying the price through the deterioration of public services in areas under the militia's control.

Infighting in the militia's ranks over influence and access to funds has negatively impacted the operation of public institutions, as Houthi leaders put officials loyal to them in key positions to ensure the uninterrupted flow of revenue to the militia's coffers, experts say.

The conflict between Houthi leaders burst out in the open in May 2019, when Sultan al-Sameie, member of the Houthis' so-called supreme political council, openly attacked Ahmed Hamed, the director of the president's office in the Houthi-controlled government.

Al-Sameie accused Hamed, who is loyal to the supreme council's president Mahdi al-Mashat, of corruption and the embezzlement of billions.

He also accused Houthi leaders of widespread abuse and corruption at the highest levels.

Soon after, Hamed attacked back, accusing al-Sameie of collaboration with foreign entities, corruption, bribery and smuggling that allegedly garnered millions.

Meanwhile, armed clashes have erupted in the past few months between Houthi leaders in the provinces of Ibb and Amran, local media reported.

Militia leaders in Ibb and Amran also were dismissed on charges of corruption and replaced with leaders from Saada province.

Direct impact on citizens

"The armed clashes that erupted between Houthi leaders were over the revenues of local institutions in their provinces," said lawyer and human rights activist Abdul Rahman Barman.

A number of local leaders were killed in these armed clashes, he told Al-Mashareq.

Corruption has also led some of the Houthi leaders in those provinces to confiscate private properties "as their first and foremost goal is to amass money".

As a result, the services provided by revenue-generating institutions in Houthi-controlled provinces are dwindling, he said, noting that they have now turned into "institutions whose purpose is to forcibly collect money from residents".

The conflict between Houthi leaders has trickled down to lower-level operatives, Barman said, "resulting in struggles over administrative positions and a competition for revenue-generating institutions at all levels".

The Houthi leaders' attention "is not on improving performance but on increasing revenue", he stressed.

This has compounded the residents’ suffering due to the deterioration of services provided by these institutions, especially in the health, water and education sectors, he added.

Houthis appoint 'loyal leaders'

"The Houthis are using the charge of corruption to get rid of local leaders in some provinces and appoint leaders who are more loyal to them," political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq.

This trend became more pronounced following the death of Houthi leader Saleh al-Sammad, former head of the supreme political council, in an airstrike in 2018 and the appointment of al-Mashat in his place, al-Jalil said.

Al-Mashat tried to make changes in line with the interests of leaders who are close to him, he added.

The militia dismissed a number of deputy governors in the provinces of Ibb and Amran on charges of corruption and replaced them with Houthi loyalists from Saada province, instead of Sanaa or Dhamar, he said.

Houthi leaders from Saada are at the top of the militia's hierarchy, enjoying a higher status than leaders in Sanaa, Dhamar and other provinces under Houthi control.

The dismissals included the heads of service institutions, which has affected their performance, he said.

Raising taxes

Houthi leaders have been focusing on raising local taxes and fees and imposing other fees to pay for the war, which are collected by force, economist Abdul Aziz Thabet told Al-Mashareq.

This has led to an increase in violations committed against citizens, their interests and property, he said.

"The Traffic Authority increased the fees for car registration renewal and driver's license renewal threefold, at a time when residents are facing the loss of their jobs, suspension of salaries and rising poverty and unemployment," he said.

This violates the rights and interests of residents, Thabet said.

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