Ousted Yemeni President Declares Aden New Capital City

Yemen’s ousted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Aden after escaping from the Houthi Shiite militia controlling Yemen’s capital city Sanaa, has declared the southern port city of Aden as the country’s new capital city.

“Aden became the capital of Yemen as soon as the Houthis occupied Sanaa,” Hadi said over the weekend, referencing the takeover of the city in September 2014 by the Iranian-backed Houthis.

Reporting on the new declaration, the news site Middle East Online suggested:

“Hadi’s claim is purely symbolic, as moving the capital would require a change to the constitution, but it reflects the president’s determination to hold out against Houthi efforts to extend their sway.”

The southern city, the country’s second largest, was capital of the once independent south Yemen. Several Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have already moved their embassies to Aden after an exodus of foreign diplomats from Sanaa in February over security concerns, Al-Jazeera reported.

The Gulf states continue to support Hadi, as does Washington. Ruled by Sunni Muslim regimes, these states are deeply suspicious of the Houthis, fearing they are leading Yemen into the orbit of Shiite Iran.

The Houthis named a “presidential council” after Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahaa tendered their resignations in January in protest at what critics branded an attempted coup. Hadi fled house arrest in Sanaa and resurfaced in Aden, where he retracted his resignation and appealed to his allies at home and abroad for financial and political support for an alternative administration.

Meanwhile, the Houthi militants controlling Sanaa are trying to build ties with Iran, Russia and China to offset Western and Saudi support for the country’s ousted president, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We are doing what any new power does, and that is to seek international alliances that can help balance the new face of Yemeni politics,” said Ahmed Bahari, political director for the pro-Houthi Haqq Party.

[Photo: Ash Carter / Flickr photo CC 2.o]