On December 5th 2018 the Yemeni Government and Houthi rebels met face to face in Rimbo, Sweden to coordinate a peace agreement that would help bring an end to the civil war in Yemen.
These two parties have been fighting each other for nearly four years and as a result, have created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the twenty-first century. Since the civil war began up to 50,000 citizens have been killed in combat and 85,000 children have died due to starvation. Currently, 22 million Yemenis are internally displaced and 14 million are on the brink of famine.
With neither side willing to surrender the United Nations was forced to intervene. The UN has tried to mediate discussions between the Yemeni Government and the Houthi’s in the past, hosting a meeting between the two parties back in 2016 in Kuwait. However, the meeting ended with both parties rejecting the UN’s proposals.
Fortunately, the discussions in Rimbo were more successful. After a week of consultations both the Yemeni Government and the Houthi’s managed to reach some common ground.
Both parties have agreed to a mass prisoner release which would see both sides exchange thousands of citizens they have detained over the last four years. Both the Yemeni Government and the Houthi’s are writing up lists of people they want to be released and have until the 20th of January to finalize these details. If this exchange is successful it will see 15,000 people walk free.
The warring sides have also agreed to cease fighting in the city of Taiz, which has been a major battleground during the civil war. Taiz is one of Yemen’s more populated cities and due to the ongoing fighting has resulted in a high number of deaths.
The Houthi’s have also agreed to withdraw troops from ports in Hodeidah. The rebels have had a stranglehold on this city since 2014 and have had numerous battles with the Yemeni Government in order to maintain control.
Both parties were supposed to start removing troops from Hodeidah on the 18th of December but were instead found shooting at one another. It is unclear what triggered this battle but UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, reported that there has been no fighting since the 18th and that both parties are expected to remove troops by the 7th of January, 2019.
Once both parties are removed from the area, Griffiths hopes to implement a joint committee that would control Hodeidah and would be supervised by the United Nations. However, this proposal is still in the drafting stage and is subject to change depending on whether the Government and rebels are able to co-exist.
The crisis in Yemen is by no means a quick fix, but the discussions in Rimbo are certainly a step in the right direction. The Houthi’s and Yemeni Government have also agreed to meet for further discussions on the 31st of January, 2019. Hopefully, by then all prisoners will be released and the violence in Hodeidah and Taiz will have deescalated.