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Yemen separatists declare self-governance of south

Yemen separatists on Sunday declared self-governance of the country’s south, as a peace deal with the government crumbled, complicating its long conflict with the Iran-backed Huthi rebels who control much of the north.

The Southern Transitional Council accused the government of failing to perform its duties and of “conspiring” against the southern cause, and said self-governance had begun at midnight.

The breakdown between the one-time allies comes as the Saudi-led coalition, which backs the internationally recognised government in its battle against the Huthis, has extended a unilateral ceasefire aimed at fending off the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the olive branch, which the Huthis rejected, fighting persists in the war-torn country, which is already facing what the United Nations has termed the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Yemen’s southern separatists — who have long agitated for independence — signed a power-sharing deal in Riyadh last November that quelled a battle for the south which had seen them seize control of the second city of Aden.

However, the pact quickly became defunct, failing to meet deadlines for key measures including the formation of a new cabinet with equal representation for southerners, and the reorganisation of military forces.

“The STC declares self-governance in the south starting midnight on Saturday April 25th, 2020, and a self governing committee will start its work according to a list of tasks assigned by the council’s presidency,” the separatists said in a statement.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed over the past five years in the war between the government and the Huthi rebels.

Earlier this month, Yemen reported its first case of coronavirus in Hadramawt, a southern government-controlled province, raising fears of an outbreak.

Compounding the country’s troubles, at least 21 people were killed in flash flooding this month, with Aden’s streets submerged and homes destroyed.