by Russ McSpadden / Earth First! News
According to compiled reports from the Yemen Times over 60 acts of industrial sabotage have taken place since January within the tribal area of the Marib governorate in Yemen, cutting power to Sana’a, the nation’s capital 170 miles to the east, and crippling the government’s oil and gas infrastructure. Oil and gas revenue provides 70 percent of the state’s budget.
Media sources have not been able to explain the reason behind the attacks, but Yemeni sources all point to armed tribespeople in Marib. Attacks on Yemen’s oil and gas pipelines and electric grid greatly escalated following the eruption of protests against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. Officials in Yemen have argued that the tribes are loyalists of the former president while other, unnamed sources, have proclaimed the tribes to be separatists from the concept of central government all together, functioning in a power vacuum.
According to the Yemen Post, “Residents in the capital Sana’a have had to endure long spells of darkness over the past couple of weeks as power lines were attacked within hours of their repair, leaving people no respite what so ever. While Yemenis are accustomed to blackouts, never before did the capital face so many and lengthy power outages.”
In mid June, the Public Electricity Corporation in Yemen issued a statement requesting more government and military support to suppress the attacks, warning that the power station could collapse completely if attacks continued.
Between January 1 and June 24, there have been 18 attacks on Yemen’s main pipeline, which runs through Marib to the coast for export. Another attack struck the pipeline on June 27th. According to Yemeni officials, armed members of tribes blocked the road leading to the area of the pipeline that had been attacked, preventing technical crews from making repairs. Yemeni troops were sent to reopen the road. Clashes between government forces and the tribes are expected.
Back in December of 2012, the Yemeni army launched an offensive against suspected groups of saboteurs. Twenty people were killed but infrastructure attacks only increased.
It remains unclear which tribes, or which groups within the region’s tribes, are carrying out the attacks. Earlier in June, the largest tribes in Marib, the Al Hutaik and Al Jardan tribes signed, according to the Yemen Times, “a tribal order declaring the legality of executing those behind oil and gas pipeline attacks.” Similar decrees were signed last year as well without results.
Yemen’s oil production has declined from more than 400,000 barrels per day at the beginning of 2000 to the current 270,000 barrels per day when the pipeline actually flows.