Sana’a, May 21, 2011 — Tribesmen have attacked the electricity station four times since Tuesday, according to locals and the head of Marib station. Headed by Sheikh Naji Me’asar, the tribesmen belong to al-Jeda’an tribe from Nehm and have attacked the electricity lines in the absence of the security forces.
“In three days only, they [Al-Jeda’an] attacked four times,” Eng. Abdalrahaman Saif told the Yemen Times, “three attacks in Nehim itself and one in Abeeda.”
On May 10, local residents reported clashes between The Republican Guards and tribes from Nehim. Armed tribes tried to prevent guards from Hadramout from moving toward the capital. Yemeni government sources confirmed that Republican Guards used air strikes against the tribes.
According to Saif, the current electricity outage is the result of the May 10 clashes. He added that it is the shiekh’s response to the state for having attacked them on their land.
“They hit also yesterday after we repaired the power lines, the day before they hit the circle. It’s all due to the attack on Nehm by the Republican Guards,” said Saif. “There is no protection for the lines and those who hit the power lines are threatening work crews that are sent to make repairs.”
According to Saif, the main road from Sana’a to Mareb has almost 50 security check points, 30 of which are protected by tribesmen. The remaining checkpoints, he said, are under the control of plainclothes gunmen. As security forces have withdrawn from the main road, these gunmen have easier access to attack the power lines.
The Marib station consists of two power circles that provide 400 megawatts each. That accounts for 40 percent of the entire country’s electricity.
“Breaking the two circles makes a big gap to the whole nation now,” explained Saif. He added that state relies upon power lines from Hiziaz in the capital, and Al-Makha relies on a 260-megawatt steam station and a 500-megawatt diesel station.
Since the end of April, the Marib station has witnessed 11 attacks. Residents in the capital spend almost five continuous hours each day without power. Diesel shortages add to the problems of those who use private generators when the power is off.
Saif said the state tries to address the damage by repairing the broken power lines, but the tribesmen break it again once it has been repaired. The only way to end this problem, he said, is by getting other tribes to mediate between Al-Jeda’an and the state.
“We are trying to get a mediation from well-respected tribes such as Al-Shabwanis,” said Said.
Although Saif said Al-Shabwanis will mediate to protect the power lines in Mareb, Al-Shabwanis declined to mediate with Al-Jeda’an.
“Shiekh Me’asar is from Nehim, which is an area the followers of Sana’a governorate, and the power is cut from their side so we can’t mediate” said Ahmed Al-Shabwani.
“They [ Me’asar] have their own problem with the state, and we can’t interfere even if we were asked to mediate,” said Al-Shabwani. “They are the owner of that area.” He added that each tribe protects its own lands—and that it’s not possible to protect someone else’s area.
Recently, the government accused Al-Shabwanis of threatening to cut the power themselves in order to demand the state reveal facts related to the murder of Jaber Al-Shabwani, former Marib deputy governor. Jaber Al-Shabwani was known for convincing Al-Qeada member to submit themselves to the state. Publically, however, Al-Shabwanis has condemned attacks against power lines, saying electricity is a public service necessary to Yemeni citizens and power disruptions stand against the public interest.
“In our area, people are aware in general about the public interest,” Al-Shabwani explained. “We never cut the power or use this method to put pressure on the state. We did it only once last year in an angry time when they [the government] killed our brother.”