Yemen Marib’s power supply saboteurs blame US drone strikes

By Saeed Ali al-Yousifi

Yemen ObserverImage

Marib, March 25- The local Marib province electricity-attacking network say they feel ashamed when the Shabwani family is mentioned in the media, but they have their own grievances as electricity passes through areas denied electricity services. Mohammed al-Shabwani, a local resident, said that amount of electricity allocated to Marib does not meet the minimum necessary requirements.

According to the statistics of the Electricity Foundation based in Marib, the estimated amount of electricity allocated to Marib reaches about 10 megawatts out of the total 400.

More than 75% of locals don’t have access to electricity while only 25% in two districts (Marib al-Wadi and Marib City districts) have access to sporadic supplies of electricity which  does not exceed 14 hours per day.

Electric power from Safer gas station (60 km east of Marib province) is transmitted to the Dhahban station in Sana’a via cables that carry high pressure of about 400 megawatts, carried on 480 electric pylons.

In these two districts alone there are about 6600 artesian wells (according to an agricultural census of 2002). Experts in the agricultural sector estimate that more than a quarter of farms depend on electricity for the extraction of ground water during which each pump consumes about 30 kilowatts.

The power supply passes through the Midghal and Megzar districts in Marib to Nihm and Bani Hushaish in Sana’a, in which the central government was weakened by the last year of anti-government protest.

In 2011, the power network was severely attacked in the Nihm district of Sana’a by anti-government armed tribes as well as some saboteurs in Marib province.

 “It was hard to fix it then [in 2011] as it was believed that with the power off, it would serve rival ends in the country,” said a local Marib source, who wished to remain anonymous.

“Forming the reconciliation government with the electricity portfolio handed over to the former opposition coalition, has alleviated the rivalry and the repair began gradually. However, no sooner was the damage is fixed than the power network was destroyed again, which made the political parties in the country accuse each other of destroying the electricity supply, inciting the different factions,” the local source added.

According to the National Information Center, Marib is ranked the third highest agriculturally productive province in the country, reaching 7.6%.

For some, their motives for attacking the electricity supply is that they want jobs and opportunities for their sons, which was addressed by some tribal leaders.  “Unfortunately some people have exploited the whole situation by asking for money, threatening to attack the electricity supply,” the local source said.

Al Samrah, a Marib family, is said to have attacked the electricity supply a week ago, demanding money. Twenty year-old Abdullah Saleh Gulhum of the al-Shabwani tribe, attacked an electricity pylon on 25 March, demanding a job, but his request has not been met.

Victims of U.S. drone strikes constituted that the majority of locals attacked the electricity supply because their demands for compensation after the attack were not addressed. Fahd al-Shabwani, an uncle of Jaber al-Shabwani, who was mistakenly attacked in May 2010 by an unmanned U.S. drone, was present during the attack that also amputated Fahd’s two legs. Fahd has attacked the power supply with his family members, demanding compensation as a result of the U.S. attack.

In al-Jida’an area, sons of Saeed Khorsan (one of al-Qaeda members who was killed in Midghal district in last January during clashes with security forces) have launched several attacks against electricity network asking for compensation for their father’s car which was destroyed during an attack.

A local resident said that the process of destruction does not require more than one cable to be thrown on the network, leading to the connection between the various cables, creating a short circuit, and causing a breakdown in electricity.

The main Gas Power Station has not been attacked since it was established in 2009, except in May 2009 when Jaber al-Shabwani was mistakenly killed in the U.S. drone attack targeting al-Qaeda hideouts in Marib.

An official at the gas station in Marib said that in order for the people to get secured power, all electricity-related issues must be addressed either in Marib or in areas stretching along the power network roads. “But in light of the deteriorating security situation of which the end is not easily determined”, the electricity official said, “the network should be guarded by locals living along the network roads.”


Additional reporting by Shuaib M. al-Mosawa

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