Cap. 10 The poisoned well ( (In 1963 an urban insurrection began in Aden…
Cap. 10 The poisoned well
Aden was the first Arab territory the British acquired and virtually the last it relinquished, 128 years later.
Haines arrived with two warships and 700 men and captured it in the name of Queen Victoria. For the next hundred years, it was run from the government of India in Bombay, rather than from London.
Potential aggressors: France, the Ottoman empire and the Imam. Britain eventually signed a treaty with him in 1934. In 1937 Britain declared Aden to be a Crown Colony: British sovereign territory which would no longer be governed from Bombay but from the Colonial Office in London.
Aden prospered. After the Second World War, it became the world’s second-busiest port. it was by now a military base with a vital strategic role for the British empire. But in the 1950s, The successful coup in Egypt in 1952, and the rise of Nasser as the champion of Arab nationalism electrified the region
Sultan Ali Abdul-Karim, ruler of Lahej, was a troublemaker for the british
In 1954, British Petroleum opened a big new refinery in Aden, after its expulsion from Abadan, at a cost of £45 million. By the mid-1950s there were 50,000 Yemeni workers in Aden, the largest group in a population of 138,000
British officials insisted that voting for the Legislative Council, a body set up in 1946, should be restricted to those born in the colony and British subjects long resident there. Foreigners who had settled there could vote, but native Yemenis could not.
British officials had proposed bringing the states of the protectorate together in a federation, but the local rulers—jealous of their autonomy—had rejected the idea.
The main advocate was Kennedy Trevaskis.
A British official, Lord Lloyd in May 1956 made it clear that a degree of self-government was the most Britain would offer. Independence was not on the cards.
British officials were becoming increasingly suspicious of the ruler of Lahej, and of his close association with Muhammad Ali Jifri, leader
of a nationalist group called the South Arabian League, founded in 1951.
In April 1958 William Luce, governor of Aden, decided to act against Sultan Ali and his nationalist associates. He gave orders for the arrest of Jifri and put pressure on Ali to abdicate. At the end, Ali chose exile in Cairo, where he made common cause with Nasser
Luce was at first cool to the idea of federation, but Trevaskis swung him round. In March 1958 the governor of Aden called for the setting-up of a federation, combined with a ten-year strategy for ‘a gradual disengagement from our position in south-west Arabia’.
The federation would be heavily dependent on British help, and the governor would retain considerable powers, especially in defence and security. It did not embrace the whole of the protectorate, but six (and eventually twelve) of the western states. Britain blessed the union with £5 million of aid for development and the creation of a federal army
A significant development of the mid-1950s was the emergence of the Aden Trades Union Congress. This was led by Abdullah al-Asnag, a young nationalist, born in Crater in 1934
The aims of the ATUC, which got help from its British counterpart, were as much political as economic. In 1961 the movement set up a political arm, the People’s Socialist Party.
The threads that wanted reduced Imam influence in south Arabia didn't succeed.
Meanwhile, there was the question of whether Aden should join the federation. Al-Asnag led the opposition to the plan in Aden, and in the run-up to the merger the colony experienced considerable
unrest. But in the end the British pushed it through.
But in the end, the British pushed it through. The merger took place in September 1962. The following day, the Imam was overthrown in a revolution backed by Egypt. The Yemen Arab Republic was born.
The revolution changed everything. It triggered a Yemeni civil war in which Nasser supported the revolutionaries and Saudi Arabia (and British mercenaries) backed the monarchists.
In 1963 an urban insurrection began in Aden which continued, with greater or lesser intensity, until the British withdrawal in 1967. A grenade was thrown at Trevaskis. He declared a state of emergency:
With elections for the Legislative Council looming, Trevaskis resorted to ‘a substantial dose of keeni-meeni’ to undermine Abdullah al-Asnag’s People’s Socialist Party
In April 1964 Nasser flew to Yemen to give his personal blessing to the struggle against British colonialism in south Arabia. Soon he had 70,000 Egyptian troops in Yemen, who were to become bogged down in an entanglement for which they and their country paid a high price.
Violence escalated in the western protectorate. The revolt was local in origin but quickly taken over by the National Liberation Front, under the leadership of Qahtan al-Shabi
A Labour government came to power in Britain in October 1964. Harold Wilson and his defence minister Denis Healey entered office with the intention of retaining a British role ‘east of Suez’. But they changed their minds after concluding that Britain’s position in south Arabia was both politically and economically untenable. The decision to withdraw was taken in mid-1965 but not made public until early 1966.
In the meantime, the new Colonial Secretary, Anthony Greenwood, replaced Trevaskis with Sir Richard Turnbull, and set about trying to woo Abdullah al-Asnag, whom he regarded as a potential leader of south Arabia
In May 1965 Nasser brought the rival Arabian factions together under al-Asnag. This became known as the Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen ( Flosy) .
There were now two main contenders for power Flosy, which accepted Egyptian tutelage, and the NLF, which rejected it. In a bid to weaken the NLF, Nasser put its leader, Qahtan al Shabi, under virtual house arrest in Cairo
The collapse of order in Aden led to the imposition of direct rule in September 1965
the British government took the fateful decision not only to abandon the base but also to revoke all defence commitments to south Arabia.
Two developments precipitated the end. The first was Nasser’s humiliating defeat by Israel in the June War of 1967. This forced him to withdraw his forces from Yemen and his support from Flosy. The second was the mutiny which broke out in the federal army and police, which had been infiltrated by the NLF
In November 1967 negotiations took place between Britain and the NLF in Geneva. By the
end of the month, the British had withdrawn and the NLF, under Qahtan al Shabi, had taken over. The withdrawal was an imperial humiliation
Alexa Esther Castillo Alamilla
24 de octubre de 2019