Throughout the Yemen Civil War (2014-Present), and indeed throughout much of its history, the southern Arabian region of Hadhramaut has seen its course charted somewhat independently of its regional neighbours. In modern Yemen, what is traditionally considered to be Hadhramaut is made up of three governorates: al-Mahrah, bordering Oman, Hadhramaut, and parts of Shabwa. Often torn between competing ideologies in the north and south of modern Yemen - in addition to competing regional interests - Hadhramaut has managed to secure a degree of independence from the Yemeni state.
History & Foundations
Hadhramaut suffered under the kleptocratic and northern-centric rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen as president/dictator from 1990 to 2012; significant oil revenues were frequently pocketed by government and army officials, and investment in the governorate has been restricted. As a result, a sense of national belonging to a unified Yemen is much less in comparison to a strong sense of local, tribal Hadhrami identity.
Due to its geographical position relative to Houthi (Ansar Allah) held territory in the north of the country, Hadhramaut has largely not been exposed to Houthi-Government fighting, except for drone attacks on al-Dabba port (1) and oil terminal in November 2022 (2). Instead, it continues to play a strategic role for regional powers such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) , its proxy, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), and Saudi Arabia thanks to its vast mineral and oil resources. Hadhramaut is the richest governorate in Yemen in terms of natural resources, as well as possession 80% of the country’s oil fields, gold deposits, and natural gas (3). Given this context, Hadhramis have mainly continued to organise themselves through tribal alliances, and it is through this that the Hadhramaut Tribal Alliance/Confederacy (حلف حضرموت القبلي) emerges. Founded in 2013 and operating in the aforementioned Eastern Yemeni governorates of al-Mahrah and Hadhramaut, the HAT has been consistently supporting former president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the Saudi-led coalition, and now Rashid al-Alimi’s Presidential Leadership Council. Their leader is Shaykh Amr b. Habrish.
Ideology & Objectives
Protecting Hadhramaut from foreign, and more specifically Emirati, interference, the HAT’s main concern tends to be the safeguarding of national resources from external interests. One of its first announcements and calls to arms issued in 2013 after regime attacks on the governorate called on all tribesmen in the region to ‘control all the important main roads and outlets and to cut off all military supplies and reinforcements entering Hadramaut and the oil sectors in al-Masilah (town in al-Mahrah)’ (4).
Military & Political Capabilities
Exact numbers are hard to verify, however the tribal alliance began a conscription drive with a target of 10,000 new recruits in January 2023 (5).
International Relations & Potential Alliances
The Hadhramaut Tribal Alliance has maintained close ties with the Riyadh-aligned Presidential Leadership Council (PLC), based in Aden. The HAT’s leader, Shaykh Amr b. Habrish has a close relationship with Rashid al-Alimi, the chairman of the PLC. Hadhramaut has long had historical ties with Saudi Arabia (6) , now manifested in support for the Saudi-led coalition.
The recent conscription drive follows increasing UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) activity in the governorate. Concerns over the illegal monopolisation and extraction of Hadhramaut’s natural resources via its ports, secured militarily, led the HAT to push for this large conscription across the entire governorate.
Works Cited (Chicago-style)
(1) - Reuters. “Yemeni Government Intercepts Houthi Drones Attacking Southern Oil Terminal.” Al Arabiya English, 21 Oct. 2022, english.alarabiya.net/News/gulf/2022/10/21/Yemeni-government-intercepts-Houthi-drones-attacking-southern-oil-terminal.
(2) - Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies. “Frontlines Remain Relatively Calm despite Houthi Drone Attacks against Southern Ports - the Yemen Review, November 2022.” Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, Nov. 2022, sanaacenter.org/the-yemen-review/november-2022/19203.
(3) - Ardemagni, Eleonora. “Beyond the North/South Narrative: Conflict and Federalism in Eastern Yemen.” Middle East Centre, 16 May 2016, blogs.lse.ac.uk/mec/2016/05/16/beyond-the-northsouth-narrative-conflict-and-federalism-in-eastern-yemen/.
(4) - Hadramout tribes alliance. “An Urgent Appeal to the Hadramout Tribes Alliance.” Www.facebook.com, 24 Dec. 2013, www.facebook.com/Hadramout.Confederacy/posts/203731153148373?__xts__.
(5) - Al-Mahra Post. “The Hadramout Tribes Alliance Reveals Preliminary Statistics for the Number of Those Registered to Join the Conscription .” Al-Mahra Post, 8 Feb. 2023, almahrahpost.com/news/35989.
(6) - Al-Hamdani, Raiman, and Helen Lackner. “War and Pieces: Political Divides in Southern Yemen.” ECFR, 22 Jan. 2020, ecfr.eu/publication/war_and_pieces_political_divides_in_southern_yemen/.