An ex-president of sorts

It's strange how Reuters grandly describes the prominent Yemeni separatist, Ali Salim al-Baidh, as "an exiled former president of South Yemen". At a stretch, it's technically correct but it's also misleading.

Al-Baidh was secretary-general of the Socialist Party during the last few years of its rule in the south but never president; the president at the time was Haydar Abu Bakr al-Attas. 

After the merger with the north in May 1990, al-Baidh became deputy chairman of the presidential council – in effect making him vice-president of the unified state.

On 21 May 1994, following the outbreak of war between the former regimes of north and south, al-Baidh proclaimed the birth of a breakaway state in the south – the Democratic Republic of Yemen – and made himself its president. The only country ever to recognise it was Somaliland (itself a recently-declared state unrecognised by the rest of the world). 

The Democratic Republic of Yemen lasted precisely 47 days and al-Baidh's "presidential" role in it is questionable, to say the least. Almost immediately after declaring secession, he disappeared to Mukalla – leaving his deputy, Abd al-Rahman al-Jifri in charge in the capital, Aden – before eventually fleeing to Oman.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 3 March 2010.