Formalizing the Informal

State and Non-State Security Providers in Government-Controlled Taiz City

Maged Sultan

Mareike Transfeld

Kamal Muqbil

YPC Policy Report   •   July 22, 2019

Main Findings

  • At the onset of the 2015 conflict in Yemen between the internationally recognized government and Ansarallah (Houthis), state institutions and frameworks collapsed in southwestern Taiz city. While much of the former police leadership remained in place, the rank and file had to be rebuilt after the relative reestablishment of stability.
  • Informal actors, in particular sheikhs and aqils, expanded their roles as security providers. After the state framework collapsed, the degree of arbitrariness in security provision increased. Today, security structures overlap in their functioning, without clear hierarchies.
  • Informal actors have become security actors as well as security threats. While these actors mediate in conflicts and manage public security, some are at the same time involved in armed clashes and criminal activity.
  • Over the course of 2017, formal institutions gradually began to function again in southwestern Taiz city through the internationally recognized government. When asked in 2017 which actor is usually the first to respond to security incidents, a plurality of 37 percent of respondents in resistance-controlled areas said the police/security authorities.
  • Although overall confidence in the police increased between 2017 and 2019, Taiz residents are disappointed with the performance of the police, with a 2019 survey recording a 40 percent increase in the number of respondents who said that the police are not active in their area.
  • Cooperation between formal and informal actors is characterized on the one hand by the state’s efforts to gain control over all security services and reestablish an order of command, but on the other hand, many actors base their preferences for coordination on political loyalties.
  • Police in Taiz lack training, uniforms and basic equipment, including vehicles, computers, phones, weapons and armor.
  • Non-state actors, the sheikhs and aqils, lack knowledge of basic administrative processes, resulting in a situation that hampers coordination with state institutions and encourages cooperation with actors based on political or personal loyalty.