It is rare to hear former Marxist revolutionaries apologise for having successfully driven out an imperialist power decades before. In the rundown former British colony of Aden, a backwater that was once one of the world’s key shipping hubs, such regrets are not uncommon.
“I am sorry about what happened,” said Ahmed Mighali Said, 77, who fought the British Army in the bloody four-year uprising known as the Aden Emergency, which ended with Britain’s withdrawal in 1967. “Under the British we had peace. The Yemeni fighters were ignorant. I hope the British come back.”
The rueful attitude of many former fighters is less a nostalgia for British colonial rulers than a reaction to southern Yemen’s disastrous history since they left.
Civil wars, an unpopular union with the Islamic north and the subsequent neglect of the south by the Sanaa Government — which is accused of hogging the profit from its oil and gas — are again fuelling a desire to break away, adding to the chaos in a country targeted by al-Qaeda as a new sanctuary.