Abdul-Qawi Hasan Makkawee: A Political Luminary in the Tumultuous Times of Yemen and Aden

Born in 1918, Abdul-Qawi Hasan Makkawee emerged as a significant political figure in Yemen, later making his mark in Aden during the politically turbulent 1960s. This period was characterised by intense confrontations between British colonial rule and a burgeoning nationalist movement.

Initially part of the colonial administration, Makkawee transitioned into a role as a persistent opposition figure, demonstrating his political versatility and commitment to his beliefs.

Makkawee's brief but impactful political career peaked when he assumed the role of Chief Minister of Aden on 7th March 1965, a position he held until 25th September 1965. His tenure was overshadowed by a major political incident – the assassination of the British Speaker of the National Council, Sir Arthur Charles. This unfortunate event occurred as Sir Arthur was returning to his vehicle post a tennis match. Makkawee expressed regret over the incident but notably refrained from outright condemnation, instead attributing the deteriorating political climate to British policies.

His political alignments were further complicated by his association with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. This alliance ultimately led to his dismissal by the British High Commissioner, Sir Richard Gordon Turnbull, in 1965. After his dismissal, Makkawee chose exile in Egypt. There, with the backing of Nasser, he established the Front for the Liberation of South Yemen (FLOSY). Despite his exile, he was involved in negotiations with Britain in 1966 and 1967, indicating his continued influence and importance in the region’s politics.

A pivotal moment in Makkawee's life occurred on 13th June 1966. An explosion in a house owned by a member of the Makkawee family was discovered to be caused by a bomb being inadvertently triggered while being assembled. The explosion resulted in a fatality, and subsequent investigations revealed training notes from a sabotage course attended in Cairo, along with a substantial cache of weapons and explosives.

Adding a personal tragedy to his political struggles, on 27th February 1967, Makkawee's three sons were tragically killed in a bombing at their home. The Marxist National Liberation Front (NLF), known to be his staunch adversaries, were suspected to be behind this attack.

By 1967, the British government recognised South Yemen as an independent state under the control of the NLF, marking a significant shift in the region's political landscape. Despite this, Makkawee opted to remain in exile in Egypt, ignoring requests from the new Yemeni government to return. He passed away in Cairo on August 12, 1998, at the age of 80.

Makkawee's father, Khan Bahadur Sir Muhammed Makkawee, carved out a notable presence in Aden through a diverse career. Initially, he made a living teaching Arabic to the British garrison, a role that showcased his linguistic skills and cross-cultural engagement. He later expanded his professional pursuits into trading, dealing primarily in coffee and skins, and also worked as a building contractor. Recognised as a prominent figure in Aden, he served on key local bodies such as the Settlement Committee and the Port Trust Board, reflecting his influence and involvement in the community's development.

This family's story, woven into the fabric of Aden's history, reflects the complex interplay of personal, political, and social dynamics during a critical period in the region's history.