Yemen’s perfect storm is forming
Although the international community and Yemen government officials have been keen to hail the impoverished nation for its successful transition of power, calling on other revolutionary nations across the region to align themselves on Yemen’s example, Yemenis are still waiting for their silver-lining.
Well over a year into its transition of power and Yemen has nothing tangible to show for. Its national dialogue but stands on one broken leg, plagued by deep-seated political divisions, which origins span over decades of broken trust, political manipulation, social injustice, abuse of power and looting; its coalition government has proven unable or unwilling to handle the affairs of the state, its politicians too weak and too pre-occupied by fulfilling their factions’ agenda and plans for political survival.
At a time when Yemenis should be revealing in their brilliant success, celebrating their new constitution and the birth of their new modern civil state, the nation stands ever more divided, ever poorer and ever more unstable and insecure.
As Yemen’s many clouds gather on the horizon, experts have warned of a perfect storm, one which, should it be allowed to break out, will likely leave a trail of destruction throughout Arabian Peninsula.
What started off in late October as a spat in between two competing factions: the Houthis and the Salafis, is fast turning into a protracted armed conflict, which sectarian undertone, could set the country ablaze and ignite a fire likely to burn on for generations to come. A traditionally tolerant society, Islamic radicalism has gained much ground in Yemen, bolstered by poverty and a lack of prospects.
Two years after Yemenis came together to reclaim ownership of their country over nepotism, Yemenis have learned to define themselves along sectarian, political, economic, tribal and regional line; more focused on what differentiate them from their neighbours, rather than look at what actually unite them.
With an estimated 120 lives lost on theSalafis camp, Sa’ada has turned into a battle ground, which the coalition government has no control of. Despite the establishment of a negotiating committee and the dispatch of observers to Dammaj(the epicentre of the conflict), President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi could not put a halt to the on-going hostilities, not even for a day.
Such a blatant lack of political traction has had analysts wonder just how Yemen’s coalition president will ever manage to impose deep constitutional, judicial and social changes on such an unruly nation.
After all, which parts of the country actually fall under the control of the government?
As Sa’ada bleeds, South Yemen calls for secession; and while al-Qaeda looks to expand its fief in the south-eastern province of Hadhramawt, killing and murdering its way through Yemen’s military, millions of Yemenis are withering away, crushed by abject poverty.
Yemen’s economy is but holding by one thread, security has become so appalling that citizens have had to resort to alternative means to protect their families and properties and state amenities have crumbled under officials’incompetence.
Yemen resembles more a nation interrupted than a brilliant success.
NDC and the Southern Issue
Back in the capital Sana’a, NDC representatives have yet to announce their findings.
As predicted a year ago by political analysts, the elephant in the room, the southern issue, stubbornly remains an embedded thorn into Yemen’s transition of power’s thigh. With Mohammed Ali Ahmed (former South Yemen Interior Minister and high ranking leader of al-Harak) out of the race, NDC officials will have a hard time convincing southerners or Yemenis in general for that matter their findings were consensual.
Should Yemenis come to reject their new constitution as illegitimate and undemocratic, where will Yemen as a nation stand?
And while one can understand that President Hadi does not want to contemplate secession, declaring that such an institutional aberration will not come to pass, is simply unrealistic.
"Those seeking division ... are seeking only an elusive mirage and self-interest and not public or national interests," said President Hadi last week as southerners came out to celebrate the 47thanniversary of their independence from British occupation.
Unless Yemen officials commit to real and open negotiations, the country will only perpetuate its cycle of political grievances and dissidence and thus plant the seed of future sedition.
In its latest report, IHS, a global information company, warned that Yemen stands to witness more politically motivated assassinations as factions will seek alternative means to impose their will as talks eternized.
The report read, “Assassinations using suicide bombers, roadside IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs, snipers, RPGs and shooting attacks are likely to target cabinet members and top ranking officials withinHadi's administration, army commanders, members of the national dialogue and political leaders within Islah, the GPC, the Southern Movement, or the joint alliance.”
It concluded rather sombrely “Without a political settlement between key northern factions over the coming year, skirmishes and retaliatory attacks carry a high risk of escalating to fighting using heavy weapons around Sanaa and other northern provinces. There is also a severe risk of a northern insurgency backed by Saleh allies and marginalised northern tribes.Houthi militants probably do not have the capability to mobilise attacks on Sanaa using heavy weapons. Co-operation betweenHouthis and other anti-Islah northern groups will probably increase the frequency of gun battles in Sana’a and fighting with Salafists in provinces such as Ibb, Marib, Hodeida and Dhamar.”
Yemen stands at an impossible crossroads. While in order to avoid further conflicts it will have to redefine its political rules of engagement and rally its many warring factions into one common ground; it cannot afford to waste more time procrastinating as dissent is weighting heavy on factions’ leaders’ minds.
As it stands Yemen awaits its fate.