By Moneer Al-Omari
FOR THE YEMEN POST
Seeking to contribute to the efforts exerted to shed some light on the different social, economic and political challenges as well as the risks posed by the phenomenon of arms bearing in Yemen, the Yemen Polling Center (YPC) conducted a survey in seven Yemeni governorates, which sought to gauge Yemeni citizens’ attitudes towards the carrying and possessing of small arms and light weapons (SALW).
Although there is no reliable data about the exact number of arms in people’s hands, a study conducted by Derek B. Miller for the Small Arms Survey in 2003 came to an estimate of 6-9 million SALW in circulation. Yemen therefore has the second most heavily armed citizenry worldwide with 61 guns per 100 people, only outbalanced by the United States with 90 guns per 100 citizens (Small Arms Survey 2007).
The government drafted Law 40 in 1992, just two years from declaring Yemen’s unity in 1990, to regulate arms bearing and possession. This draft law was then endorsed by the cabinet and passed on to Parliament for final discussion and endorsement.
A few years later, the government presented a new draft law on arms bearing and possession to Parliament for endorsement. Since then, this law has been repeatedly debated in Parliament, but was never passed.
The amended draft law puts further restrictions on arms bearing and possession as well as on selling, buying, importing and storing personal arms and explosives used for development projects; e.g. road building. Also, texts were added that closely relate to personal safety and imposed severe sanctions on those who violate these rules.
Moreover, the draft law seeks to regulate who ought to be allowed to bear arms or be accompanied by armed security and defines the places where the carrying of arms, whether licensed or unlicensed, is disallowed: These include mosques, schools and public transport. It also bans carrying weapons during elections or referendum.
As the draft law was stalled in Parliament, the government issued orders and instructions in 2008 to stop people from carrying their personal arms in the capital Sana’a and other major cities of Yemen. The Ministry of Interior launched a campaign for that end and it managed to markedly limit arms bearing in these cities.
Furthermore, the government allocated YR 10 billion to buy back SALW possessed and sold by civilians and the Ministry of Interior launched crackdown campaigns on arms traders and importers and tried to shut down all arms shops and warehouses. The success of both of these endeavors has been limited, however.
Most recently, the government issued a black list of the top twenty arms traders and importers in Yemen. It also arrested four senior arms traders.
This survey addresses the law of arms bearing and possession which has been widely debated inside and outside Parliament and among the political and social circles in general for a considerable period of time.
The survey targeted 400 households in seven governorates: Aden, Taizz, Hadramawt, Mareb, Sa’ada, Al-Dhale’ and the Capital Secretariat (Sana’a city). Male respondents made up 50.8 percent of the interviewees.
Key General Results
The survey was conducted in seven Yemen governorates: Capital Secretariat (Sana’a City), Aden, Taizz, Hadramawt, Mareb, Sa’ada and Al-Dhale’. Male respondents accounted for 50.8 percent and female respondents for 49.2 percent.
The key results as to the attitudes of respondents towards arms bearing and possession as well as to their knowledge about the draft law of arms bearing and possession were as follows:
•Over 74 percent of respondents, mostly women, feel worried about arms bearing.
•Up to 78.5 percent heard about the state’s intention to regulate arms bearing and possession. The percentage varied widely among male and female respondents: 92 percent of the men had heard of it, but only 64.5 percent of the women.
•97 percent of the surveyed support having a law regulating arms bearing in Yemen.
•Prevalence of security and people’s general feeling that the state is capable of protecting them plus the fair access to justice are among the key factors suggested by the respondents to make people give up arms bearing.
•23.6 percent of male respondents chose prevalence of security, justice and protection versus 17.8 percent of female respondents.
•18.8 percent of male respondents and 14.7 percent of female respondents chose raising awareness through mosques and mass media.
•17.7 of male respondents were for imposing tough sanctions to enforce the law versus only 6 percent of female respondents.
•13.8 percent of male respondents, against 7 percent of females, chose treating all Yemeni citizens on equal footage in terms of law enforcement and sanctions.
•11.8 percent of male respondents supported achieving economic development, improving the general situation and developing education versus 7 percent of female respondents.
•All respondents stating that the limiting and banning of arms bearing and possession in Yemen is impossible were females (10.2 percent).
•38.5 percent of respondents in Mareb governorate chose prevalence of security, protection and justice as important factors that would make people give up arms bearing. This was supported by 28 percent of respondents in Hadramawt, 27 percent in Al-Dhale’ and 23 percent in Sa’ada.
•Raising awareness through mosques and mass media was the most appealing option to Aden respondents, at 30.3 percent.
•The majority of respondents who went for “treating all citizens on equal footage in terms of law enforcement and sanctions” lived in Al-Dhale’, at 30.8 percent.
•The majority who opted for “sanctions and strictness in law enforcement” were in Mareb (23.1 percent).
•Some Sa’ada respondents (25.6 percent) stated they have no idea what could make people give up arms bearing.
Key results in regard to the draft law text
•More male than female respondents supported the Yemeni citizen’s right to possess personal arms including pistols, guns, yet without carrying them in public.
•96 percent of female respondents and 87.7 male respondents stated that it is necessary that all arms possessed by citizen should be registered by the concerned authorities. The overall average for male and female answers was 91.8 percent. This was opposed by 8.3 percent of respondents, mostly males.
•65 percent were for the Ministry of Interior’s right to grant licenses to non-military personnel and bodyguards for arms bearing. The majority of opponents for this option were in Aden.
•The majority of supporters for banning arms bearing in cities, whether licensed or unlicensed, were not in cities. The percentage markedly went down in Sana’a city and Aden.
•94 percent, with slight percentage difference among male and female respondents, supported banning trade in personal arms without having an official license. The highest percentage of support was found in Sana’a city, Al-Dhale’. This percentage decreased in Sa’ada and Hadramawt.
•The majority of respondents (88 percent) supported the state’s right to import all types of weapons and ammunitions.
•91.4 percent of females and 87.7 percent of males were for committing arms traders and dealers to keeping the personal data of persons who buy arms from them.
•63 percent of respondents were for disallowing persons to trade in arms, with or without a license. Up to 35.3 percent were for allowing any person to trade in arms provided that this person has a license.
•The majority of respondents supporting the right of persons to trade in arms, with or without a license, were in Al-Dhale’ and Sa’ada governorates, followed by Sana’a city. In return, the majority of respondents in Mareb, Hadramawt and Aden supported people’s right to trade in arms only after obtaining the required licenses.
•25.3 percent of the surveyed, mostly males, opposed the president’s and vice-president’s right to have an armed company which does not have a licenses, and 36.5 percent voted for granting this right to security and army leaderships. The highest percentage for denying such a right applied to former state officials.
•The highest percentage for respondents opposing the president’s and vice-president’s right to have an armed company was in Al-Dahle’ (50 percent), followed by Aden 39.4 percent, Mareb 38.5 percent and Hadramawt 35 percent.
•Defining explosives and fireworks as small arms was opposed by 51 percent of respondents, versus 48.5 percent of respondents who were in support.
•80 percent of male respondents and 73 percent of female respondents stated that it is necessary to regulate the trade in fireworks even when they are not defined as small arms.