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Yemen's road towards National Dialogue and National Reconciliation  

 Yemen Post Staff

After much delay, postponement, twist and turns down Yemen's winding revolutionary road the transition government finally set a date for its much awaited National Dialogue Conference - March 18th, 2013, hoping it will allow the nation to move beyond old feuds and step into the present as a strong unit.

While revolutionaries pinned their hopes in 2011 on the fall of the regime, envisioning that a Yemen free from deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh would magically erased three decades of tyranny, corruption and injustice; all woke up to a country so rotten away by mis-management that it is now on the verge of imploding.
Prisoner of its over-lapping, multi-layered crises, Yemen was heading toward the abyss, a failed state about to fragment into a myriad of pieces when the international international stepped in.

It is because world powers understood Yemen held the key to regional security that they so tirelessly worked at maintaining some level of stability within its state institutions, forcing revolutionaries and the political opposition to come together and negotiate with the regime the terms of a transition of power.

Unlike Libya which literally amputated the former regime, ridding itself of what people perceived as a political infection, the Republic of Yemen would have drawn under the weight of its crises if ever such a break would have gone ahead.

While many criticised the GCC-brokered proposal, arguing Saleh escaped three decades of dictatorship and pillage unscathed, foreign powers estimated peace and regional stability were worth a few concessions.

Riyadh agreement did two things for Yemen:
a. One, it allowed then-President Saleh an honorable exit - more than what his Egyptian, Tunisian and Libyan counterparts were ever offered, without wrecking Yemen's territorial and institutional integrity.
b. Two, it provided a framework for a political settlement.

However, if Yemen is to be saved from self-destruction, the transition government will have to rise to the challenge and understand that Yemen, as a nation, needs to come to terms with its autocratic past.
Unless answers are given to the nation, old wounds will continue to fester away and internal conflicts will continue to overshadow change, preventing the birth of a functioning civil state.

For the GCC initiative to serve as a transforming mechanism that transforms Yemen crisis into sustainable peace and stability, it must be followed by a resilient and inclusive national reconciliation process. That reconciliation process must involve all relevant stakeholders and adequately address their past and present grievances.

As it currently stands the initiative offers no answer to Yemen intractable unity problems -- southern secessionist movement, the northern Shiite rebellion, al-Qaeda insurgency -- and sustainable peace; it is now down to Yemen transition government to lead the way toward national reconciliation, starting with the National Dialogue Conference

National Reconciliation
However unlikely one might think it, Yemen still stands a chance. If all actors are willing to bite the bullet and move past old resentments then the Republic of Yemen might survive the Arab Spring, renewed and stronger in its political, ethnic and sectarian diversity.

As noted by Ibrahim Sharquieh - Foreign Policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, deputy director of the Brookings
Doha Center, and adjunct professor at Georgetown University at Qatar - only if all actors -- political factions and groups -- are treated as equal partners within the dialogue will Yemen stand a chance.
"While parties need not enjoy numerically equal representation in the process, they should feel free to express their positions without intimidation. There should be no one party that administers and dominates the reconciliation."

Sharquieh also noted that unless factions agree to renounce violence, no real conversation will ever take place.

Yemen will have at one point or another to come to term with its autocratic past.
Recent calls for a lift of deposed President Saleh's immunity blanket by rights groups and activists - among whom 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Tawakkul Karman - underscored the nation's profound need for closure and justice. Yemenis feel they were robbed of their rights for three decades and they want to settle old scores.

Although it is unlikely all wrongs will be righted - a full account of offenses will undoubtedly prove impossible to establish since most of the former regime officials are currently serving in the transition government - politicians will have to work on a compromise which the nation will endorse.
Marcy Kreiter - political security analyst based in Dubai - warned that denial will only lead to mistrust and political resentment. "Yemenis need to feel connected again to their government... Showing contrition would be a good way to start."

"Avoiding the past because it is painful or controversial will only complicate the process of reconciliation and lead to instability in the future," said Ibrahim Sharquieh.

National Dialogue
While the transition government confirmed the National Dialogue Conference will take place on March 18th, come what may, the entire success of the conference lies with the willingness of each faction to send an attending delegation.

In recent months, as the Technical Committee in charge with organizing the conference was defining its modalities, structure and reach, the Houthis - Shiite rebel group based in the northern province of Sa'ada - and the Harak - Southern Secessionist Movement - threatened to withdraw their politicians if their demands were not met preemptively.
While grievances varied depending on the interlocutors, all denounce the presence of the "former regime" via the General People's Congress and members of al-Islah - Sunni radical faction

Political analysts, among whom Ibrahim Sharqieh, insist however all actor, even the former regime's men, are inherent part of the solution when it comes to Yemen.

"The GPC, formerly the ruling party, cannot be eliminated from the Yemeni political landscape; it has a role to play in achieving national reconciliation and, subsequently, sustainable peace and stability in the country."

The conference will have to deal with two elephants in the room -- the Southern Secessionist Movement and the Houthis' grievances --

Both the Houthis and Harakis require acknowledgment of their legitimate social, political, and economic grievances.
Southerners themselves must begin an internal dialogue over the type of relationship they want to build with the northern part of the country – that is, whether they seek unity, a federal system, or secession.
The Houthis should be helped to move past its warring ways and brought back into mainstream politics through a reorganization of its leadership.
Rather than enemies, both groups should instead be seen as actors and partners in Yemen's democratic rehabilitation.

Whether Yemen politicians will rise to the challenge, driven by a sense of national duty and desire to serve the Yemeni people as a whole remains to be seen.

The future of a nation now stands in the balance.








Yemen Post Staff
Source: Yemen Post Newspaper
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