Abdullah Mojaidi’: “Kidnappings are perpetrated by selfish and arrogant people who are devoid of any values and morals.” [Archives:1998/06/Interview]

February 9 1998

Mr. Abdullah Ahmed Dhaifullah Mojaidi’ is currently a member of the Consultative Council and its Local Administration and Human and Services Development Committee. Mr. Mojaidi’, 48, is a career army officer who started as a soldier and reached the rank of commander. Hailing from Mareb, he later became an adviser to the Ministry of Local Administration, and was elected to the first parliament assembled after the unification of Yemen. Dr. Salah Haddash, the Yemen Times Managing Editor, talked to Mr. Mojaidi’ about the major issues concerning Yemen in general and Mareb in particular. He filed the following interview. Excerpts:
Q: Could you tell us about the duties of the Consultative Council’s committee of which you are a member? A: Like other committees, the Local Administration and Human and Services Development Committee is now in the process of organizing its programs and examining the relevant issues. We are still at the beginning, but hope to achieve a lot in the future.
Q: What has become of the proposed administrative divisions? A: A special committee was formed to deal with the new administrative divisions and another one to discuss the proposed local administration law. I became a member of the latter committee up until the ratification of law.
Q: How will the new administrative divisions alter the boundaries of the Mareb governorate? A: In addition to the present 11 directorates, three more directorates will be taken from the governorate of Shabwa and added to Mareb. Covering the Baihan region, these three directorates are Awn, Sailan, and AL-Olyah. Also, the directorate of Bani Dhibyan will be taken from the Sanaa governorate and added to Mareb. There are some Mareb directorates which are still to be recognized as such by the Local Administration Department at the Council of Ministers, despite them satisfying all the conditions.
Q: Why have these directorates been added to Mareb? A: The main reason is to remove all possible traces of secessionism, especially as far as Shabwa is concerned. The Baihan region, for instance, is very much near to Mareb – geographically and customs and traditions-wise.
Q: Let’s now move to agriculture. How developed is agriculture in Mareb? A: Mareb has quite unique agricultural crop in Yemen, as far as quality is concerned. The governorate is still a major producer of citrus and other types of fruit. The Agricultural Cooperative Union plays a major role in encouraging agriculture in Mareb. It can even be more active with a little more help from the government.
However, there are some problems that plague agriculture in Mareb. Plant diseases are prevalent, and there is little or no protection against them. The General Authority for Developing the Eastern Region does some plant disease combating, but not enough. There are some plant diseases and pests that have appeared recently in the area which were hitherto unknown. The last wheat season is now over, and not much benefit has been accrued by Mareb due to the spread of some wheat diseases. The same is, to a certain degree, also true for the fruit crop. Some farmers attribute these crop failures to the effects of pollution by gas and oil from the Saffer and Janna oil fields situated between Mareb and Shabwa. Fluctuating crop prices and the lack of suitable good transportation are added problems. In addition, there are no proper marketing mechanisms, governmental or otherwise. So farmers get quite frustrated because of lack of support.
Q: How is the water situation in the governorate? A: The Mareb valley has good quantities of water available, thanks to the presence of a dam and some water wells. Other areas of the governorate, though, are more dependent on rainfall.
Q: What about communication and transportation? A: I am afraid that telephone lines do not reach all parts of the governorate. Transportation is not quite adequate, except in the Mareb directorate and the center of the Hareeb directorate. However, great efforts made by the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Ahmed Al-Anisi, are bound to remedy this situation.
Q: Does Mareb have adequate schools, hospitals and other services? A: As far as schools are concerned, Mareb is one of the best in Yemen. Health services are also quite good, there are adequate hospitals and health centers. The only missing thing is a central general hospital, the first stage of which has already started. It is hoped that it will cover Mareb, Al-Jawf and Shabwa. But we are afraid that it might take years to be completed.
There are several public electricity and water projects currently being implemented in rural areas in Mareb. In spite of that, many areas in the governorate are still without electricity. An important electricity project  is planned to be extended from Saffer to cover a large area of the governorate. The General Electricity Authority will also provide some directorates with electric generators. A big and important water project was completed two years before unification by the late Hayil Saeed Anam in Al-Jawba directorate. People, however, experience some difficulties because of the lack of adequately paved roads, considering that the terrain is mountainous and rough. The governor of Mareb is making a lot of efforts in this direction.
Q: Are courts of law available for the Mareb citizens to address their grievances? A: There are only three courts in the center of Mareb, Al-Jawba, and Hareeb to which disputing people go to. Many conflicting parties, however, prefer to settle amicably out of court.
Q: Is the phenomenon of carrying firearms clearly visible in Mareb? A: For generations, we have hoped to achieve a total elimination of carrying firearms. But the most important thing is to do the same in all governorates, not only in Mareb. It is not an easy matter to do, and it will take a lot of time, efforts, and good will. It certainly cannot be done by force which can easily lead to bloody confrontations between the state and the tribes. First of all, the citizens themselves must have the desire to get rid of their weaponry. They can be allowed to keep small personal arms for ceremonies or for self-protection.
Generally speaking, I believe that the arsenal of weapons owned by the tribes will gradually diminish when people start to trust the justice and security systems. If disputes among the citizens are satisfactorily resolved by impartial courts of law, armed confrontations and blood shed will be things of the past. Some tribes now refrain from carrying arms inside Sanaa, for example. But fears for safety still exist. The Yemeni people are not evil by nature. We saw people carrying Kalashnikovs and standing peacefully in long queues, patiently waiting to cast their votes in the last parliamentary elections. If people carry machine guns in Europe or America, then they will have no democracy at all.
Q: How widespread are tribal wars in Mareb? A: They do not take place often, and vary widely in their ferocity. The war between the Aqeel and Abu Tohaih tribes, for example, left more than 80 people dead and 150 injured, not to mention the harm it did to property and to the peace and stability in the region. If its causes are resolved, blood revenge – a major cause of tribal war – can be eliminated.
Q: Mareb has a reputation of being a haven for smugglers. How true is this? A: The problem is that this reputation comes through the media and some official bodies. Smuggling comes to Mareb through the borders where there is now a strong military presence. It is not the people of Mareb who man the border checkpoints. Most of the smuggled goods come from the governorates of Shabwa, Hajja, and Hadhramaut, so Mareb is just on the smugglers’ route. One of the causes for the smuggling of cars, for example, is the high customs duties. Another factor is that soldiers manning border checkpoints are very poorly paid, so some of them turn a blind eye in order to earn extra money to help with their families’ upkeep. It is very important to pay these people very well.
Q: Let’s now talk about the sensitive issue of kidnapping foreigner, which Mareb has witnessed lately. How can  this thorny issue be tackled? A: I say that most kidnapping incidents take place in Sanaa, but this does not exonerate Mareb. It is one of the oldest places where such incidents happen. But abductions also take place in other governorates such as Hajja, Saada, Al-Jawf, Abyan, etc. So Mareb is just as affected like the rest of Yemen. We condemn the abduction of innocent foreign workers and travelers, it is against our traditions and ethics. Some of the kidnappings are instigated by foreign powers which want to destroy Yemen’s international reputation. Other kidnappings are perpetrated by selfish or arrogant people who are devoid of any values and morals. They often justify their deeds by demanding public projects for their regions. Others have purely selfish motives like demanding regular money handouts, etc.
The state is quite lenient and forgiving, but this gives the impression, in the eyes of the kidnappers, that it is weak thereby encouraging them to persist with their evil deeds. The kidnapping of foreign people can never be justified, no matter what the motives are. The only redeeming feature in these incidents is that the kidnapped people are never harmed. They are mostly treated as esteemed guests.
Q: Has the discovery of oil been beneficial for the people of Mareb? A: The citizens need some of the oil revenue to develop their respective areas, and to at least offset some of the detrimental effects of oil production. Mareb does not get more of the oil revenue than the other governorates of Yemen, which are not directly affected by its harmful environmental side-effects. We call on H.E. President Ali Abdullah Saleh to direct more funds for the development of our region.
Q: How are health epidemics dealt with in Mareb? A: The recent torrential floods led to the prevalence of malaria, which caused the death of more than 500 people. Typhoid is also widespread due to the presence of stagnant water behind the dam. There is an amount of $200,000 allocated by oil companies for developing the governorate, but we have not see any of that sum except for a YR 126 million allocated for building the general hospital which I mentioned earlier.
When we inquired at the Ministry of Petroleum about the money, they told us that it was returned to the state’s coffers. In fact we still do not know the exact amount – $200,000 or just $100,000, as they claim.