After al-Houthi’s death and the end of his rebellion:Can this be a new beginning? [Archives:2004/772/Viewpoint]

September 13 2004

For most Yemenis, the end of the military clashes and confrontations in Saadah after the confirmation of the death of the cleric and rebel leader al-Houthi has signaled a new beginning for Yemen. This also signals a new chapter for the security situation on the Yemeni-Saudi border.
However, the fight against al-Houthi is over, but what about the fight for law enforcement? Al-Houthi's case does not end the problem of tribal or religious leaders leading future rebellions throughout the country, nor does it put to an end to the outrageous situation of free flowing weapons and the almost inexistent presence of the state in various remote areas. But it could help enforce the power of the state. The wide media coverage of the killing of al-Houthi locally and internationally has indeed boosted the morale of the government, which is expected to use this victory to warn other tribal leaders to abide by the laws of the central authorities.
We also feel that this constitutes a great opportunity to launch a massive disarmament campaign and take steps to enforce the law in remote areas as far North as Saadah, and Mareb and as far east as Jowf.
This is the chance, while the memory of the huge losses of al-Houthi and his gangs is still fresh, to take the initiative and use persuasive means to collect the arms spread throughout the country, and to start to monitor the flow of weapons and arms markets which are still operational.
For investment to flourish, Yemen needs to rid itself of the image of a tribal country where tribes dominate in their geographical regions and the state has only limited control over certain regions of the country. It should start approaching those stubborn tribes or sheikhs who refuse to give up their arms using peaceful means and reminding them of the case of al-Houthi. For many al-Houthi was simply a scapegoat for other similar figures to rethink about the next steps before taking any action.
Enforcing the law in remote areas requires strict monitoring of the flow of weapons. Additionally, education, spreading awareness among the public, and enhancing the role of local councils are essential to develop the country.
It is well-known that Yemenis don't want to carry and use arms just because they like to, but rather because of the lawless nature of the areas they live in, and because of the lack of law enforcement in their areas.
The younger generation, which constitutes more than 70% of the population is not concerned about fighting tribal warfare or using their arms at all. They are rather more worried about how to develop means to make ends meet and work to earn a living. They are concerned with job opportunities that would enable them to live decently. They are eager to educate themselves and their children to be more productive and increase their chances in making a better living.
Hence, if the government takes this into account, it should easily realize that this is the perfect time – after the rebellion of al-Houthi – to implement laws and regulations and reach deeper to the most deprived areas in the country. They can now start all over again by developing those regions which may have been under the control of sheikhs and tribal figures that had little to do with the government.
We are all optimistic that the government will take advantage of this situation and start a new chapter of security, disarmament, law enforcement, education, economic development, and bringing prosperity to the areas of Yemen that have been deprived for far too long.
I hope they seize this opportunity, which didn't come without a lot of sacrifice of life, time, and money.