Back Home:Could It Really Get Worse? [Archives:2008/1145/Opinion]

April 10 2008

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
For almost three decades now the Yemeni people have been living on the contention that things could never get worse! With every “crisis” Yemen has gone through, starting from the petty guerilla fighting of the Eighties, which was supposedly meant to root out the leftist radicals that were said to cause havoc in the heartland of what was then the Yemen Arab Republic, especially against social dignitaries (sheikhs, notables, merchants and other notables). When that ended when the people of the areas rose up in arms against these menacing social thorns (of course, as is always the case, the Salafis sought to steal the credit from the genuine popular forces that rose against these sadistic militants and sure enough the regime actually believed them!

Then came the oil and, wow, everyone in the country thought that Yemen's troubles were over at last! How easily swayed are Yemenis by exaggerated representations of everything that might be slightly good for the country (if used properly of course and is subject to public accounting). Of course, the oil flowed out and the petrodollars began to flow in. Although the amounts of foreign currency inflows from oil were more than enough to make up for the decreasing remittances from the hard-working Yemeni emigrants and expatriate laborers, especially in the Gulf States. Unfortunately the people's hopes were thrown out the window, when it was realized that the oil revenues were out of touch in terms of public scrutiny and more importantly public good. The petrodollars simply provided a cushion for the military regime to carry on for an indefinite and unpredictable tenure, and the former foreign supporters of the regime so no harm in that since they would not be subject to blackmail anymore. As for the people of Yemen, well as many people with foresight then had predicted, the economic conditions of the country did not see the light of day with oil. The Yemeni Riyal, which was actually undervalued at YR 4.5 to the US Dollar began its inevitable decline as a result of an economy that lacked any meaningful credible management, because it ranked in last place in the not so prudent wisdom of a regime that considered all the resources as a God-sent blessing to fund its lease on power and the development and entrenchment of the oppressive vehicles that the regime relies on to maintain a tight noose against the innocent people of Yemen, lest any of them start getting the idea that they have a right to start raising eyebrows against the horrendously unorthodox principles of governance the regime has also sought to engrain in the fabric of public affairs.

When unification came, surely then it was thought the balance of power and the wise inputs initiated of democracy and political pluralism, which was insisted upon by our Southern brothers, who were then (November 30, 1989) at the helms in the former People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, and which was born out of the unification agreement, would lend itself to bringing about all the reforms the Yemeni people in both north and south of Mukeiras, were crying for almost since the Revolutions of September 26, 1962 and the November 30, 1967 evacuation of the British Crown from Aden Colony and the Protectorates that were eventually joined together as the short-lived South Arabian Federation and subsequently the PDRY.

Then came the brief period of genuine freedom and democratic practice – albeit in an increasing aura of signs that indicate that the sweet taste of freedom then realized in the Transitionary Period were no more than a short-lived optical illusion. One wonders how all the elements of sound democratic political dynamics could be contested in Yemen and outside by so many forces that so in Yemen's democratization a threat to dubious vested interests.

In any case, the four-year wedding celebration that Yemen enjoyed in the post unification period was suddenly transformed into a military confrontation, which surely indicated that our leaders have forgotten themselves, their people and their sworn pledges to keep the good wheels rolling. Even after having signed the Agreement of Pledge and Accord in Amman in February 1994, it seemed that our leaders do not give any value to commitments and pledges, especially towards their people. Both sides had, in fact, already reached the point of no return, even if they sign a pledge to the contrary otherwise in blood. It was war and a tragic end to a spirit of jubilation that still kept glowing even when the war drums were beating already prior to the signing of the Agreement of Pledge and Accord, which most analysts and observers hailed as a landmark document that came out of genuine political considerations to return government back to the people. More to come.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.