CHANGE IS DUE! [Archives:1998/48/Viewpoint]

November 30 1998

Most people in Yemen today believe that some kind of change is necessary in the structure and composition of the government. The President of the Republic, the prime minister, the ministers, the members of Council of Deputies and the Consultative Council, senior military and security commanders believe that change is needed to continue in our political evolution and economic development.
Leaders of the business community, intellectuals, the urban middle class, NGOs, opinion-makers, tribal sheikhs, community elders, religious preachers, and even laymen also see the need for change.
The kind of change that is envisaged is gradual and reformist in nature. Yet there is no change. Why? Partly because the political leadership has reached a ceiling beyond which it is unwilling, maybe unable, to move.

Many observers believe Yemen is at crossroads. Either we move forward, or the whole process is jeopardized. “It is like riding a bicycle. If you stop moving, you fall,” explained a senior diplomat in Sanaa. Indeed, our transformation towards real political pluralism and economic integration with the world has to continue. Otherwise, we risk major upheavals and we risk being left out of the world’s mainstream evolution.

I would like to send a direct message to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The president has already done a lot for Yemen. He has brought a sense of political stability. He has achieved re-unification of the land. He has introduced democratization. He has embarked on economic reforms. His contribution to creating a new sense of destiny for Yemenis is evident. That is all good and fine. But it is not enough.

President Saleh has to prepare the country for the 21st century. This can only be done by introducing meaningful change into the system. The two foremost requirements for any modern system are accountability and transparency. He cannot continue to give lip service to these issues. He has to show he means real implementation.

President Saleh has to lead with more change. If he blocks gradual change, there is a possibility of creating a bottleneck like a build-up behind a dam. The forces of change will gather forces and eventually burst the dam. He has to see this, and work to avoid this scenario.

Let me put it another way. Persons like me are working to bring about change through President Saleh. He has to lead the change needed by the country. I am sure that the President can introduce the changes needed by the country. If he doesn’t, that will be a real pity.

The President should realize that most of the men around him will be affected by the change. Therefore, it is understandable that they should advise against it. Their interests are associated with the present conditions. As such, he should weigh their advice against change based on his knowledge that they could be serving their interests, and not of the country, or even his.

Change is an inevitable part of a dynamic society. We must embark on change, though we must pace ourselves with an eye to our socio-cultural conditions and reality. But, please do not stop cycling.