Government and Tribes in Marib:  Playing Cat and Mouse? [Archives:1999/51/Last Page]

December 20 1999

By: Hassan Al-Zaiedy
Yemen Times, Marib

It has become no surprise to hear news of clashes between the tribes and military forces in Marib. Has fighting become an addiction to these people? What is it that triggers this violence?
Just a few days ago we heard about a clash between the Obaidah tribe and security forces. The result was the death of 7 people and the injury of three others on both sides. The clash took place after the tribe engaged an outpost, following the death of one of its members who was killed by the outpost’s soldiers while arguing about a gun he was carrying. In the previous month, military forces camping near Bani Saeed village indulged in a battle with the villagers. The outcome was heavy losses on the side of the tribe and the inhabitants of the village. Before that, we heard about fighting that erupted between Gahm tribe and the military units stationed a short distance away. About 4 months ago, 50 people were killed in a merciless fight between Al-Jadaan tribe and military forces. All of these events have taken place in one governorate and in the same year. And now, the governorate is bidding farewell to the year 1999 with the report of guns and repeated events of bloodshed. This latest fight reminds me of another fight that took place in the same month, Ramadhan, last year.
Why all this bloodshed? Why do children, women and men have to pay with their lives for simple problems that could have been settled peacefully? What is the secret behind the deeply rooted disagreements between the local government and its citizens? Is it the tribe that can not peacefully coexist with the local government?
As far as the social structure of Marib is concerned, it is made up of four main tribes:
1- Bani Gabr Khawlan which includes: Gahm, Iyaal Saeed
2- Al-Jidaan which according to the tribal division belongs to Nahm Bakeel
3- Murad-Madhaj
4- Abeedah-Madhaj
(source: Al-Ikleel Magazine)
Each tribe has its own borders that separates it from the others. It should be said that the wars and conflicts which have been witnessed recently were not only between the government and these tribes, for the tribes have also indulged in many wars among themselves, especially when borders are discussed. The latest of these wars broke out last year, immediately after the parliamentary elections. In short, each tribe has indulged in wars with its neighbors. However, this kind of conflict among the neighboring tribes has been disappearing, especially in the 90s. The conflict has now changed: the tribes fight the government, not each other.
The government looks at the inhabitants of these tribes as agents and trouble makers, while they in return accuse the government of exploitation and look at it as the cause of their deprivation and sufferings. Moreover, they think that it helps to widen the gap between tribes. This idea in the minds of most of the tribesmen makes them reject anything they do not like from the government. The government does the same. This, of course, leads to violent reactions from both sides, and if a problem occurs it rapidly escalates and leads to more fighting.
Some people think that the reasons for the battles are mainly political, and such incidents are incited by Saudi Arabia. However, I do not agree with them. In my opinion, the following are more legitimate causes for the combat:
1- Illiteracy, ignorance, blood revenge and the absence of any kind of encouragement and motivation for these people to be educated.
2- Relations and contact between the government and tribes is confined to tribal leaders, and this widens the gap between the government and the society.
3- Chivalry and the feeling of dissatisfaction of the whole tribe if something bad happens to one of its members, which in many cases has led to violent reactions.
4- Officials and soldiers’ rough and rude way of dealing with the tribes, ignoring the fact that all tribesmen are armed due to the continuation of blood feuds and the like.
5- Deprivation of essential projects and services.
6- Isolation or the feeling of being isolated for not including the tribes’ affairs in the governorate’s office.
7- Random arresting of people belonging to the tribe if a problem takes place between the government and the tribe. This only increases anger and spreads the conflict.
8- The special interests of some officials and Sheikhs, who want to keep such things going on from time to time.
9- The false belief that tribes can pose a threat to the government’s interests as well as to security and stability.
10- Regarding tribesmen as ignored and backward, and unworthy of care.
These are the main reasons behind the continuation of conflict between the government and tribe. I don’t think there are any other clandestine forces behind such events.