Grimmer prospects in Yemen and the region [Archives:2007/1107/Opinion]

November 29 2007

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
One expects that with oil prices above US $ 100 per barrel, the people of Yemen and the rest of the region will look forward to greater prosperity and fewer reasons to be pessimistic about the future. But alas, when most of the regimes in the region are characterized by rampant corruptions in all spheres of government and with Washington looking at the wrong angles when gauging these regimes and forcing its allies to do the same, the people of the regime are not inclined to believe that the present or the near future point to greater reasons for hope whatsoever.

In Yemen, the terrorists are having a field day as the regime seems to have succeeded in giving a distorted image of what terrorism is all about, to the point that even international advocacy groups are forced to look the other way when considering assistance to victims of human rights abuses. In fact these victims are viewed as terrorists because Washington has been led to believe that legitimate calls for equal treatment of all sectarian affiliations is terrorism and the regime's fuzzy and sometimes excessively merciful attitudes towards real genuine terrorists is a successful approach to fighting terrorism. Not understandable, as well, is the shady clandestine nature of some of the terrorist acts, where there may have been some knowledge of their eventuality at some of the highest levels in concerned agencies in the United States Government, not to mention forgetting to give appropriate warning to the intended victims accordingly.

In any case, the Yemeni scene leaves a lot to be desired not just in the “War on Terror”, but in the “War against Corruption”, which even many donors and international agencies have been misled to believe that progress has been seen occurring. Nothing is further from the truth. No one can claim that any of the corrupt officials are packing their belongings out of fear of being asked: “Where did you get all this from? Certainly, it is not your salary that would allow you to build a 40 room mansion with 25 bathrooms, with you in the office for just one year!” This is the only way one can hope to see that corruption is now to be truly encountered, not to mention seeing a few of the corrupt and evil officials being sent to jail.

It is not enough to get a few officials to fill some disputably inaccurate forms to state that we are on the road towards eliminating corruption. The Financial Disclosure Forms, which the government said are now being filed with the Anti-Corruption Commission, should be made public while the public would also be interested in having pictures of the elegant and lovely mansions and details of the bank accounts of high government officials abroad made also public. This way, diligent journalists can verify the authenticity of the information supplied in these “declarations”. Of course, one does not expect to eliminate a phenomenon that has been allowed to deeply become entrenched in the daily lives of almost all the population of Yemen for some thirty years, with some of the perpetrators getting honor roll mention for their notorious misuse of government funds, in a short time. But one would certainly be led to greater hope in this challenge, if some of the leading corrupt officials get the axe now and then, thanks to the sincere and serious efforts of a commission, which probably doesn't have the authority to say: “Hey you have been a bad boy, and it is about time you stop your corrupt ways.”

In the regional sphere one is deeply upset by the unfortunate freeze the political scene in Lebanon has taken, thanks to the unfortunate attitude of the immature political manueverers, many of whom have never given anything or contributed anything to Lebanon's independence or economic prosperity. In fact, some of them are convicted criminals who have not shown any consistency in their political dialogue or convictions, let alone shown any rehabilitation realized from “doing time” in prison for their convicted felonies.

In the meantime, the regimes that are supposedly well placed to influence events in the region are actually adversely effecting the course of events by either deviously manipulating the internal affairs of their sister Arab states, or ensuring that progress towards greater democracy is never realized even at the cost of giving a nod of approval to the elimination of those regional officials, who could move the region towards more freedom and greater benefit from the bountiful resources underneath the ground and above.

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