How Yemen Can Join the  World in the 21st Century [Archives:2000/02/Viewpoint]

January 10 2000

In a examining the panorama of events in Yemen in the 20th century, we find that the country was caught in the web of many political, economic and social ordeals and problems in that span of history. It actually suffered a lot due to conflicts in the leadership over control of the country. For the last five decades in particular, after the revolutions of the North and the South, Yemen underwent many military coups that resulted in political, social, and economic instability. This hurt the economic infrastructure of the society and it was the people who were to bear all the consequences of the greed of the power-hungry militants. Neither the people of the North nor those in the South were in a good position.
It was thought that the reunification of the country would be the only way out, and it was hoped that this would answer many of the questions and solve some of the dilemmas the country was in. The reunification of the county was declared in 1990 and this event really transformed the dreams of the two peoples into a reality. Everyone hailed this extraordinary event and deemed it to be their savior. But the dream of stability was not to come true. It did not take long for the country to go back again to the black days of power struggle, and it was quickly embroiled in a turmoil of political crisis between the People’s General Congress (PGC) and the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP). This battle was horrifying at a time when all the nation was optimistic for a peaceful future. Despite the efforts that were made to relieve the tensions between the two parties, they were simply not sufficient. The tension developed into a civil war in 1994 in which the YSP was removed from the power center and the decision-making core. The PGC has taken the power so far.
On account of such an unstable environment, corruption and a sense of lawlessness have taken their toll on the welfare and development of the society. In an attempt to put an end to this situation, the PGC, in collaboration with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, adopted the policy of economic reform packages. However, the living conditions of the people deteriorated extremely, to levels that have never been witnessed in the country before. Adding insult to injury, the absence of law and order and accountability resulted in an increase in the problems of kidnapping and of tribesmen blowing holes in the oil pipelines. Furthermore, tribesmen began blackmailing the government and asking for development projects. Yet, the government has not been able to limit this nagging problem. In addition, none of the law-breakers have been brought to justice -except in the case of Abulhassan-, in spite of the constant statements on the part of the government that it would exercise stiff measures against law-breakers. At the end of 1999, there seemed to be some good indications of some strong measures against these tribes particularly in Marib (through the use of artillery in storming hideouts, etc.) which significantly lowered the number of kidnappings compared to the last few years.
Last Saturday, Yemen, just like the rest of the world, moved into the 21st century. However, it is still troubled by the same ordeals. Some individuals still feel that they are more powerful than law and order. A sense of security is not to be found at all. Education does not match up with development. Health conditions of the public continue to deteriorate. The economic reform package will yield no fruits whatsoever as long as corruption takes control of everything in this poor country. President Saleh had given the government of Dr. Iryani a 3-month period to explain its program to solve these problems. Now that time is over and it seems that there is no silver lining in the sky. The situation is till the same. Will the government be held accountable?
In the final analysis, such problems can not be overcome unless people with new blood and high qualifications, and most important of all, with honest intentions take charge of key positions in the government. Crooked and corrupt officials in the power center should be nipped in the bud. Unless this takes place, Yemen will again live out the problems of the 20th century in the 21st century, and cause the development process to come to a complete halt. As opinion makers, all we can do is encourage change, but in the end, the decision of change should come directly from the president. A president who wants Yemen to develop and prosper must sometimes make critical decisions that are in the favor of the nation and not of a limited number of corrupt crooks. It is up to him to decide where this country is going, and we hope he makes the decision we hope for, the decision for change in our world!
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf    
Chief Editor