Islah Vows to Bring Down Iryani’s Government [Archives:1998/26/Front Page]

June 29 1998

It’s Over, for now!  
In most parts of the country, the situation is gradually going back to normal. The violence that had erupted in various parts of the country, following the price hikes, is subsiding. But in Marib, a real war continues between the army and the tribes.
The violence which took place in Sanaa, Ibb, Taiz, Dhamar, Redaa, Amran, Khamer, Serwah, Marib and Al-Jawf claimed high casualties – so far, 52 dead and 214 injured. Property damaged and looted is put at hundreds of millions.  President Ali Abdullah Saleh invited opposition leaders on June 25th for talks to avoid further violence. He said the country risked being Somalized unless patriotic Yemenis came together. He blamed Saudi Arabia and some opposition parties for the unrest. The talks were inconclusive as the opposition did not respond to the president’s appeals.
The government countered by banning demonstrations. A communique carried by the official media stated that “as there was no law to regulate the people’s rights to demonstrate, and until such law is passed, all demonstrations, protests, etc. are illegal and banned.”
Meanwhile, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform (Islah) said it will work to bring down the government of Dr. Abdul-Karim Al-Iryani.
The Islah party is trying to exploit the situation by championing the ‘case of the people’. “We had resisted these measures when we were in the coalition government,” an Islah MP said. Another openly declared, “As the people predominantly voted for the People’s General Congress party (in the last parliamentary elections), they should accept the results of their choice.”Meanwhile, the country remains gripped with anti-government fever, although the violence is basically over Government sources have said that it was an open secret that Saudi fingers were clearly behind some of the unrest, especially in Marib and Al-Jawf.
Yet, irrespective of the internal/external political instigations, the basic factor behind the public uproar is economics. Experts offer three reasons for the restlessness. These are:
1) General Poverty;
2) Widespread Corruption;
3) Demonstration Effect.
It is no secret that Yemen is a poor country. The per capita GDP is less than ONE DOLLAR A DAY.
Half of the Yemeni population is under 18 years of age. About a third of the Yemeni population does not have enough to eat, leading to sever malnutrition. About 18% of our people are homeless. The unemployment rate is a staggering 36%, and it is on the rise, especially among the educated people and young graduates.
Violence erupts, therefore, as a result of economic hardships.
Most Yemenis do not trust the politicians who run the country. In fact, the people believe that their bad economic conditions are the direct result of the corruption of the officials and their clienteles. Therefore, fighting corruption has become a top-priority demand.
Demonstration Effect:
When ordinary people see an expensive 4-wheel drive car, they are immediately irritated. The lush gardens and luxurious villas, the fountains and swimming pools in private homes, the sophisticated electronic gadgets, big cars, etc., have all become a source of aggravation.
It is not that the people do not accept the symbols of wealth, but it is because they feel that such has not been earned.
The regime needs to attend to 3 regions in particular, which have been leading the uproar. These are Khowlan, Mareb and Taiz. These three regions have shown, time and again, they feel cheated out of their proper representation in the power structure of the nation. You can also add to the three regions some parts of the southern governorates, notably Aden and Hadhramaut.
The basic answer to Yemen’s problems is decentralization of power. Sanaa cannot rule the whole country by its whims, especially in the absence of clear guidelines and proper respect for law and order.
In a decentralized system, any mismanagement at the local level will not be reflected against the center. The people will have to sort out their problems without targeting the central authorities. This is why a decentralized system offers a solution.
The political bickering in Yemen often clouds the issues. The country needs the economic reforms, and the measures taken by the authorities are basically correct. What is needed now, however, is a better explaining of these measures to the general public. This government needs better public relations.
Another thing the government needs to do is avoid extravagant expenditures. Even if limited, these expenditures become an eye-sore and further aggravate the situation.
In the final analysis, Islah has little to gain by being the devil’s advocate. The Islah leaders know clearly well that the measures were correct and that the country needs them. Implementation steps can be re-structured, and different power centers need to be consulted in this matter.
One final note. Dr. Iryani’s address in parliament and other statements which indicate that the general public is wrong for demonstrating are neither accurate nor necessary. In the final analysis, Iryani’s government is in power, logically because the public put them there. Politicians cannot and should not accuse the public of being unpatriotic.
By: Yemen Times staff.