Major challenge facing National Unity [Archives:2007/1104/Opinion]

November 19 2007

Last week, both the ruling GPC and the opposition coalition JMP gathered in Aden to continue their suspended dialogue. Their media outlets described the meetings as good. The statements of the socialist and Islah parties in which they condemned calls for separation pleased the ruling party and the president. These parties openly announced they opposed any project for splitting the country again. For the last few months, we have been frightened by the accusations of foreign agencies of instigating the protests in the southern governorates in an attempt to destabilize and divide the country.

In my opinion, the major genuine challenge facing national unity now is not the foreign conspiracy as the government assumes; it is rather the frustration and defeat the people feel at heart. We remember what happened during the 1994 civil war. The people in the south did believe in the unification and stood by it. They let down their leaders when they declared secession. No foreign support to these leaders was able to defeat the will of the people in gripping a unified country. They were brought up to love and work for achieving the sublime goal of uniting the north and south. People in the north and south were hopeful that their situation would improve in a united Yemen.

Does this feeling remain the same? I doubt. The unification coincided with upheavals both at the domestic and regional levels that consequently brought about economic hardships. The situation of the people in the south exacerbated mainly after the 1994 civil war. Thousands of civil servants and military personnel were illegally dismissed; big chunks of land were looted by influential military and tribal figures. These people have felt injustice and in such a situation where frustration conquers the hearts and minds, it is possible that people become ready to engage in coalition even with the devil to put an end to their plight. This is why outraged people chanted separation calls during the protests of pensioners. They are psychologically defeated and feel fed up to even see people from the north in their governorates. This is the genuine challenge facing the national unity.

Such frustration and disappointment cannot be sorted out just by beautiful rhetoric. Last week, president Saleh paid a visit to Dhal'e governorate. He delivered a nice speech to soften the tense situation mainly in this part of the country. He made some promises including setting up a university. Mr. President, the people are not looking for universities; they need the rule of law and justice. People are expecting concrete actions that can conquer the feeling of oppression, inequality and fragmentation.

Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.