Marib events reflect crisis between state and tribe [Archives:2005/816/Opinion]

February 14 2005

Hassan Al-Zaidi
The events in Marib last week between the Obeida tribe and the authorities reflect the crisis in the relationship between the tribes and the state and highlights that the potential for ongoing conflict between the two.

In the 1980s, some observers attributed the crisis between the central government and Marib tribes to difficulties in the relationships between Yemen and some of its neighbors, particularly the monthly financial support received by some tribal figures from the government of Saudi Arabia.

After the 1994 civil war and the demarcation of the borders between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, however, relations between tribes and the state remain tense, indicating that state views the tribes as a threat to national security and stability.

The tribes believe that the government aims to oppress them and is not looking for real solutions to the problems. The tribes accuse the authorities of deliberately turning a blind eye to revenge disputes and tribal wars. They blame the government for trying to enforce laws to disarm the tribes while simultaneously allowing the military to do whatever they want.

The relations between the authorities and tribes are getting worse, resulting in bloodshed on both sides. Many harmful mistakes are the result of the government's inability to deal with the tribes as an integral part of Yemeni society.

The state must integrate tribes into the government structures, and give them their rights according to the law, instead of tribal arbitration.

The relations between the state and the tribes need attention from government decision-makers to establish better relations based equality and on the enforcement of the law.