Mentality changeToo tough? [Archives:2004/719/Viewpoint]

March 11 2004

I received plenty of letters from readers supporting our initiative to have a 'Arms-free' country as they have all encouraged us to take the step to introduce the one million signature petition against the carrying of arms in Yemen.
I thank all those who supported our proposal by email, fax, letters, and in heart. Indeed, the country cannot withstand any more of the current situation in which thousands of people are being killed needlessly by the 50 million or so pieces of arms scattered throughout the country.
It is unfortunate however that the ambitions of clearing our country from arms is far from reach at the moment. The reason for that is obvious and straight forward, ie, there is no belief in decision makers in our initiative. If you ask me why they don't believe that arms are the issue, I would simply be unable ot answer as they have multiple stories to tell.
One of the justifications is that arms have always been part of the culture of the country and ridding the tribal community for example from arms is too risky and could result in warfare and violent resistance. Meanwhile, others think that weapons are not the issue, it is the economy, political tensions, selfish interests that are the real factor behind violence and insecurity in the country, forgetting that without weapons such violence could not have been so deadly and fatal.
The President himself does not seem to believe in the need to eradicate weapons from the hands of Yemenis. He once said in an interview to one of the major Television networks that the priority is not to take away weapons and prohibit the carrying of arms, it is rather regulating the issuance of arms licenses and carrying of arms.
So it is obvious that the country requires a large-scale operation of changing mentalities and way of thinking of Yemeni decision-makers. It is up to the educated sector to do this role as the rest are also supporting te carrying an use of weapons.
Yemen is undeniably, a tribal community. There is nothing wrong I belonging to a tribe or certain social sector, but what is wrong in my opinion is to replace the rule of law by tribal regulations in settling disputes, using weapons, and other issues.
However, large portions of the country are being government by such tribal laws that do not have any respect or consideration to state laws, making law enforcement a very difficult task, and causing a lot of trouble to a government that had pledged to establish law and order in every square mile of the country.
What we need to concentrate on write now is to change people's mentalities before acting on real measures to disarm them. Yemenis must realize that carrying and using arms has caused tremendous damage to the country's economy, stability, well-being, and overall image worldwide. This can only be achieved by a political ruling power that is itself convinced of the need to change the reality we are living in today and should be the first to apply disarmament measures on themselves before attempting to do so on others. Only then will our country rid itself from the situation it is in today.
Will our politicians realize the idea behind this and start changing their mentalities soon? Or is too tough a mission?
Only time will tell.