One Step Backward for Yemen Who is a Failure, the People or the Government? [Archives:2001/31/Focus]

July 30 2001

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
Perhaps Mr. Muhsin Al-Aini, the former Prime Minister of Yemen on several occasions is right, when he wrote in his memoirs that in Yemen there are indeed several active forces and lobbies that tend to concentrate their efforts towards killing any steps that move the country forward towards full democracy and decentralized control of the country’s affairs.
Just when we have hoped that the country moved one step forward towards achieving the democracy that can only exist when there is real local authority, elected by the people, the government comes to reenergize its paternal instincts to tell us, sorry folks, we are just not ready to give you local authority or any authority for that matter, and that the whole elections game you just went through was so we can spend the millions of Government funds allocated and millions of donor support that was granted to Yemen for the local elections.
Time and again, we have asked the Government to be more on the level with the Yemeni people and tell us exactly how you envisage our future to be, if you are not willing to let the people of Yemen have a saying in the picture we want to be drawn of our future. Time and again, we have told the Government that keeping things the way they are has proven to be a failure, no matter what justifications the Government gives to rationalize its insistence on firm centralized control of everything we do, including the way we should go to the toilet.
What makes matters worse, is the insult that the Government openly lashes the people of this country with, by stating, well folks, you are just not ready or capable of governing yourselves. God only knows how much failures the Government has proven to be in just about everything it is doing, and the deplorable incompetence by which it has managed the country’s affairs, that it seems unbelievable to believe that the Government can insult the people of this country by telling them that the Government can do better than the people in managing their affairs, when the record has shown nothing but failure, incompetence, inefficiency and all the wishy-washy network of corruption, scandal and mismanagement of public resources we have seen across the board, with affairs of state being in the hands of the Government. But, to state that something that is yet untried is bound to be a failure really makes a mockery of the democratic process and the Constitution of the Republic of Yemen.
The matter is not so much the difficulties, which were pointed out by HE Mr. Bajammal, but really a firm insistence by the Government that what is ours is ours to keep and what the people want or have clearly expressed is just for show only. We are tired of having the Yemeni people used as whitewash for the Government to enhance the image of the Government with the international community, which once thought that Yemen is on the road to real democracy. We are tired of being used to try to polish the image of the Government with the donors to continue to dish out their funds for democratic activities, which only the officials end up pilfering anyway, while the people of Yemen wait months and years to see real genuine democracy at work in the country and to let the voice of the people be heard.
All in all, we feel sorry for the Prime Minister and understand the kind of pressure he is under, with really very little authority under his office and absolutely no say as to the real approach that the Government should follow in managing the affairs of the Yemeni people. We know Mr. Bajammal knows better, but like all previous Prime Ministers is unable to influence the actions of Government except as dictated by the bosses, who have no desire whatsoever to see the people of this country enjoy any political gains whatsoever, nor to split the pie of the ample resources that are available to the country, not so much to go into the pockets of the people of this country but to the proper political and non-government institutions that will undoubtedly prove better than the Government in managing their local affairs because, even if they are illiterate, they still know their local conditions better than Mr. Bajammal and all his Ministers put together, and know how best to serve their own interests. We have a proven record of the people’s ability to manage their affairs much better than the Government, if we go back only to the very successful record of the Cooperative Development Associations that once undertook several projects successfully, but the Government killed them by taking over their funds and clamping down on the democratic process by which these cooperatives operated, thus taking Yemen backwards in institutional development and killing the chance to prove that indeed the Yemeni people are smarter than the Government in running their affairs and surely more honest.
Rather than wait to let the “experiment” prove itself as the last one did, the Government quickly issues its death sentence to local rule before even its start to function, coming out with insulting excuses that ridicule the intellect of the people and make a mockery of their aspirations to have a greater say in their affairs.
On the other hand, the high rate of illiteracy is just one example of the Government’s ineptitude at running a centralized educational system that wreaks of corruption and mismanagement and poor professional acumen and a fervent desire by the ruling establishment to keep the people as “ignorant” as possible, just so they will not have any desire for greater participation and empowerment. It is a vicious cycle, isn’t it?
We say that any step backward in the democratic process can never be a positive step, no matter what rationale the Government spits out for this retraction. On the contrary, one senses that there “is something in Jacob’s mind” as the real reason behind this latest crime by the Government against the will of the people of Yemen, to add to the list of crimes the Government is inflicting on its people by depriving them of the gains they have fought so hard for and given so much in lives, and in patience at the mockery continuously displayed by the Government. But to insult the people of Yemen, is really just unforgivable and regrettable and truly indicates that there is just no real good intention behind any moves of the Government that tend to limit the right of empowerment to the people that the Constitution guarantees.