Opposing the continued fighting in Sa’ada [Archives:2007/1035/Opinion]

March 22 2007

By: Ali Al-Sarari
Day after day, the public's opposition to the Sa'ada war grows while some officials privately assess the situation as being counter-productive. Many have stated that the government should not continue military operations unless they are conducted in accordance with the national interest rather than the parochial interests of the current administration.

These officials also suggest that continued military operations in Sa'ada are bound to adversely affect the country as a whole, such as the destruction of national unity, the exhaustion of the country's scarce financial resources, extra burdens on the state machinery and the possible breakout of new local conflicts across the country. Another dangerous aspect is the inevitable deterioration of Yemen's reputation especially the harm it will do to recent attempts to attract local and foreign investment. Many fear that Yemen may not escape the negative effects of tense relations between some parties in the region as well as the continued sectarian tensions widely spread throughout the Arab and Islamic nations.

Additionally, officials remarked that the continued clashes have an adverse effect on the development of Yemen's democratic political process as the clashes result in increased procedural malpractice and the restriction of the freedom of the press. The possibility that the country may be transformed into a battleground between different sectarian ideologies puts at risk Yemen's historic reputation as a country where different sectarian groups have peacefully coexisted for hundreds of years.

As a consequence of the threat to national stability the officials view the Sa'ada fighting as irrational and say it should be tackled through serious negotiation in order to prevent the reoccurrence of other domestic armed conflicts be they in Sa'ada or other parts of Yemen. Reinforcing national peace and security is an important prerequisite for national development, for the fight against poverty and unemployment, and the provision of improved living standards for Yemen's citizens.

If the officials' concerned were responsible for decision-making within the machinery of state their decisions would have helped put a stop to the Sa'ada fighting. But the reality is that the actual decision-makers neither listen to these viewpoints nor do they permit officials to publicise their viewpoints. In a few weeks, terrorist propaganda grew via the media with the express aim of overwhelming the public consciousness and transforming the media and mosques into platforms from which to disseminate hypocrisy. Educated people and media personnel have, in their negligence, turned into advocates for war by inflaming popular sentiment rather than informing it. If the decision-makers insist on preventing thinkers from using their minds while permitting hypocrites to become the only source of information for the people a wave of hatred will overwhelm the country. This will only pave the way for the transformation of the dream of the Republic- of a peaceful, democratic, secure and prosperous nation -into the nightmare we had hoped to have escaped.

Resolving the conflict is Sada'a is no easy task but neither is it wholly impossible given both sides willingness to come to the negotiating table in a war that neither government troops nor Al-Houthi loyalists wish to prolong or escalate. The demands of the rebels, led by Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, are not difficult to satisfy. Al-Houthi's twin demands are that, firstly, the government order the army to permit local residents hiding in the mountains to return home and surrender their arms without any bloodshed and, secondly, that President Saleh implement his Amnesty.

So, the answer is simple. Let the people return home and surrender their arms and honour and enforce the law that grants these people their constitutional civil and political rights. If these things are done, the Sa'ada rebellion will disappear and the residents of Sa'ada can carry on with normal life like every other citizen.

Ali Al-Sarari is a Yemeni Journalist and a well-known politician. He is the head of the information department at the Yemeni Socialist Party.

Source: Al-Thawri Weekly