ReflectionsIs corruption our heritage? [Archives:2004/716/Opinion]

March 1 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
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Yemen, the ancient abode of the Semitic race, witnessed the rise and demise of many kingdoms prior to the advent of Islam like, for example, the kingdoms of Sheba, Maeen, Hadramaut, Qataban and Ausan.
These kingdoms controlled the whole Arabian peninsula and the northeastern part of Africa (today's Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia), but with the decree enacted by the Himyarite King Dhu Nawas, in which he ordered the people to discard Christianity and embrace Judaism, he signaled the beginning of the astounding fall whose repercussions are still tangible until this very day.
That incident made the inhabitants of Yemen disintegrate between the two camps, to either become Christian or Jewish and hence gave a chance for the new invaders, like the Yemeni-Ethiopian half-castes and the Persian prisoner army who saw in Yemen a prey and failed to run the country as its own indigenous people did for thousands of years.
The pure Arab Yemenis later embraced Islam and saw in it their life-boat. They embarked on the chariot of Islam to invade other lands until they controlled the Iberian Peninsula and reached Poitiers in southern France, and thanks to them we have today's Arab world.
So it is unbefitting for the Yemenis of today to claim being the heirs to the glorious past civilizations of Yemen.
Because, in fact, till this very day by their actions and deeds they give the stark evidence that they are the descendants of those who seized the opportunity of disintegration and invaded the country.
Being primitive and of a mediocre type they failed to run the country but successfully succeeded in bringing it down to its knees due to their insatiate desire to loot and rob.
Nowadays, just like the invaders of yore are those who run Yemen, for instead of being good people looking for means and ways to develop the country, they have nothing in mind except devising new techniques to loot and steal, and have succeeded again to make Yemen unable to shed its beggar image to the extent that there are no positive signs of improvement in the offing at all.
Corruption has become the norm. Look at the customs where goods are entered fraudulently and the administrators have become well off within few months' time.
Look at the taxation people who boast having castles and huge amounts in foreign accounts.
Look at the pretexts of recurring seminars, conferences and incessant travels wherefore large amounts of hard currency are wasted in vain. A brief visit to a castle of one of those bureaucratic leaders shall recount you the extent of corruption, for you will see the last car models of different types which are bankrolled by government moneys, a thing that is not done even by some wealthy Arab states.
I know an official who owns 15 cars, different bank accounts in Europe and lots of investments here and there, despite his destitute background.
Look at the state lands which are coveted and fraudulently obtained and the last of which are being stolen, the gardens encroached, usurped, eaten away or their destiny is still in the works like Althawra Garden in Aljiraf which used to be an airport at the time of the notorious Imam Ahmed Hamiduldin and now is neglected, its trees hacked or made to die gradually.
So in order to prove being worthy of this country and its past could we hope that this lax and sad state of affairs shall come to an end and efforts to improve are stepped up. Yemen needs sincere people having the will and determination to bring a fair judicial system, not just a slogan transparency, equality of opportunities and whatnot.
Am I hoping against hope?