Reunification 16 years on [Archives:2006/948/Front Page]

May 22 2006

By: Yasser Al-Mayasi
SANA'A, 21 May – Today marks the sixteenth anniversary of the realization of reunification. The Yemeni dream became reality when the leadership of the South and North put aside their differences and decided to cooperate in order to build a united country.

The 1990s witnessed abrupt international and regional change when once large countries collapsed into, often ethnic, subdivisions. Yemenis began to unite at this decisive time. Unity altered Yemeni life, usually for the better. This is because the union of the Yemen Arab Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen occurred through peaceful dialogue and the desire to leave behind the era of discord and detestation.

Unification was an aspiration of the public and not only of the leadership. The most prominent results of Yemeni unification were the coming of democracy and freedom along with the institutionalization of a multi-party system. The Press and Publication Law 25 of 1990 accompanied these achievements. The law secured the freedom of expression, thought, and communication leading to the establishment of approximately 200 newspapers and magazines.

Law 66 of 1991 of the political organizations and parties followed. It specified the rights, obligations, and procedures for the formation of political parties. After the enactment of this law, forty-six political parties were recognized. The democratic form of government allowed Yemen to avoid serious political and economic crisis. Foreign political and economic aid was allocated to Yemen because of the country's respect for democracy and the freedom of press in Yemen.

Clearly, the government's respect for freedom and recognition of rights is the true measure of the Yemeni post-unification experience. Respect for women rights and permitting non-governmental organizations opportunity to operate in Yemen have gained international respect of Yemen's progress. Women have obtained many rights and continue to struggle for more.

Despite overall popular support for Yemeni unity, some resistance faced Yemeni unification, chiefly the 1994 civil war. It had a negative impact on political development though most of these unconstructive effects were overcome.

The economic crises had their effect as well. The first Gulf War significantly weakened the Yemeni economy; most of the Yemeni expatriates were expelled from Gulf countries due political consequences of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. The faulty Yemeni appraisal of how to politically handle the Gulf War had a disruptive effect on Yemeni – Gulf relations. Previously, the Gulf states were a key source of revenue. More than two million Yemenis worked in Saudi Arabia. Yemeni migrants provided a large share of Yemen's hard-currency foreign reserves. Their return to their homeland caused an economic catastrophe, increasing unemployment and aggravating poverty.

In addition, terrorist activity has resulted in financial loss, hitting the tourism sector in Yemen especially hard. Yemen has been active in the war against terrorism, with this action often exhausting the country's budget. Even though Yemen has been helpful in the current international war against terrorism, the country has received little in the way of support from the international community.

The greatest obstacle to unity at the present time is the spread of corruption. It has delayed the progress of Yemen's unity while at concurrently exacerbating existing defects in most government institutions. Many of these institutions are on the verge of collapse due to the spread of corruption.

With the passing of sixteen years since re-unification, many Yemenis are confident that reunification was a popular aspiration, as well as a result of North Yemen's and South Yemen's respective leaderships. Furthermore, political observers are in general accord that President Saleh was a vital figure in the preservation of Yemeni unity.

Many political observers of Yemen suggest that Yemeni unity should be furthered with the enhanced development of its founding principles. Achievement of this goal will be a result of battling corruption and limiting its extent, thereby giving the necessary political space for unity to evolve and democracy to expand.

Hudieda plays host to this year's anniversary celebrations and many government officials and foreign delegates are expected to attend the celebrations.