Rising level of [Archives:1997/43/Front Page]

October 27 1997

Lawlessness and Tribal Insubordination Tribes Menace the State
Over the last few weeks, events have taken an ominous twist. There have been a number of showdowns between armed tribesmen and the state. These were not the first events to occur. The armed tribes have become more and more daring in challenging state authority. On the 19th of October, a group of armed tribesmen confiscated a number of trucks in the village of Matna, some 30 kilometers west of Sanaa, in the Bani Matar area. The trucks carried goods and supplies to Sanaa. On Monday, the 20th of October, the highway running south connecting Sanaa to the main cities of Aden, Taiz and Ibb was cut off at Dhamar. This resulted in a sense of helpless-ness as travellers were stranded. Tribesmen also cut off the tourist atrraction areas of Kawkaban and Thula. On Tuesday, 21st October, the highway linking Sanaa to Marib on the east was blocked, cutting off vital supplies of diesel, gas, and other supplies to the capital city. Although these blockades were all lifted, following negotiations between the armed tribes and the state bodies, they were a reminder once again that the state faced enormous challenges. It is true that the state authorities can have brute force – in the form of a large military establishment with lots of hardware. But mobilizing this force and using it against the northern tribes is neither practical nor acceptable to the regime. At another level, kidnapping of foreigners continues. A British national, kidnapped a few days ago is still in captivity in Bani Dhabyan. Over the recent past, citizens from Germany, France, and other nations had been kidnapped. Although they have been released safely, the kidnappings are a signal that the officials in Sanaa do not have adequate control over the situation. Most Yemenis and observers are weary of these ominous developments.