Running into deadlock [Archives:2007/1092/Opinion]

October 8 2007

By: Mohammed Al-Qadhi
In its official response to the proposal of constitutional amendments concerning some political reforms forwarded by President Ali Saleh, the opposition coalition described it as a step forward to escape the ongoing economic challenges and demands of the retirees in the southern governorates. In this current turmoil of attack and counterattack between the government and the opposition, President Saleh decided he would go ahead with discussion of his proposal with civil society organizations, only very few are active on the ground. He even lashed out at the opposition and warned them of running into the situation of the 1994 civil war. Again, the ruling GPC announced the termination of its dialogue with the opposition unless grounded on Saleh's initiative. There is no doubt that the proposal of president Saleh has addressed crucial issues including the reduction of the presidential and parliamentary tenure to five and four years respectively and a 15% quota for women in parliament, local police. However, this initiative should not turn into a crisis in itself and the stroke that broke the camel's back.

I understand the regime of Saleh is in hot waters as it is losing its old-aged allies, including tribal support of Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hussein al-Ahmer, head of Hashid, the biggest tribe and his sons who are now strong opponents of Saleh's regime. Again, the Islah party extended great support for Saleh's regime during his fight with the socialists and their allies before the unification and during the 1994 civil war. Now, its position is completely different and its opposition to the regime is stronger than ever before. This is because of the support of other opposition parties that are gaining ground due to their challenge to Saleh. The President, however, toned down his discourse a little bit in his meeting with civil society organizations in Taiz last Thursday. After he said in Hodieda he was not obliged to take their opinion into account, Saleh called on the opposition to join dialogue over these amendments without tension. Yet, his harsh criticism to the opposition in his interview with al-Jazeera the other day and the absence of confidence between the two sides means they are running into a deadlock.

Of course, this sort of media barrage between them following the opposition's rejection of Saleh's invitation to dialogue is driving us away from the real problems the people across the country are facing. Yemen right now needs urgent actions to stop the constant decline of the people's living conditions, address the problems of the retirees, and land looting issues. Forced by economic hardships, some tribesmen in al-Jawaf governorate already started moving away to Saudi Arabia borderline.

Two weeks ago Dr. Saleh Basurah, Minister of Higher Education and chief of the committee undertaking the problems in the south, pinpointed the results of his fact-finding mission. As usual, the man overtly said that it is now at hands of the people in authority to decide whether to sacrifice a score of corrupt influential people who looted big chunks of the land for the people and address the problems of over 10,000 retirees or sacrifice the whole country's welfare. The man who was talking to al-Nida'a independent weekly was very critical of the over centralization to the extent that Yemenia Airlines has to fly abroad from Sana'a and not from Aden, Taiz, or Mukalla. It is funny to read in state-run newspapers that supreme directives were given last week to prosecute leaders of sports, information and education ministries for not attending their offices during Ramadan. I went the other day to the education ministry to see what is going on. I found most of the offices closed while teachers and other people were waiting.

Hey guys, people are expecting courageous decisions concerning the south's problems and other corruption. Things are still at the hands of President Saleh, who plainly admitted in Taiz meeting that problems used to be held up or disregarded and it is time to address them and run these amendments. The state-run media celebrated and described the proposal as the magic solution to all our plights. If it is the case, go ahead with these constitutional amendments. I do understand, however, if this is just a political tactic and a step forward from the problems in the south in particular and pressure on the opposition, it will not relieve the suffering people. It might overwhelm the people's attention for a while but not for good.

Mohammed Al-Qadhi ([email protected]) is a Yemeni journalist and columnist.