Silver LiningIs the political regime serious about firearms law?! [Archives:2005/880/Opinion]

September 26 2005

By Mohammed Hatem al-Qadhi
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Last week, the capital Sana'a saw the protest against the firearms, demanding their ban in the main cities and the issuance of the firearms carrying and possession control that has been collecting dust in the parliament for several years. It is good that the firearms law turns into a public issue. Of course, public participation in all the issues is very much needed and I have been really happy when I heard that some NGOs were going to run a protest against firearms chaos in the country.

However, does this mean that the ruling party that enjoys the majority in the parliament has flailed to get the draft law endorsed? Or is it only to satisfy or fool international community pressure on the political regime?

During the last few years and particularly after the terrorist attacks in the US, the question of Yemen's all sorts of weaponry has become a global issue that matters to everybody. We have been reading reports about weapons smuggling from Yemen to Somalia. This means that there are concerns from the international community about this issue as such weapons might fall into the hands of terrorist groups.

The pressure on Yemen to put an end to this issue of weapons should not end at a protest pushed by the ruling party to demand the parliament pass the draft law. This is the behavior of a weak authority that in spite of its majority in the parliament has not been able to pass the law. This is ridiculous and funny. Tribal Sheikhs are more powerful than the state and its democratic institutions including the toothless parliament. But, again it shows that the ruling party which has opposed such a law presented by the socialist early 1990s is not very much serious about the law.

We all know that big influential tribal guys are themselves weapons businessmen and will , of course, defend their interests that include weapons trade. These tribal guys are themselves very much present at the core of the system. Such a big amount of weapons at the hand of the tribesmen has given them more power and privileges. They, therefore, are not ready to given in easily.

These tribesmen and their weapons have hampered all efforts to build a civilized state based on the rule of law and order. This is because they live by this chaotic situation and get enriched in such a way. This should not be looked at as a prejudice against tribesmen and the tribe in general. But I do believe that if the society remains tribal, no real development will take place. Tribesmen believe that they can rule themselves without the need to the law set up by the parliament even if they are its members. This institution added to them some more power and even immunity.

It is very important to have such kind of link between the sophisticated structure of the tribe and weapons as well as state in Yemen which decides a lot about Yemen's politics. I know it is a challenge to address the question of weapons or firearms in the country, mainly in the northern tribal part. But, it is not impossible. What we need a strong political regime that have the will and courage to start addressing this issue standing behind most of all our headaches and plights. Our political regime should come to believe that addressing this issue should not be only for the sake of the international community or pressure from this or that. Rather, it should well understand that it is a question of development and future of a nation at large. When this happens, then it will be possible to tackle the issue.