SILVER LININGWhen the State abandons its responsibility [Archives:2007/1052/Opinion]

May 21 2007

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
The political regime in Yemen seems to be in hot water with regards to the fighting with al-Houthi rebels in the northern governorate in Sa'ada. It has been trying its best with clerics of the Zaidi sect to issue a statement condemning the war in Sa'ada and calling for rebels confrontation.

It has tried to get Sheikh Abdullah Bin Hussein al-Ahmer involved and pushed him to call the tribes of Sa'ada, according to the accustomed tribal mores, to join hands and fight the insurgents. However, the consequence was terrible as the tribes of Sa'ada put al-Ahmer in a fix and embarrassed him when they said in a letter to him that they would like him to thwart the harassments they are going through at the hands of the government troops and their fellow tribesmen backing them up. This letter shows that it is not only al-Houthi supporters who are fighting against the government troops and that some tribesmen are involved.

Again, last week president Saleh mandated the clerics of Yemen to find a way out for this headache of Sa'ada fighting. But, he failed to get a final religious edict to legitimize a war against al-Houthi rebels based on religious ground. In their statement, the clerics who gathered around in a 2-day conference decided to give al-Houthi fighters another chance to let their arms and live peacefully.

But, it is really dangerous that the state gives the whole responsibility to others to sort out such a serious problem that has been there since 2004. It entails unawareness to the grave consequences of such an unclear policy towards the question of the war in Sa'ada.

I understand there is a tremendous growth and expansion for the Salafia movement and their supporters who are given an official patronage these days; these people are very much radical in their views towards al-Houthis and the Shiite groups at large to the extent they name them in their mosque sermons infidels and are on tenterhooks to have a green light to launch a religious war against these people.

It is really dangerous that the political regime hands such a serious issue to a group of clerics to handle. Some might allege that this is a tactic by which the government then claims it has tried all possible ways to nip this problem at the bud but the rebels gave deaf ears to all initiatives and thus it has the right to crack them down. Such kind of offers by the government to the rebels gives an impression that this is a signal of weakness rather than strength.

I believe rebels have been outlawed and all do oppose their use of arms to the fight the government. Therefore, it is the task of the government and not the clerics or tribesmen to sort out the problem with al-Houthis. It is fine that they can take the advice of the clerics or tribesmen but they can never be the main players. I would prefer that the government has involved also the political parties and civil society organizations in any talk on the problem of Sa'ada to get their feedback on how it can be worked out. It is really dangerous that the state gives up its responsibility to others as this is a signal of its weakness which might incite more tumult here and there.

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