Silver LiningWhen tribe handles state function [Archives:2008/1150/Opinion]

April 28 2008

Dr. Mohammed Al-Qadhi
At last the problem of the al-Ja'ashin displaced people has been sorted out. The deal was brokered by the tribal-oriented Solidarity Council run by the parliamentarian Sheikh Hussein al-Ahmer. Some newspaper ran a humiliating photo for these people painted as beggars while counting the money paid as compensation. Al-Ahmer who was very critical to the president and his government's function defended the landlord influential Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed Mansur who kicked al-Ja'ashin tenants away from their land simply because they refused his repression. Instead of holding the arrogant Sheikh accountable, the people were given some money. Money in the culture of these tribal figures at the power center makes a magic solution to all sorts of problems. This is how they think problems can be addressed. But money works as a pain killer providing a temporary relief to problems without addressing the causes.

According to al-Ahmer, who felt proud of sorting out the problem, the president paid the 6 million riyals compensation. Where from? The answer is simple: from the pockets of taxpayers. Why should we pay compensation for the arrogance of some outlawed officials or influential Sheikhs who never care about law and order? As an advisor to the president, Mansur is supposed to be the first person to respect law and order.

The president is very much liberal and lenient with such outlawed sheikhs to the extent that the sheikh was not even asked at least to pay what they called compensation. It seems he does not want to renounce a hypocritical poet for the sake of law.

This might be considered a success for the solidarity council and the young guys aspiring for more influence in the society but it is a genuine defeat to the state and its dignity. The president is forsaking the sate constitutional responsibilities to the tribal figures to handle. He wants to appease al-Ahmer and gains his loyalty at the expense of the state sovereignty.

The naive people of al-Ja'ashin turned to the state institutions for an address to their grief and plight; they approached the government, the parliament and then the civil society organizations for support. The government and parliament let them down; these people spent several weeks in Sana'a. The solution came through the solidarity council that tends to marginalize the state and its institutions.

Some newspapers quoted the helpless people as saying this was a victory for them against their sheik. I guess it is not; in my opinion, it is a reward for him for he was not even questioned about what happened.

When al-Ahmer initiated his tribal congregation, hell broke loose and the state media and their affiliates launched an attack on this tribal setup. Now, the difference is gone, the man is facilitated to open even branches for his council. Al-Ahmer is nowadays in Aden, opening the Aden branch for this council. Paradoxically, the branch is being opened in Aden, the most civilized city in Yemen. The council chief said he was in Aden to address the problems of the people. The man was pushed to go to Aden and try to show his magic powers in addressing problems in the south. He might be facilitated to handle problems here and there just to show tribal norms are better than the committee of Basurah which hit the nil on the head in its report which recommended forsaking a handful of corrupt cronies to save the country fragmentation. Al-Ahmer even said he would present an initiative to sort out differences of the ruling party and opposition concerning the setup of the elections commission. This is ridiculous and shows the people in charge will never align with rule of law. They are giving up the role of the state to the tribe which is a very serious issue.

Last week, foreign minister Abubakr al-Qirbi who I highly respect made a visit to the gulf countries. The state-run media outlets reported the leaders of the Gulf States expressed their support for “Yemen's stability and unity”. Again, they said the US president George Bush expressed the same thing during a phone call with Saleh. However, I know that Bush never discussed the unity issue at all.

The people in charge think there is a foreign conspiracy behind the protests in the south and the protestors are being backed by some outsiders. This is a conspiracy complex that still haunts their mind. They do not know that injustice and absence of the rule of law are the main reason behind the protests of the southerners and most of the problems the country is going through. Guys, it is not conspiracy that threatens our stability and unity but your corruption and maintaining tribal thinking in running the country. Just respect the rule of law and address people problems and I am sure we will live in peace.

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