The absence of content [Archives:2006/950/Opinion]

May 29 2006

Abdulbari Tahir
Yemen marked the 16th anniversary of one its most splendid national days, the 22nd of May, this past week. On this day in 1990, the two parts of Yemen, the Arab Republic of Yemen and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen unified realizing the dream of many Yemenis.

Unification is a meaningful national achievement that has helped the nation avoid catastrophic consequences of conflict between governments and their political opposition. Yemeni governance has accustomed itself to backwardness and deteriorating living standards among the Yemeni people, as well as the inability to achieve development and overcome negative effects of the past. After the 1994 Civil War, the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), one of the primary parties that backed Yemen's reunification, has become a casualty.

The government now seeks a new adversary to hold accountable for the wretched backwardness still extant in Yemen and this enemy will be none other than the political opposition represented by the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP). Criminalizing and defaming the other side is a chronic malady since it does not work in harmony with those who are of different opinion. The government acts nefariously, covering inability with power and corruption with deceit. In this way, it confuses matters making them more complicated and abets rampant acts of vandalism and corruption.

Such occasions often constitute an opportunity for extravagant spending and the wasting of resources of the impoverished country, and therefore, we always hear talk about achievements and miracles transcending the government and the ruling party and sanctifying the ruler. Propaganda apparatuses provide false information to the public and silence the voice of the opposition.

Fundamental questions have become lost over forty years after the September 26 Revolution. What has been achieved and what has not since the Revolution? And what has been achieved and what has not during the 16 years following national unification? The media and the ruling party give answers to the first part of each question and not to the second. If it is imprudent to deny what has been achieved despite its size, weight, or importance, limiting discussion to achievements and miracles is harmful and misleading. The tragedy is magnified when considering talks about what has not been achieved, or when criticizing the shortcomings, mistakes, and waste of public property. Furthermore, when the lack of progress toward the construction of a democratic state is considered, it is clear that animosity toward the nation and a violation of principles has occurred.

It is the right of every Yemeni to feel sad. The sacred pact, which was designed by 1948 Revolution personalities, has been presented to the political work agenda, particularly what is related to the building of the state, the separation of government powers, and the ban on rulers from pursuing trade.

The September 26 and October 14 Revolutions and the reunification all failed to build a modern Yemeni state on the basis of an effective and duly respected constitution and law. The three spheres of government have overlapping jurisdiction up until today, as the president is also the chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council. Meanwhile, the legislative authority is fused with the executive, thus denying the legislative real freedom to monitor the executive branch's actions and to legislate. What is of great concern is that this authority is dominated by tribal influences.

Tribal modalities are a salient feature of the Yemeni state that makes antedated methods of rule close to the heart of power. Thus, control over society is limited to a particular class. The state has been transferred into an apparatus of oppression under the control of a tribal coalition, a fact contravening Ibn Khaldoon's definition of the state: “the state is a political entity that cares for human interests.” This definition gives the public interest precedence over other matters.

The inability to build a modern, contemporary state is manifested in different aspects of life including the poor performance of the government. Incapable of achieving economic, social, cultural, and political reforms, the government is tainted by its tribal colors often turning its back on progress, democracy, and modernity. Meanwhile, the maintenance of power has become the only justification for legislation and survival.

Frankly speaking, the opposition is weak, opportunistic, unprincipled, and isolated from the Yemeni people, while public opinion encourages the state to exercise oppression and corruption. Therefore, the reunification of Yemen has produced much noise, but little content.

Abdulbari Taher is a Yemeni Journalist and the former chairman of the Yemeni Journalists Syndicate.