The Solution to Kidnapping Is a Matter of Commitment [Archives:1999/34/Viewpoint]

August 23 1999

Moments after receiving the news of the kidnapping of the French couple, I decided to change the editorial to focus on the important issue of kidnapping. Today, Yemen is beginning to be well-known for the kidnapping incidents that have taken place recently. Prior to 1999, some foreigners began to think that kidnapping had turned out to be a sort of tour journey or experience. Some even confessed that they wanted to come to Yemen only to be kidnapped and driven to the mountains to experience the world of the bedouins and how they live, what they eat, and to experience the well-known tribal hospitality. However, when the killing of the four British nationals happened at the beginning of the year, the image began to change,”This is no more a tribal hospitality, it is a massacre” they began to think. As the days went on, the number of tourists continued to decline until it reached a record low level this year. 
The tourism industry, which is one of the most valuable industries for any country, began to fall apart. Unfortunately, hotels and resorts felt the difference. Our country lost billions of dollars because of the loss in this public sector. Everyday, it continues to lose more and more. 
Despite the discounts offered in the Yemenia flights, hotel charges and unbelievably, the tourist agencies; the tourist number is still remarkably low. There is a good reason for this: “Tourists feel that they are not secure”. 
In a county where weapons are in the hands of everyone, how can peace and stability be secured? Today, the authorities are paying the price of a continued period of ignorance and carelessness. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, weapons have been sold and traded everywhere. Although, the government had issued several laws forbidding the carrying of weapons in the last few years, weapons continue to be carried and used everywhere. Some may say, “Well, the number of weapons present in the 1980’s is the same as today so, why didn’t the tribes kidnap then?” The answer is quite simple. Tribes in the 1980s were able to cope with life. The economy was much better while the average income was enough to make ends meet. Today, the situation is different. One could perceive of all these weapons as a time bomb. Its effects were not felt in the 1980’s as they are today because now there is a reason to use them. Today, the reason is an economic one! 
There is not a night I slept at home, in Al-Asbahi Housing Complex, without hearing the gunshots nearby. It has become a part of life which people continue to live by. What has developed over tens of years cannot simply be changed overnight. The solution is not that simple, because the condition is chronic. Unfortunately, this medicative process will be a lengthy one. 
I have tried to analyze the problems and solutions by asking the following questions and coming up with the following answers.  
Q: Why are these tribesmen kidnapping tourists? 
A: They want financial prosperity and accommodations because of the harsh economic conditions in the country. 
Q: How do these tribesmen kidnap tourists? 
A: They have weapons and networks that follow tourists to where they are. Ironically, the main reason is their means to buy more weapons. 
Q: Can the government disarm these tribesmen and henceforth, prevent them from kidnapping? 
A: Of course not! The government cannot disarm a tribe because of traditional and cultural values. For a tribe, their weapon is their honor and by taking it away means waging war against them. 
Q: Can the government win a war against the tribes? 
A: A resounding ” o”, is the answer to this ambiguous question. A detailed answer is , “Never! Unfortunately, the tribal influence on the state has developed extensively over the years and today, has become too strong to take back.” 
Q: What is the solution? 
A: The only solution is a long-term plan of reconstructing the economy,in order to provide the Yemeni people; including the tribes, with adequate services and hence, take away the excuse of kidnapping tourists. 
Q: To all our disfortune,the country is too poor and the government can do nothing to stabilize the economy. The investment, tourism industry, and other factors that the economy depends on are almost dead. How can the economy flourish? 
A: It is not that there are no funds. There are funds, but they are not used in the proper manner. Look at the thousands of villas there are throughout the country. Look at the fancy cars, the millions and millions of dollars spent on luxuries and miscellaneous things. There are funds, but they are not where they are supposed to be. 
Q: How can we direct the money in the right direction? 
A: Adequate management of Ministries and the Government Budget, while controlling corruption through proper and reliable government supervision. 
Q: If these corrupt officials are the ones in authority, how can corruption be controlled? 
A: The commitment of the President is enough! The corrupt leaders should immediately be fired. The honest and hard working leaders should be honored. If these two rules are implemented and directly monitored by the president, the economy will flourish immensely. If the economy flourishes, tribes will no longer kidnap people. Believe me, it is not a hobby that they enjoy. They see this as a means to an end for solving their problems. In all actuality the solution is reconstructing our economy. If Yemen, once again, gets back on the right track and revives its economy, then will on the road,once again, be a secure and promising Yemen. 
There would be hope for our country if the proper people are placed in the proper positions. If the authorities want a better tomorrow, they should have a strong commitment. Change and shuffles in cabinets happen. They should happen when needed. However, there also should be another change. It is the change of heart. It is commitment! 
Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf 
Chief Editor