Tribes & the Illusion of Power [Archives:2001/24/Focus]

June 11 2001

Tawfeek al-sharabi
[email protected]

Every society consists of different groups and forces which come together to form that society. Tribes have been a part and parcel of the Yemeni society. They have been the most outstanding and dominating sectors of our society. Affairs of the Yemenis have been handled and managed within the tribe in accordance with the established rules and regulations, known as Urf. The state as a controlling power had not come to scene yet.
It is also a fact that infightings have dominated tribes and tribesmen for a long time resulting in good and valuable social norms being in the wane. Eventually, problems and enmity, murders, revenge, kidnapping, bombing, roads blocking, acts of sabotage, etc., have been on the rise. This has actually made it clear that tribes have ceased to be symbols of hospitality, help, honesty, etc. The current picture of tribes and tribesmen is very much associated with terror, wildness and terrorism. This conviction is accentuated by the tribes setting off and mounting problems every now and then.
In the past ten years there have been many changes within the structure of the Yemeni society. Due to the changes in the social norms the civil society in the modern sense is still in its infancy. The concept of Yemen as a state and a controlling power has started to gain momentum. However, tribes are still holding fast to power. They seem unwilling to be subservient to the rule of the government. The past ten years’ trend of events have borne out the idea that the government has been very flexible and lenient with them. It has maintained a conciliatory gesture avoiding any disputes or confrontations. This has been construed as weakness and submission on the part of the government. This policy has made the government subjected to blackmail tactics by tribes every now and then. It has also put the central authority in a fix for a long time. Yemen and Yemenis have suffered a great deal due to the unstable and insecure state of affairs. Tourism and investment were the worst victims affected by this pandemonium leading to more suffering of the people.
Tribes have to understand that old times are over. They have to wake up to the realities that they are living in a state marked by law and order. The illusion that they can replace the authority has to be cleared out. The fact remains that they are part of Yemen and not the whole of Yemen. Hence, they have to abide by law and order of the country. The Law is supreme, not the tribes. Promulgating laws is not enough unless they are implemented, making them a reality.
In conclusion, it is high time things were set right. It is time tribes understood that they are part of the state. By now the government must have put an end to its “lenient policy” which is no more valid or effective, because it has proved an utter failure. It has to enforce laws and order with no fear or favor. It is only through this that stability and security can be restored to the country. Otherwise, we will never hear the end of “Tom and Jerry” fight.