Unity and pluralism vs. wars and conflicts [Archives:2007/1059/Opinion]

June 14 2007

By: Mohammed Al-Dhahiri
Some historians described Yemen as the graveyard of invaders and occupiers, but now we fear the land may turn into a graveyard for natives, as the Yemenis have become engaged in wars, which they themselves made. In the old times, the Yemeni history gave an exact definition to the phenomenon of wars and the lack of political stability. Additionally, the Yemeni history saw several smaller states and political entities from time to time, and over time, such smaller states numbered up to 12 starting with the Bani Zeyad State (821 – 1012) and ending with the Aemma Zaidis entities (898 – 1962).

During the modern stage of Yemen's history, the country has gone through four wars that broke out between 1962 and 1986. Although Yemen's Reunification is considered one of the most valuable unities worldwide, the establishment of the Unity State and declaring moves toward political and party plurality don't prevent the recurrence of wars, the most prominent of which are the 1994 Civil War or the so-called Anti- secession crisis. Also there are the three Sa'ada wars between 2004 and 2006, the last of which is still escalating. Having a look at Yemen's political history leads one to bear in mind that the country's political regime is based on three mechanisms: arbitration, peace, and war, which is the fundament of the executive rulers of Yemen. It is remarkable that the Yemeni political ruler comes usually from outside the effective social forces (or the group of tribal sheikhs). And, as the ruler has no strong tribal force to rely on while running the country's affairs, he resorts to the military institutions to ensure his stay in power.

The military institutions can be defined as the sincere organization that helps political opportunists to remain in power for a longer period of time. This organization is usually composed of the ruler's relatives and those whom he trusts, as well as other tribesmen who show loyalty with the regime. An evident example in this context is that many modern Yemeni rulers appointed their relatives and closer tenure to occupy respected and sensitive posts in the military and security institutions. The former Yemeni President Abdurrahman Al-Eryani appointed his relative Mohammed Abdullah Al-Eryani as the Higher Commander of Yemen's Armed Forces during his reign.

These days, relatives of the current President Ali Abdullah Saleh are usually controlling important posts in the different security and military institutions. The transfer of Ahmad Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president's son, from parliament, which is a civil institution, to the command of the Republican and Special Guards is another prominent example. The question, which is being raised in this context, is that 'Why are the Yemenis engaged in wars despite their unity and political pluralism?'

To identify shortcomings and weaknesses in Yemen's political life, one can say there are several contradictions in the lifestyle of Yemenis. No wonder that Yemenis have succeeded in unifying their country geographically and politically, but they are psychologically separated. They succeed in conducting presidential, parliamentary and local elections, but they usually fail to reap the fruit of these elections, as they engage themselves in wars after elections. The first parliamentary elections in Yemen were conducted on April 27, 1993, the integrity and transparency of which was certified by some regional and international organizations. Regretfully, the election was followed by the 1994 Civil War that lasted for more than 60 days, leaving thousands of Yemenis killed and similar scores injured.

No doubt that Yemenis succeeded in September 2006 to create strong competition for the country's highest political post, but this success was culminated with the third Sa'ada war, which people call either rebellion, fighting, or sedition. Senior government officials acknowledge that the Sa'ada fighting sheds blood of Yemenis and harms the national economy.

The Yemeni cultural tradition is one of the most important reasons behind the repeated crises, wars, and killings. The Yemeni culture is mostly characterized by revenge against the political opponents. A clear-cut evidence of this is that three Yemeni leaders were assassinated within eight months, namely, Al-Hamdi, Al-Ghashmi, and Salem Rubey Ali between October 1977 and June 1978. Dozens of political opponents were liquidated in the Events of January 1986 and during the 1994 Civil War. Also, the Yemeni stream of blood is currently flowing in the mountains, hills, and valleys of Sa'da governorate.

According to Ibn Khaldun, the Arabs including Yemenis are the creatures of brutality and sabotage as they are difficult to control and govern. If resolving disputes via peaceful means and ensuring the social peace are two of the most important justifications for enhancing the democratic values and political multiplicity, democracy of the Yemeni unity and its political plurality is not the summation of the two political regimes that were existing in both parts of Yemen. The democratic move faced and is still facing multiple barriers and difficulties, the most critical of which are the repeated conflicts and wars. The Yemenis have become unable to perceive that certain values and ethics constitute the core of democracy and political pluralism before establishing any formal institutions or conducting elections.

Another reason behind the breakout of wars and conflicts in Yemen is the spread of the culture of oppression, as it is noticeable that oppression is a striking feature of Yemen's political situation. The state and the land are absolutely controlled by a single totalitarian ruler. As a result, the ruler's interests are given precedence over the interests of the nation while oppression spreads unexpectedly.