Unlike other revolutions in the third world, Yemeni revolution is characterized by incoherent documentary history of its organizational framework among its outstanding leaders Abdullah Sallam Al-Hakimi [Archives:2000/38/Interview]

September 18 2000

Mr Abdullah Sallam Al-Hakimi, 56, has been engaged in politics since his early youth and became a renowned politician and one of the national movements figures. He was coeval with all Yemens political stages in the sixties, seventies, eighties and the nineties and now he is one of the outstanding political analysts. He worked in the diplomatic career as minister plenipotentiary in countries like India, Somalia and Djibouti. He has also worked in press and other media for various times.
Mohammed Bin Sallam from the Yemen Times conducted with him an interview where he sounded out his opinions and viewpoints regarding the political situation in its various stages in Yemen and his opinions on the revolutions six goals and whether they are still valid and fit, and filed this interview:
Q : How do you assess the post-revolution stages beginning from 1962 to 1999, including that of August events?
A: Assessment stages of post -26 September Revolution up till now is fraught with many difficulties because of their complication and diversification. Moreover enough amount of information is not available. It needs exerting wearisome efforts to conduct many and comprehensive studies and evaluations of various field. I would prefer to leave the question of assessing the post-revolution stages to history. Nevertheless lets register here some general and quick impressions.
Revolution Period 1962-1967:
This is a stage distinguished with occurrence and success of the military coup and declaration of the republican regime on September 26, 1962. Egyptian military forces had been asked to come for defending the revolution and the republic, Saudia and other Arab and non-Arab states offered their support for the royalists forces and helped them militarily, financially, politically and logistically. One can say that period was dominated by wars and bloody battles for stabilization of the republic and the revolution. That situation contributed to exhaust the pro-republic Yemeni-Egyptian side financially, militarily and country could not at that time mass up, mobilize and invest the then available potentials in growth and development.
A number of facts can be seen as giving this stage a special characteristic, among most important of them are:
— The revolutionaries; civilian and military who represented the sweeping majority, did not have a clear, complete and well-defined preconception of the comprehensive change process they were after. They did not possess a defined vision on the method, means, and nature and shape of the new regime they were after building instead of the former monarchic regime. All that they had then were the famous six aims of the revolution. Those merely general and loose titles copied rather literally from the six aims of the Egyptian revolution of July 23, 1952.
— The intestine war whose events and fightings took place throughout around six years since the outbreak of the revolution in 1962, were totally an armed and violent conflict of wills between conflicting Arab, regional and international parties and powers under the period of the cold war, prevalent after the world war II. The cold war two superpowers imposed themselves on the entire world, took Yemen as their field and the Yemeni local parties their instruments.
— The Yemeni revolution, unlike other third world revolutions, is characterized by a queer quality. Its prominent or secondary military and civilian leaders had not agreed upon on a unified documented date on how its framework, i.e., Free Officers Organization was established, and that organizations structure, leadership, organizational levels, its constitution and the method of uprising movement on the revolution day. Such essentials are agreed upon in all similar revolutions. The acute difference and contradiction among its prominent leaders who had written their memoirs on the revolution, makes us think the probability that many forms of free officers organizations were there. It means that the leader of each of those multi forms was convinced that his was the organization. All leaders of those organizations maintained individually certain contacts with the Egyptian ambassador and he had fixed the zero hour and directed all to move. Each organization was convinced that it was the only organization. Hence appeared the difference and contradiction in writing the history of the revolution agreed upon by all.
August Events, November Coup 1968-74:
That is a stage that witnessed great events, the most important was the military coup of November 5, 1967 which transferred the countrys leadership to the civilians Republican Council. That period had also seen the Egyptian armed forces pullout of Yemen after the Arab-Israeli war and the Arab military setback on June 5, 1967, escalation and expansion of royalist forces military action to the extent of besieging Sanaa, known as the 70-day blockade, defeat of that siege, the royalist forces shrinking away militarily and realization of the national reconciliation between the republicans and the royalists, based on recognition of the republican system. The events had led to return of the royalist forces to take part in government with ruling out the return of Hameedudin family. Eruption of August bloody events began as political between the leftist revolutionary political forces and the traditional and Baathist forces. Due to their active participation in the battles in defense of the revolution and the republic and breaking the siege, those forces managed to have a sway on many military units in addition to control over the popular resistance and thus led their conflict against the said traditional and Baathist forces, controlling the rest of military units, and the tribal forces. Though August events had begun as political, they had very soon turned to sectarian. Traditional, tribal and somewhat the Baathist forces remained for many decades having the upper hand in ruling the country. Those forces feared that the control and presence of left-oriented and revolutionary forces in many military units and the popular resistance, could lead to their control over the rule of the country and end control of the traditional forces, particularly after independence of the southern part of the country, under the rule of a semi-leftist regime, always supporting and backing those leftist revolutionary forces.
Despite that the revolutionary and leftist forces had greater presence and control over the military forces and the popular resistance than the traditional forces, and supported by the new regime in the south, they were lacking in enough political experience in ways of managing political conflicts in addition to not possessing a clear political vision of their alternate political project for administration of the state and society. Therefore it was normal to be defeated and exposed to liquidation and expulsion from the army. The army from then had undergone a process of rebuilding on certain sectarian and regional bases and criteria. Because of the rule structure during that period based on strong alliance between the military establishment and the tribal forces, it was rather natural to witness conflicts and competitions appearing and aggravating among the influential power centers under such a negative policy pursued by the ruling political authority that ultimately resulted in collapse of the system and occurrence of a complete constitutional vacuum in the state powers to an extent obliging speaker of the parliament to ask the army to undertake its national responsibility in keeping security and general stability in the country after resignation of the political authority. The country was then suffering from aggravating state of corruption and chaos and deterioration of general situation.
13 June movement, 1974-77 period:
The army assumed power in the country in response to the parliament demand on June 13, 1974 and thus ushering a corrective movement under leadership of late president Ibrahim Mohammed Al-Hamdi. It was peaceful movement and from the beginning announced its determination to end situations of corruption, chaos and bribery and to rectify the course in all areas on the road of building the modern central state.
Despite its short time that did not exceed three years and some months, that period was really the serious and sincere attempt to build foundations and components of the modern state of law and order, justice and equality , as a necessary means for achieving modernization and comprehensive development for Yemen. All that could be attributed to its leader and architect Ibrahim Al-Hamdi, who was one of the outstanding commanders of the military establishment. He was in possession of a clear national project designed for the present and future progress and prosperity of the country. He had enough will and determination for achieving his ambitious national program which he had translated at an early time such as demanding the armed forces s for putting right the situation and ending the deterioration which the country was experiencing in 1972. Part of his program was his adoption of the national cooperative movement as a popular medium for progress and modernization.
June 13 movement could in a short period accomplish great gains and profound changes such as getting rid of corruption, plundering public property, bribery and chaos, all that by peaceful and effective means. His acts were culminated with a unique experiment that proved its activeness, namely, Committees for Financial and Administrative Correction, development of the cooperative experiment and providing it with support to cover the whole country. Among the other gains of the movement were the ending of traditional power centers, dominating the army and security and starting re-building them on modern national and scientific bases, success in establishing the greatest financial asset out of the countrys reserve of hard currency, almost for the first time in the history of Yemen. That had led to visits by international financial organizations delegations urging the Yemeni leadership to offer loans to poor countries because Yemen had then a great asset of hard currency. Among the other gains were the achievement of high averages economic and social development and drawing up the first of its kind comprehensive five-year development plan, success in efficient foreign political policy enabled Yemen to occupy an outstanding position, regionally, Arab and internationally. Security and stability prevailed over the country and the authority of order and law had been enhanced. The Yemenis had restored hopes, confidence and future aspirations. Assessment of this period needs extensive studies and researches to give it what it deserves. We can mainly say that it was a daring and ambitious start on the road of the national approach it had possessed for building the Yemeni modern state and realization of development and comprehensive progress in Yemens history.
Post-Al-Hamdi period 1978-89:
From its very beginning this period had seen a series of dramatic events and developments such as assassination of president Ahmed Al-Ghashmi in an explosion incident the complications and facts of which are still ambiguous. That was followed by the aborted coup attempt led by the Nasserites on October 15, 1978, eruption of a pitched war between the two parts of Yemen the beginning of 1979 and expansion of armed resistance to the regime led by the Yemeni Democratic Front supported by the regime in the southern part. In addition to all that was the emergence and growth of the role of the Islamic trend, politically and militarily, as a reaction to growth of the role and influence of the leftist trends politically and militarily.
That period was also characterized by liquidation of the Popular Committees of Financial & Administrative Correction and the Popular Cooperative Movement. It had witnessed rebuilding and reorganization of the army and security in a way assuring full control of tribalism and regionalism over this force, as it is the sole force of any change.
During the period, corruption, tampering with public property and bribery found a fertile environment to grow and prosper and national capital had come under direct effective blows. Senior officials began to use their posts and influence in the state to achieve illegitimate gains then turned to strike deals of partnership with big businessmen and run wide-range trafficking business. Due to absence of auditing and accounting for excesses and plundering public property, the state headed towards the policy of borrowing from abroad without any study or planning beforehand. That had led to add more burdens on the state which did not benefit much because of the exploitation of corruption of those loans.
Also spread in that period the phenomenon of insecurity and instability, low-level of development and deterioration of the level and quality of medical, and educational services. Scientific qualifications and experiences as criteria for recruitment in high ranking posts had disappeared and to be replaced by criteria of allegiance. Yemens regional, pan-Arab and international status had been affected in a negative way because of the internal conditions and foreign policy mismanagement.
Period of Unity 1990 up till now
The most important political event that had taken place in this stage was the Yemen reunification declared on May 22,1990. That event represented the dearest national dream and aspiration for the Yemenis. But the manner and method of achieving it was not very well-advised because of hastiness in declaring it before completing the integration of infrastructure institutions of the two parts of the country. The unity had thus came rather from above, at random and offhandedly. The army , the law, the currency and the institutions had been left unintegrated to be completed after the unity. That had formed a cause of tension, dispute and conflict inside the unitys political entity. It seems that the regimes of the two parts had decided to escape from their internal pressures and crises that consequently opened the way for one of them to machinate dealing a blow to the other and displace it. It was surely expected the happening of violent confrontation between the two parties and that what had taken place when the civil war broke out and lasted for the period of May 5-July 7, 1994. The event had effected serious and deep negative reflections on all fields to the extent of deepening the feeling of disunity.
Q: How foresee future of the country, and do you think that the six goals of the revolution are still good to be real goals to be taken into consideration?
A: As a matter of fact I have a feeling of pessimism, fear and concern regarding the future of the country, though I hope I may be mistaken, but the situations enhance those concerns. The nature of security and stability in the country embodied in the absence of order and law besides acts of killings, kidnappings and sabotage and domination of the law of force, form part of the general atmosphere generating pessimism and concern. On the other hand unemployment has reached at 40% is still increasing due to depression in investment and the states disability to accommodate tens of thousands of university and secondary school graduates. The individuals income during the past ten years has also dropped by more than two thirds. Added to these conditions is the prevalence of the large-scale state of poverty in the society. On the other hand reports by some international organizations speak of water shortages and crisis, confirming that by 2015, the city of Sanaa and all northern heights would be completely suffering from acute shortage of water. The government would be forced then to re-settle several millions of people in the coastal and nearby areas to provide water for them through desalination of sea water. I feel that all these are indicators to a state of popular restiveness.
Q: Do you think that the situations could improve in the foreseeable future, or those essentials for which the revolution had taken place and were put as aims, would become mere slogans?
A: As for the revolutions six aims, I think the revolution has failed to achieve its goals and slogans. It is still in its first stage. During the first six years it remained preoccupied in fierce and continued battles with its enemies. Later on the revolution came under a series of conspiracies, plots and setbacks that hampered implementation of the genuine contents of its goals at the hands of its enemies. The revolution has been unable to develop itself, ideas and programs to cope with the ongoing variables and developments happening around. That has inflicted on it a state of stagnation and paralysis, because the forces of the revolution could not raise themselves to the level of aspirations represented by the revolution.
Depending on the above, I do not believe that the revolutions six goals, as declared since its eruption on September 26, 1962, are still fit for use at the present time or to be guidelines to our coming generations. Dynamism of life around us and its speedy variables and indicators of the so-called globalization would urgently necessitate new visions, developed ideas and completely different means. Therefore, I think to maintain chanting those goals of the revolution, that are no more than mere slogans, is but a way to abort any possibility of thinking and working for developing and modernizing those goals.
Second part of Constitutional Amendments to be published next issue.