Unruly tribes are destroying Yemen’s image Government needs to disarm ‘savages’ [Archives:2002/42/Focus]

October 14 2002

This summer there was a major gunfight that took place in Mukallah among the tribe called al-Akabriah. Some men were killed and others were severely injured.
The conflict was over a waterway that passes between or near their cultivation land. The incident was abhorrent. People of Mukallah have rightly blamed its perpetrators as wild and ignorant and savages.
Despite the fact that some in the tribe pretend they’re heroes for killing each other, they are not. If the matter was settled in court there would be no loss of lives. But some of Yemen’s tribes are savages.
Despite the scope of the incident, it was overlooked by Yemen’s media. This indicates that even The Times has no agent who can send important news like this back from Mukallah or other remote areas in this governorate.
There were many incidents of the same kind that previously took place in this governorate and likely will still continue. In my view, these incidents show tribesmen have no fear of the government.
Why does not our government try to curb arms spread by hook or by crook from these tribes? Possessing weapons haphazardly is a dangerous matter among the modern and civilized nations.
What would it cost our government to inform the people of Yemen of the devastation weapons have caused to the country, and what would cost it to ask the possessors of weapons to hand them over in return for compensation?
That is what’s needed. But it won’t happen, at least now, for the following reasons:
Possessing weapons among our tribes, particularly in the northern governorates, is a deeply-entrenched problem.
It has been encouraged by some of the policies of regime itself “to stir up dissension and gather again.” This policy has caused even more antagonism in the long-run against the regime. Tribes and the whole country are now hard to control.
Our tribes will not give up weapons voluntarily, particularly in the northern governorates. This is true despite the fact that the southern tribes may easily, because they had a strong thrashing previously.
Northern tribes have old connections and people in leadership, and they have mutual interests. Strong and large tribes have senior officials of their kin in the country’s government. Small and weak tribes have to suffer the same as other ordinary citizens who have no political links.
For these reasons, I think that unless our present regime pulls itself away from relying on tribalism, and unless it adopts a true democratic system depending on justice without segregation or discrimination and differentiation among the people, prosperity and security in Yemen will never prevail.
Abolishing arms will need to come in stages from new laws. The first stage should be a military campaign to crack down on fortified tribes who possess heavy weapons. Then it will be easy to collect other arms from smaller tribes. It matters little if small weapons remain with people in remote areas needing to defend themselves against savage animals or outlaws.
In eastern governorates, where the people were deprived of weapons for more than 20 years, security prevailed. There was a fear of government and law. But recently a new chaos has prevailed, and more weapons have surfaced due to a lack of accountability to the government.
It’s time for our government to implement disarmament, in particular in the tribes who are creating division in our country, spoiling our economy and maligning our image in the world.
Enough fear of the tribes
How long should we be at their mercy? No to tribes with weapons. Yes to tribes with peace and understanding and education.