USA and us [Archives:2005/886/Viewpoint]

October 17 2005

Over the years the Yemeni-American political relations have gone through rapid progress under the current long lasting regime of president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the consecutive presidents of the United States. Yemen is considered a strategic ally in the war against terrorism and indeed in more than one situation the Yemeni government tried to prove to this fact.

However, with the recent statements by the United States representative in Yemen in addition to an accumulation of international reports mentioning Yemen, it seems that there is a new tone in the happy dialogue between the two countries. On more than one occasion, Yemen has promised to seriously work on improving both democracy and the development situation of the country. Unfortunately it is a promise that has never been fulfilled. Recent reports about the MDG's and Yemen's commitment to achieving the millennium goals indicate that it is impossible to meet the goals before 2015. Yemen has gone further down in the Human Development Index and the country's economy is considered by World Bank reports deteriorating with a decelerating GDP growth among other deteriorating financial indicators. Even the credibility of the president's declaration not to run for presidency has been doubted, as such announcement was made four times during his 27 years old rule none of which proved to be true.

The issue is not terrorism anymore. The US authority realized that terrorism is a result of poverty and lack of democracy in the so-called terrorist prone nations. The trend now is to push governments to further transparency and combating corruption in all state systems so as to allow a better life for the people. It is debated that if people enjoy a stable environment and happy living in their countries they will be less prone to thinking of suicide or Istishad in other countries. A point that is fairly logical but needs more than just ratification of a new agreement or promises to better governance and definitely not a new loan.

Yet the accusations of slowed democracy or even the lack of it did not hit a live nerve until the US ambassador commented on it. It seems that the Yemeni government does not take any international – let alone national – reports on human rights violations, democracy or development seriously as long as it does not come from the White House. Surprisingly enough, the White House did not seem to mind much of the violations in the past until recently when a subtle doubtful remark was made and withdrawn quickly by the ambassador himself according to Yemeni media.

All of which lead to questions about whether the United States will promote democracy in Yemen for the sake of democracy and the welfare of the people. Why then so late a comment and yet so fragile? What is going to be discussed in President's Saleh coming visit to Washington is yet to be revealed. It had better make a difference otherwise the credibility of not only of the Yemeni government, but also the US will be at stake.