We Need Security.. We Need Justice ! [Archives:2001/24/Focus]

June 11 2001

Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
[email protected]

During the last few weeks several criminal incidents have taken place in the city of Sana’a. Almost every night we hear gun fire in the capital which is a real problem the government should address promptly. Sana’a has become a battlefield of armed tribesmen to settle their score and differences in the nature of tribal revenge or disputes over pieces of land. These incidents are a good pointer of the deteriorating security measures in the country. Security men are capable of teasing male and female students sitting together in a university campus. But, they will not crack down lawless people who are moving hell and heaven to panic people. Do you know why? These troublemakers are always supported either by their tribes or influential figures at the power center. They might be even members of the army abusing their power.
Last Monday night, I had a nightmarish experience as I live close to the place where confrontation took place between the police and the so-called al-Muharis’ gang which claimed the lives of three people. Others were seriously injured. I did not sleep all night as different sorts of weapons were used in the firing incident which continued for 12 hours. Many people experienced the same thing. So, who is responsible for this mess?
Al-Muharis was a retired brigadier. According to official media, he, his 16 sons and others formed a gang and committed over 47 crimes. He also blackmailed people living in his zone and put them at his disposal. The question is: where were the policemen during this time? Of course, the police was informed of all these lawless acts but they never thought of interrogating him. They rather advised people not to let him know they gave hard time to the police. This means the leniency of the government encouraged him to perpetrate violence. Al-Muharis is just an example of many influential figures who never pay attention to the law. This attitude of indifference of the government will encourage people to break the law. In fact, this feeling of lawlessness and of discrimination will breed further lawlessness and chaos in the country.
The other facet of the problem is that the government has prioritized the social tribal norms (Urf) and made it superior to the law of the land which is rarely enforced in non-tribal areas. Our legislators pass laws in the parliament but never put them into practice. Rather, they sort out people’s problems on the basis of such tribal norms. The problem is that the government has in fact, patronized such a tendency all over the country by supporting shiekhs who have become a pain the neck.
The government has sent mediators to the kidnappers of the German hostage to persuade them release him and eventually fulfill their demands. It is not the first time it does so. It has been doing this in over 140 cases of kidnapping. It most of the time surrenders to the kidnappers blackmailing attempts paying them money or promising to fulfill their demands. This leniency is the key reason behind the escalation of kidnapping incidents.
Again, the government passed a law to curb kidnapping crimes in 1998, but that never saw the light of day. Rather, tribal mediation has become a law in such cases. Even when the government flexes its muscles submitting the tribesmen to justice, their relatives resort to kidnapping to pressurize the government get their people released. This is exactly what is happening now in the case of the German hostage. This has created widespread frustration among people who hardly now believe in sovereignty and power of the government. They take the law into their own hand as they do not find any vestige of justice and accountability.
In conclusion, one can say that the spread of weapons in the society is the key factor that encourages people to break the law. The government supported the culture of carrying weapons and praised it until it went out of hand. I believe it is high time the government addressed this nagging problem seriously and do justice to its citizens. Once this happens, every one will feel secure, won’t they?