When 35 bucks kill 34 people [Archives:2004/796/Viewpoint]

December 6 2004

The front-page story of today's edition on the incredible tribal clashes that resulted in the killing of 28 tribesmen because of old vengeance is indeed another reminder of the pathetic and appalling situation of tribal vengeance in Yemen.
Tribal wars can erupt suddenly and sometimes for stupid reasons. It is truly bizarre to see that the war between the two tribes of Al Saida and Al-Mazariq wthat led to the total of 34 deaths -6 deaths a few months earlier plus 28 on Thursday- was actually a result of a dispute over YR 6,000; approximately USD 35.
Where else could such a thing happen?
The disease of tribal vengeance in the country has taken its toll. Thousands of Yemenis were killed and wounded because of tribal conflicts that result from silly and unexplainable reasons.
Law enforcement is a word we as Yemenis have been very much unable to see in our reality in today's Yemen. The result is clear; more chaos, more killings!
Year after year, tribal clashes and bloodsheds continued to top headline news all over the Yemeni press, but when it came to action and remedies, little was done.
The government on one hand claims that it is doing its best in minimizing tribal clashes, but in reality, it is certainly unable to do a lot about it, and knows that very well.
In a time the world is progressing at an unprecedented rate, we in Yemen are still unable, and sometimes seem unwilling, to deal with one of our chronic diseases that is devastating most of the tribal regions of the country.
Tribal revenge is certainly a cycle of violence that never ends. In order to break it, government intervention could be the only solution.
But analysts think that the government cannot interfere easily because of the so-called respect of tribal traditions plus the excuse that forces are not equipped enough to battle tribesmen who are fully armed with advanced ammunition and artillery.
I wouldn't want to put myself in the President's shoes because I know what he is facing.
Tribal values reach into the depth of the military army, and for many soldiers, the sense of belonging to the tribe is much stronger to that feeling of national belonging. This could make a soldier fight for his tribe against his own brigade if a conflict between the two occurs one day.
Furthermore, President Saleh doesn't seem to be convinced that the number of weapons in Yemen needs to be reduced. I cannot forget the interview the President gave to an international channel about the need not to take away the weapons from the hands of citizens, but to rather regulate the carrying of weapons.
I disagree with the president on this point, even though he may have better experience in dealing with tribes throughout the country.
The President may think that taking way weapons from tribes is a danger to the security of the country, which may in fact be true because for many tribesmen carrying a weapon -from early childhood- is a source of manhood.
But on the other hand, the president cannot let the situation get out of control and have tribes batter each other in the way we saw on Thursday.
It is indeed a dilemma.
But in any case, the issue here is not only about weapons, but also about mentality, education, awareness, governance, and long-term planning.
In case we ensure that children of tribesmen are educated properly and attain a good educational background to become useful citizens for their communities, they may as well voluntarily abandon their weapons that they would carry along otherwise.
There is no easy solution to the problem of tribal vengeance, but there is no doubt that time is running out and a solution needs to be secured to prevent the spill of more blood for nothing.
We cannot have a solution overnight, but we can at least start somewhere!