When solutions create more problems [Archives:2007/1093/Opinion]

October 11 2007

Dr. Abdullah Al-Faqih
One of the most famous Yemeni jokes says that Abdullah Al-Sallal, the first president of what was known the Arab Republic of Yemen, had conducted a visit to Hodeida city. Upon his arrival, people started chanting, “Mina ina Ya Sallal”, meaning 'we need a harbor' in English. It appears that inhabitants of Hodeida, a Yemeni city, which is overlooking the Red Sea, were in an urgent need for a harbor and that President Al-Sallal promised to fulfill their demand.

By chance, inhabitants of Dhamar governorate, which is the second station for Al-Sallal's visit, had heard about the proceedings of Al-Sallal's visit to Hodeida via the Radio. Upon the arrival of the President to their city, the Dhamari people went out to receive him and at the same time chanting, “Mina Mina Ya Sallal”. The then President of the Arab Republic of Yemen was witty and wise enough to deal with this demand. Instead of opposing or rejecting such an impossible idea (constructing a harbor in Dhamar), he threw the ball into a field of Dhamaris saying to them, “Bring the sea, and I will construct a harbor for you.”

Such a simple joke is rich with evidence clarifying the nature of Yemeni people. It has been made clear that it is very easy for a ruler to have a strong influence on the people regardless of their number. As the Dhamaris heard about Hodeida people claiming Al-Sallal to construct a harbor for their city, and in the meantime, the joke indicates that the Dhamaris didn't know what a harbor is, they turned to chant the same slogan and raise the same demand.

In the past, people of Dhamar, as it is their case in the present time, had problems of this type and therefore searched for solutions to them. Remarkably, the elements of surprise, lack of awareness, the traditional culture, as well as other similar factors, contributed to their being convinced that Hodeida locals can voice such demands on their behalf. The result was an inauthentic definition of the problems of Dhamari people, and one can imagine how the result would look like if the Dhamaris took Al-Sallal's words seriously and started to build a sea for the harbor project.

What applies on Dhamari people does apply on states, parties and leaders, as people might once find themselves victims of a malicious person, who wanted to shift their attention from authentic and persisting problems. Another people may become a victim of an ignorant expert, who wanted to apply an experiment, the implementation of which once succeeded in one of the South American countries.

There is a simple rule, ignored by many people, which is 'what works well in Hodeida that is overlooking the Red Sea may not necessarily work in Dhamar.' The direct result of ignoring the rule is the attempts by some people who try to resolve the Hodeida's problems in Dhamar and Dhamar's problems in Hodeida.

It appears that the case of all the Yemeni people is not that different from the case of Dhamaris. Only God knows who created various obstacles to engage people and draw their attention from the real problems. Instead of talking about their longstanding problems, the Yemeni people turned to talk about how to create new problems. It is enough for the wise observer of the situation to contemplate on talks about gubernatorial elections, the parliamentary system, constitutional amendments, generating electricity from nuclear energy, artificial intelligence institutes, anti-corruption authority and establishing a university for the orphans, and then release his judgment of the situation.

Is it not the right of human beings to question what the problems that need to be resolved are? My advice to those concerned is that they should give top priority to any persisting problems.

Dr. Al-Faqih is an activist, analyst, and professor of politics at Sana'a University. He welcomes comments by email to: [email protected]

Source: Al-Ahali Weekly