Who Fuels Tribal Conflict? [Archives:2001/28/Law & Diplomacy]

July 9 2001

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Yemen Times
While the furious clashes between the military forces and tribesmen in the governorate of Marib which claimed the lives of several people and resulted in many injuries and destruction of people’s property were approaching an end, other clashes have brokeout between Jahm tribe of Khawlan and al-Jadaan tribe of Nahm, two of the most powerful tribes in the governorate.
If these clashes continue between the two tribes they may worsen the situation and perhaps lead to the outbreak of a war between Khawlan which is located on a vast region stretching from Sana’a to Mareb and Nahm which is controlling the northern west of the capital Sana’a. But the question here is how such tribal conflicts originate?
Tribal conflicts are easy to erupt as a result of the binding disputes among tribes over tribal boundaries. These disputes are time-bombs among the different tribes. The tribal norms and traditions, similar to those in the pre-Islamic period, are the underlying reasons for agitating conflicts forcing each member of the tribe to take part in conflicts when hearing the so-called ‘Nakaf’ (war cries). Nakaf is a call for all the tribes members to be prepared for war when a trespassing or an aggression is perpetrated by another tribe against the land or the pasture areas of the tribe.
Tribes in Yemen have a long history of war-dominated heritage as no single tribe in the western region has not entered in armed conflicts with the neighboring tribes. Sheikh Ameen al-Okeimi, one of the sheikhs of al-Jowf and an MP, pointed out to a policy that was adopted by the government in the eighties aiming at segregating tribes and entangling them within conflicts so as to undermine their material and military power which they gained during conflicts between the republicans and the loyalists. “The reason for the adoption of this policy is the fear that tribes which are capable of fighting and if someday they want to assuming power they could produce a charge within the political power centers,” Sheikh al-Okeimi said.
The question that is still raised is who fuels these conflicts?
If sheikhs are conscious that conflicts undermine them and make them live in a state of continued conflict and fear, why then they let disputes go further among tribes. In a meeting with a sheikh of Abidah tribe during which we discussed this issue he told me that he came to know that tribes were supplied from the same warehouse during the Abidah-Murad conflict. Moreover, there were persons of the government who were supplying the two warring tribes.
It is shameful that tribal conflicts exist in the 21st century while the government take no action to stop them. Conflicts between tribes are always ended through tribal mediation of a neutral tribe, while the established authorities have never take action so as to end a conflict between two tribes and this is the fault of the state.
Conflicts are always a prelude of a disaster and mass killing. One of the biggest outcome of such conflicts is tribal revenge. Even when the conflict is settled, tribes are not yet ready to forget their men killed. Hence, they restore to settling the binding scores through assassinating the best men of the rival tribe. Furthermore, they make of the capital city as the appropriate place for settling their scores, the last of which were the clashes between the Bani Dhabian tribes which took place in Bab Al-Yaman last Wednesday claiming the lives of two people.
Tribal conflicts have adversely affected the youths and sons of tribes. Students learning in Sana’a or in the other cities are living a state of unrest and fear of being victims of revenge. Two years ago, a student was killed in front of the College of Medicine owing to a blood feud. Another student was killed in front of the Police Academy for the same reason. This issue is of great concern and makes the young people of tribes isolated in their own areas for the fear of such problems.
The duty of the state when a tribal blood feud takes place in a city is to deal with it as a crime. It must not allow such clashes to occur saying that tribal revenge is not of its business.
Another issue of major concern is why facilities are granted to some parties so as to do away with the educated young people and the political and social activists through tribal feud, for no reason but affiliating or bearing the name of that tribe.