Will a public tribal conference help?When will tribal vendettas end? [Archives:2003/683/Reportage]

November 6 2003

Hassan Al-Zaidi
Fighting among different tribes has been more common in tribes belonging to eastern governorates such as Marib which has witnessed a deadly Ramadhan start.Thousands of people have been killed and injured during years of bloodshed.
To find a cogent background to causes of such conflicts and clashes, one should go a bit back in history, particularly to the 1970s and 1980s.
An intelligent strategy was adopted during this period to make tribes clash with one another either for border disputes or many other pretexts.
In Marib, six people were killed and tens of others injured on Oct. 28 as a result of long-standing tribal vendetta.This is the last tribal incident in that city of Marib between two major tribes.
Similar tribal incidents have taken place in different parts of the country and most of them have not been reported. This is because those areas are distant and inaccessible for the media means to reach there.
Yemen’s social structure is composed of tribal structure. Most of tribesmen are fully armed. Cities and areas where tribesmen dwell, are not peaceful ones. Tribal vendetta and long-term conflicts that break out from time to time have threatened its individuals as well as their future.
Revenge as it is defined by intellectuals is an exact punishment for a wrong or it is a primitive means of getting revenge, which intensely provoke the situations of the two parties, (two tribes) for the worst.It is considered to be a partial wrong altercation performed by an individual’s will.
Meanwhile, the criminal penalty is represented by the will of the public.But, in tribal societies, when taking revenge, a tribesman usually restore to killing, which is an indication of an individual’s will.
Those tribes are not totally governed by the centralized powerful state. Not even a sense of reverence or obedience is shown to a valid law authority.

Tribal vendetta
Tribal vendetta has been still predominant factor among tribes in Yemen. To take revenge means to start with a perpetrator. If not, a close family member or relative, if also impossible to do so, a certain kind of fierce tribal clashes start with the clan or tribe.
This takes place when the death penalty is impossible or that the perpetrator or fugitive convict is too difficult to reach.
In tribal societies, if a killer restores to taking revenge and doesn’t hand himself over, the blood relatives restore to take revenge against the perpetrator, if not a close friend as it has been stated earlier.
The tribal tension then expands and grows among tribesmen.

Political revenge
Many officials have been boasting about the government’s ability to control political conflicts in Yemen, ignoring the amounting tension among tribes that has reached major cities.
Many tribal clashes and conflicts stem from political backgrounds even if they seem to be of a tribal nature.
Although the government is aware of this fact, no action has so far been taken against bodies involved.
With many eyebrows raised about such a stance of the government, some believe that tribal conflicts serve the government, which is afraid of any future tribal alliance that might pose a real threat on the present state.
The president’s visit to Abyan also conveys a positive step to end such political revenge.
He spares no efforts in eliminating it and in his speech, the president placed an emphasis to put an end to the tribal vendetta and to stand against anyone who electrifies such crisis.
What has remained is the tribal vendetta. Nothing has been adopted by the officials in the state to take strict measures against those long-standing tribal issues.
Several questions have been posed and they are in need of immediate tackling.

Shiekhs’ comments
Sheikh al-Ukaimi, a prominent Shiekh said: “The state has restored to inflame the tribal situation and tribal violence, specifically during the 1970s and 80s, as an attempt to impair tribesmen’s military and material power.”
“Now the state has given a carte blanche for tribesmen and nothing has been yet resolved or adopted in order to put an end to such long-standing tribal conflict,” Shiekh al-Ukaimi remarked.
Shiekh Ahmed Bin Saleh said that officials at the state are behind the tribal disputes, which in turn has led to long-standing tribal conflicts.
Shiekh Bin Saleh attributed most of those tribal incidents to the officials at the state and this according to him; “officials will be then secured from the tribesmen’s evil acts.”
Shiekh al-Ardah is quite worried about the eruption of tribal vendetta because such issue “has aroused pity and preoccupied the minds of tribal society”.
“The state should be held accountable for giving a free hand to tribesmen to kill each other. Bloodshed should be brought to an end,” he further remarked.
Shiekh al-Ardah has urged the wise Shiekhs and the sagacious to be aware of arousing such tribal conflicts and have to spare efforts to avoid them as early as possible before erupting tribal clashes.
Shiekh Mabkhoot has urged the state not to remain a mere bystander when tribal conflicts erupt.
“Why are armies and militaries created? Being a mere bystander, the state should be held accountable for giving a fee hand to those tribesmen to kill each other.
Thousands of innocent tribesmen are killed and that the tribal vendetta has been still predominant. Undoubtedly, the tribal clashes represents one of the gravest revenge because the whole tribes and clans are involved in those endless wars. Because the tribe or the clan is responsible for its tribal individuals and this still exists in Yemen today.
Absent role of prominent Shiekhs in Yemen
Thinking about Shiekhs’ attitude towards tribal conflicts, they seem to have no worthwhile roles to soften the abiding conflicts among their tribes. Personal gains and interest are all that matters in case of most of them.
I believe that its Shiekhs, who can, if they join hands and are supported by the state, put an end to such incidents of bloodshed. However, lack of any initiative by Shiekhs in this regards portends an uncertain future.
The Yemeni parliament has a host of prominent tribal dignitaries such as, its speaker, Shiekh Abdullah Bin Hussein al-Ahmar.
Al-Ahmar is undoubtedly descended from tribal origins in Yemen. Being the speaker of the parliament and one of the prominent Shiekhs in Yemen, Shiekh al-Ahmar should tackle such tangled tribal issues as much as he can.

Shared responsibilities
Despite that revenge is an expression of an individual will to take revenge from the perpetrator or a close family member of his, there are other means and solutions that should be taken into consideration. Restoring to the Islamic Law for settling tribal disputes in indispensable. This is because the perpetrators commit their crime with a willful deliberation to kill. To apply and execute the perpetrators to death means to end endless tribal disputes.
But most of tribesmen feel doubtful of some the judicial system as a result administrative and judicial corruption such as, accepting bribes or enjoying influential power at the state. Restoring to take revenge has become an easy access and simple solution for tribesmen.

Call for public tribal conference
After the Revenge Committee that includes members of the Shura council had failed to settle tribal revenge disputes as well as organizations that claim of eliminating tribal vendetta, it has become evidently clear that most of those organizations have been hankering after collecting money for their own benefits.
I retreat that public tribal conference should be held with a view of discussing that tangled issue.
The responsibility should be held by the president and other officials who want to do a good deed for our lovable Yemen.