Yahya Al-Mutawakkil: A different breed of man [Archives:2003/03/Focus]

January 20 2003

By Hassan Al-Haifi
In the space of a month, Yemen has lost two great national heroes, leaving a great void in the hopes of many Yemenis yearning for a change for the better, Yemenis saw in these two men, first Jarullah Omer and now the incomparable Yahya Al-Mutawakkil, their work in government for justice and fair play.
Though Yahya Al-Mutawakkil was one of those political and military personalities that never sought the limelight, his deeds are written all over the faces of the hundreds of thousands who gathered on Zubeiri Road to get a last glimpse of the man, who was to them the true symbol of heroism and chivalry and humility that they wished to see in every political figure of stature. Amidst all the corruption and injustice that has fallen on Yemen all these sad years of oppression and foreign intervention in the affairs of Yemen, Yahya Al-Mutawakkil stood out among all the great national leaders for his uncompromising patriotism and defense of civil liberties and human rights. He promoted equitable enforcement of the law when all the others shied away from standing up for the rights of the people out of fear for their safety, or out of fear of loosing their place among the elite. Yahya Al-Mutawakkil was not only a member of the elite, but in fact was the elite, as it should be in all its manifestations.
What can one recall about this phenomenal personality in the Yemeni political environment? The truth of the matter is that no one can come up with enough words to pay tribute to such an outstanding character, of impeccable cleanliness. He was courageous. But then this courage takes its significance not just on the battlefields of the struggle for national liberation and freedom from the oppressive regimes that prevailed in this homeland of ours, but in the political arena as a minister of many portfolios that involved the security and well-being of the people of Yemen. Time and again did Yahya speak out against all the officials who exceeded the limits of their authorities at the expense of public interest. Time and again did Yahya Al-Mutawakkil insist that the law should first be enforced against all those people in the political and social elite who roamed around the country with armed guards protecting them left and right against enemies they themselves created by their own selfish ambitions and greed. Yet, even those devious elite could not help but remember that to them Yahya Al-Mutawakkil was a man they should listen to and understand, because he was a man who spoke with reasonable justifications for all his wisdom. Furthermore, his behavior and conduct was a full reflection of the principles he lived by and advocated for with all his military and later political might.
He was a man of war and a man of peace. In fact Mr. Muhsin Al-Ainy could find no other person in Yemen to go with him to Saudi Arabia in 1970 and work out a settlement of the civil war that broke the back of Yemen for eight years prior to that, except the late Yahya Al-Mutawakkil, who revealed his astute political and diplomatic at that early period of his diplomatic career, after having proven himself a legendary hero in the battlefield for safeguarding Yemen.
But then, despite all this glorious military and diplomatic record, Yahya Al-Mutawakkil will always be remembered for his mild manners and humility where he could be seen talking with people at every level of society with the same tone and modesty. He never tried to offend anyone. Even when the political and sometimes military atmosphere was tense and shaky, Yahya Al-Mutawakkil was able to soften the climate and bring feuding factions closer to compromise, even if it meant that he would have to end up forfeiting some of his own personal stature.
For Yahya Al-Mutawakkil, Yemen stood above all personal ambitions. For Yahya Al-Mutawakkil, the people of Yemen always deserved more than all the misery and plight that they have been subjected to. Yahya Al-Mutawakkil was sought after by all the regimes that prevailed in Yemen, because he provided that cushion of safety, these regimes needed, especially when the odds began to turn against them. President Ali Abdullah Saleh was the first to realize the grave tragedy that befell Yemen at the untimely loss of this great hero of the Yemeni nationalist movement, when he ordered that Yemen’s grief should be a reflection of his own personal sadness at the loss of such a great man. In fact to all Yemenis, the loss of Yahya Al-Mutawakkil could never be compensated for. The grief will hang all over Yemen for years to come.