Yemen needs to be prepared for unforeseen calamities [Archives:2007/1091/Opinion]

October 4 2007

By: Hassan Al-Haifi
That a volcano can suddenly erupt in the uninhabited island of Abu Tair in the Red Sea with a number of troops valiantly there guarding the territorial integrity of our country in a very hostile environment for normal human life is proof that Government has failed in insuring that sufficient knowledge exists of our environment and ecological surroundings. What is also not clear is how many troops were actually in the island and how many actually died, are missing or wounded? It is imperative that the Government determines how geologically safe is the country from further volcanic activities that could prove to be catastrophic, if some of the hundreds of dead volcanoes that abound in the Republic of Yemen decide (by the Dictate of the Al-Mighty) to erupt. Surely, after the minor eruption that occurred on Friday, according to the Ministry of Defense Bulletin, serious efforts should have been undertaken to remove the garrison or whatever contingent of troops was stationed on the island.

Why our troops should be subjected to death by an enemy that has warned of its volatile nature beforehand is perplexing indeed and why the Yemeni public should not be given the full information about this natural calamity is another mystery worth contemplating about.

One should not expect our valiant troops to be lost or sacrificed because of the unforgivable neglect of their superiors. This would be the second time that our troops have been subjected to needless harm while valiantly guarding our territorial extremities. The first time was when the Eritrean Government attempted to regard itself as a colonial power and sought to expand its territorial reaches to as far as its ambitions will take it when Eritrean troops occupied the Island of Hunnish and drove out our poorly equipped and almost abandoned garrison on the island, which was unable to deter this act of aggression. This was because the mainland failed in providing the garrison with the needed air and naval support, which should have been prepared and able to overwhelm the more inferior equipped Eritreans when it comes to air and sea power. Needless to say there was an obvious weakness in the intelligence gathering capability of our armed forces which one hopes has now been corrected significantly.

Thank God, the matter over Hunnish was settled amicably, but the attack on Hunnish proved how indefensible the territorial integrity of Yemen is, notwithstanding all the hundreds of millions – if not billions – spent on equipping and arming our armed forces. Having said that about our poor ability to safeguard our territorial integrity and to ensure that our troops are prepared to meet any hostile enemy efforts to test our defense capabilities, one is even more flabbergasted by our inability to evacuate our helpless troops in the wake of natural foreseeable natural calamities with advanced warning already given by the Lord Al-Mighty, which apparently our Ministry of Defense failed to take heed of erroneously. Thus a still unknown number of our brave troops lost their lives because of insufficient alertness at the mainland that failed to take the drastic action to evacuate our troops, when they had two days to do so.

When one sees the immense amount of military capability that is unleashed against the people on the mainland of the country at times, the observer cannot help but wonder why is it that where military capability is most needed, which is in the open and apparently weakly guarded periphery, there are severe shortcomings to be realized, even if the threat is from a natural calamity.

It is not difficult to realize that we are very much unaware of how much latent danger lies underneath the ground, especially when we sit on a critical spot on the biggest tectonic plate on Earth, which makes up the continent of Asia. The Earthquake of December 1982 that hit Dhamar and continued to have aftershocks for several days thereafter, should have awakened the Government to undertake the geological studies that insure that we have all the information we need to understand our geological environs and to insure that our development plans incorporate the possibility that we can face up to any possible dangers from the subsurface. But it seems that in Yemen, we will continue to learn the hard way. But we are definitely learning more and more about the ineptitude of our Government above the surface, in the mainland and on the offshore territorial extremities of our beloved homeland. Where is the relief? Only God Al-Mighty knows.

Hassan Al-Haifi has been a Yemeni political economist and journalist for more than 20 years.