Yemen: Will stability totally collapse? [Archives:2008/1178/Opinion]

August 4 2008

Raddad Al-Salami
Any pressing issue often necessitates occurrence of a crisis to draw our attention to other problems such as the ones faced by Yemen where society seems to be continuously pausing at the edge of collapse. In the meantime, it is difficult to differentiate between reality and fiction in the 'Arabia Flex'. Yemen suffers from real problems, to which main international actors, specifically the United States of America and Saudi Arabia must pay great attention.

Over the past six months, the language of international media coverage for events in Yemen has turned to warn of further threat. In the security sphere, there has been a thorough observation of the Al-Qaeda Organization's renewed activities in Yemen, particularly after the dangerous organization waged various offensives against government's institutions and foreign interests. This encouraged international security experts to warn that the new generation of Yemeni fighters will be more murderous than the former generations.

Also, talk about a failed state likened to Somalia or Afghanistan has become widely spread. Yemeni ministers, and international relief workers and journalists continuously expected a potential collapse due to skyrocketing prices of basic foodstuffs, the unprecedented damage of agricultural crops as a result of draught, continuant Houthi rebellion in the north, as well as outbreak of rioting in the south over unmet demands and abused human rights, which have remained unsettled since the two parts of Yemen re-unified in 1990.

Unlike journalists and other reporters, researchers reject the idea that Yemen is standing at the edge of collapse. They further confirm that President Ali Abdullah Saleh serves in an environment of organized chaos. Critics, on the other hand, claim that stability is being absorbed with the aim of gathering international sympathy and foreign funding.

However, the old formula of the authority that made scenarios of organized chaos renewable may go changed too. After his demise, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Ahmar, who was an influential broker and a primary dialoguer between President Saleh and the tribal current in the opposition Islah Party in December 2007, left behind a political vacuum, which the Salafis in Yemen tries to fill.

The upcoming parliamentary elections of 2009 will represent a principal test in this context while the presidential bequeathal of power will cover Yemen's future with mist.

In addition, President Saleh's reign is due to expire in 2013 and the number of hopefuls willing to succeed him will increase, most notably among members of his dynasty.

These hopefuls include the President's son Ahmad and half brother Gen. Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, currently serving as Commander of Northeastern Military Flank, who pretends to have sympathy with Salafis.

Civic society activists and international observers claim that pressures related with instability and economic recession increased the burden on the Yemeni government and levied restrictions on political freedoms.

On this past July, a state security court issued a verdict against the reputable independent journalist Abdulkarim Al-Khaiwani, sentencing him to six years in jail on suspicion of having connections with Houthi rebels. According to observers, the regime targets Al-Khaiwani, whom Amnesty International granted a special award while being in jail in recognition of his investigative reports about Houthi-led rebellion in Sa'ada.