Yemeni Unity: Goal & means [Archives:2008/1142/Opinion]

March 31 2008

By: Ahmad Hamoud Harmal
Missing dream:

Tireless peaceful struggle by the national movement led to declaring the Yemeni Unity on the basis of healthy democratic foundations. The Unity State was established on May 22, 1990 under an international agreement between both leaderships of the General People Congress (GPC) and Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), and thanks to support and backing of all the popular forces and organizations.

Linking declaration of the national unity to democracy as an option to develop the political system of unified Yemen helped create a new turning point in the history of Yemeni people.

The unity agreement had assigned multiple tasks to be accomplished during the subsequent transitional period in order to achieve full integration of the then two governments' institutions. In addition, one of these tasks is to have the various institutions in both parts of the country recorded in the same register and affiliated with the new democratic state, in which all Yemeni people pined great hope that it will meet their expectations and achieve their dreams. Regretfully, such did not happen while both partners in the unity failed to achieve tasks of the transitional period.

Such a political deadlock was seen by some people as failure of the unity project. Only few months of the unity age has passed until indicators of a crisis between both partners in the unity arose, specifically after the Second Gulf War erupted when Iraq occupied the neighboring Arab State of Kuwait. Consequences of the Second Gulf War created multiple obstacles to the Yemeni economy and lead to repatriation of Yemeni expatriates in the Gulf states. The decision to repatriate Yemeni expatriates in the Gulf states came as a reaction to the wrong policy followed by the Republic of Yemen at that time, as well as its position toward the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait.

There had been an easy opportunity before both partners in the unity to benefit from the large popular support, demonstrated by the National Referendum on the suggested constitutional amendments, and bring a workable mechanism and strong foundations for building the new democratic state – state of law and order.

Establishment of the modern democratic state reflected a main goal for all the political forces and social groups that carried a modern development project. However, this task encountered several hurdles and obstacles nationwide, one which was the traditional and parasitic forces coalition's dominance of the state's administrative system. This system was exploited to serve the coalition's slim interests in a way contradicting the public interest of people.

Task-related complications:

In addition, the task faced other obstacles related with the economic and social differences countrywide, and the confusion between contemporary and backward concepts on the state, citizenship and weak democratic legacy, coupled with the inherited submission to a seemingly illogical concept that power defeats everything. Due to belief in such an illogical concept, people turned to be submissive and obedient to totalitarianism, thereby causing ongoing contradiction between the constitutional and legal provisions, on the one hand, and what is placed in effect or applied in reality, on the other.

Crisis between both partners in the unity continued to worsen rapidly, particularly when dozens of YSP leaders were targeted by assassination attempts and their houses were attacked with heavy weapons.

South Yemen welcomed the unity, which it considered as a means to achieve comprehensive development, as well as a good opportunity to improve the living standards of citizens, who had been dreaming of unity for a long time. On the contrary, the traditional forces in North Yemen saw unity as a goal through which they incorporate the inferior into the superior. Consequently, they cared to maintain the dire situations and poor citizens' living standards unchanged.

In short, there had been forces, represented by President Ali Abdullah Saleh, GPC and the military-tribal coalition, which were more able to change or manipulate the Unity State in a way meeting expectations of Yemeni people and improving their living standards, but those forces had no will to do so. On the other hand, there had been other forces, represented by Ali Salem Al-Biedh, YSP and modernization forces, which had strong will and determination to build a democratic and developed state, but were unable to do so.

The problem became more complicated during and after the 1993 election while the crisis reached its climatic point when the then Prime Minister of the Unity State Haidar Abu Bakr Al-Attas, from YSP, was not allowed to enter Sana'a. People of South Yemen viewed that event as an indicator of secession machinated by North Yemen.

Consequences of 1994 Civil War:

The 1994 Civil War produced further difficulties and obstacles to efforts aimed at building the Unity State and adopting the then announced democratic option due to imbalance between the domestic forces. As a result, unification and party pluralism changed into a form without content, as well as a cover for the one-party's dominance. Peaceful transfer of power has become impossible because democracy can never yield fruitful results until it is practiced in a state governed by institutions, but not in a state where the Constitution's value doesn't equal that of the ink used for writing its provisions.

From 1994 onward, Yemen has been governed by the convention of power instead of the rule of law while the possibility of building the national democratic state decreased. Also, the war-related negative consequences helped corruption to grow and become more rampant, led to mishandling power and encouraged the traditional parasitic forces to spread its dominance and control of power at the expense of modern and civilized forces.

The pessimistic war of 1994 have left negative impacts on the national unity, and its national, peaceful and democratic concept, thereby destroying many national human and financial resources and creating imbalanced forces in Yemeni society. As a result, the backward and oppressive forces controlled capacities of people, demonstrated notable dominance over power and reproduced tragic events of the past, thus exposing national sovereignty to risk.

The subsequent situation revealed that the 1994 Civil War did not only target YSP and eliminate it from politics. Instead, it targeted citizens, resources and everything in South Yemen. It has been evident that the 7 July Authority used unity as a cover to exploit land and resources in South Yemen and marginalize citizens.

Source: Al-Thawry Weekly.