Yemenis: Doing it for Themselves!

The conclusion of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC) provides an unprecedented opportunity for Yemen. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Initiative and Mechanism has been codified providing a strategy for the writing of a Constitution, a Referendum and ultimately Presidential and Parliamentary elections. NDC addressed governance in order to determine a 6 sub-state structure in response to the needs of Yemeni majority and minority interests, particularly in the south. The recent ratification of UN Resolution 2041, unpopular for some, provides credible support in reducing the impact of spoilers, some of whom still meddle in Yemen’s progress. Yemen is a credible role model for successful transformation in the region and others can follow their example. Dr. Jamal Benomar – the UN Representative to Yemen – deserves credit for his outstanding work, but this is all about Yemen, not outside advisors. Yemenis must now proceed on their own.

It has been three years since the eruption of the revolutionary events in Yemen. At the time, the protests were characterized by underlying problems of unequal access to and the sharing of power and resources. This was aggravated by the loss of faith that the regime of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh would or could achieve Yemeni demands for change.

It was hoped that the revolution would bring about a fundamental change in the political and economic structure of the country. However, these hopes were dashed as Yemen divided into two strong groups, one supporting the revolution and the other opposing it. This led to a further conflict overpower that became increasingly violent. The international community saved Yemen by brokering the GCC deal developed by Saudi Arabia and nine other countries.

The intervention of these countries at a critical juncture saved Yemen from deteriorating into a second bitter civil war. The womb of that GCC deal gave birth to the NDC which conclusions provide an unprecedented opportunity for Yemen. Many Yemenis are aware that the future of their country was never as precarious as it is now. The reconciliation efforts to carve out a new system should not be mistaken as a solution for all Yemen’s problems. Yemenis now need to proceed themselves.

The challenges facing Yemen are largely unresolved. The southern movement is still pursuing its separatist agenda declaring that they reject the reconciliation process outcomes. Fierce clashes are still ongoing. Furthermore, the Houthis are still utilizing the vulnerability of the security situation and weak central government control in order to annex more land and people to their domain on the northern outskirts of Sana’a. Moreover, there are still violent extremists, notably al-Qaeda, who become ever more threatening and dangerous. Al-Qaeda has proved that it can recruit and radicalize the Yemeni by exploiting grievances derived from bad state management and the growing anger over American drones strikes.

With these fissures and the subsequent unrest and violence, Yemen cannot focus on its humanitarian crisis. Notwithstanding widespread corruption that permeates all segments of Yemen, malnutrition levels in Yemen are among the world’s highest, on a par with sub-Saharan Africa. Roughly one in four of the people go to bed hungry every night. Low rates of literacy and high unemployment combine with resource scarcities of oil and water to make matters worse.

Many Yemenis are aware of the problems challenging their country and dream of a country which is stable and free of conflict, weapons, violence, and poverty. However, many of them lack the will to stand up for their country. Many have their own agendas and are not ready to take a risk for peace for Yemen and its people. Self-interest runs too high and when self-interest becomes the approach of the many, the country fails.

In such circumstances people do not contribute to the welfare of the nation and thus they focus on political allegiance. They reconcile their actions which are derived from the balance of individual loss and gain. Harm to the country is vast when people focus on self-benefit and self-interest. Some appear unready to improve the performance of the organization and institution where they work. Only if Yemenis press forward will the promise of the GCC and NDC be realized. Yemenis must leave their self-interests behind and embrace the welfare of their nation. It is a time of great opportunity for Yemen and now we need to see what Yemenis can do for themselves.