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Current Searches for Appropriate Forms of Government

In Africa, Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law, Yemen on October 8, 2021 at 6:52 PM

By René Wadlow

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) strives to respond to situations in this turbulent and frequently violent world by making proposals for the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith and by making proposals for developing appropriate forms of government, often based on con-federalism, decentralization, and trans-frontier cooperation. A current focus is on the situations in Yemen (1) and Somalia. (2)

In March 2015, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia attacked Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, held by a rebel force, the Ansar Allah Movement, commonly called the Houthis. Since that date, the armed conflict has continued, destroying the fragile economy, displacing a large number of persons, creating a humanitarian tragedy. So far, all mediation efforts have failed. The situation becomes more complex each day due in part to the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The state of Yemen was the creation of two separate units. One was the southern part originally known as the Aden Colony and the Eastern and Western Aden Protectorates under British rule. The northern part of the country had been under Ottoman rule until the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. From 1918 until 1962, it was ruled by Imams. In 1962, there was a military coup organized by officers who had been trained in Egypt and were influenced by Nasser’s views on Arab nationalism. The coup was followed by an eight-year-long civil war between the military forces called “republicans” and the forces of the Imam Bader. The republicans won, but the government was weak and unstable.

The south of the country after the British left took the name of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. In 1990, the two segments of Yemen were united, and the Republic of Yemen was established. However, the euphoria which had existed at the start was short-lived. The people in the south had been promised that their lives would be bettered after unification. Life did not improve, and many in the south felt marginalized. Today, there is a strong sentiment in the south for separation and independence.

When the fighting in Yemen stops, the creation of appropriate forms of government will have to be found. The return to two separate states presents real difficulties as people have moved from their original home areas due to changing economic conditions and to the armed conflict. Yet a single centralized government also seems impossible. As Martin Dent points out, where there is strong identity politics, there must be forms of government that fill the gap between unity and independence. (3) There is a need for Track II efforts to discuss possible structures of government in Yemen.

In Somalia, we have very similar conditions. The two Somali colonial areas, one under the control of Britain and the other under that of Italy were combined into one state in 1961. There had been a period of United Nations (UN) trusteeship after the end of the Second World War when the area of Italian colonial status had ended and before the two colonial territories were united. The political culture of the two territories was different. This impact of the colonial legacy was an element leading to the current situation. In January 1991, the military government of Siyad Barre was overthrown, and now different parts of the country demand independence, in particular Somaliland and Puntland, though their boundary claims overlap.

In addition to regional demands for independence, there is an armed Islamist movement, Al-Shabaab, which poses regional and international security issues which continue. Mediation efforts by the UN have not progressed. Again, Track II efforts may be helpful to find governmental structures able to provide autonomy without dividing the Somalia state into three or more independent states. (4) The Association of World Citizens stresses the need for creative thinking on the structure of a state, on the need for regional cooperation and a willingness to negotiate in good faith.

Notes

(1) Helen Lackner, Yemen in Crisis: Autocracy, Neo-Liberalism and the Disintegration of a State (London: Saqi Books, 2017, 330 pp.)

(2) Sarah G. Phillips, When There Was No Aid: War and Peace in Somaliland (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2020, 227 pp.)

(3) Martin J. Dent, Identity Politics: Filling the Gap Between Federalism and Independence (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2004, 232 pp.)

(4) Hurst Hannum, Autonomy, Sovereignty and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990, 503 pp.)

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

Strangled by Saudi-led War, Famine and Internal Divisions, Yemen Faces a Possible Turning Point

In Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, International Justice, Middle East & North Africa, NGOs, Solidarity, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law, Yemen on December 6, 2017 at 11:13 PM

By René Wadlow

The assassination on December 4, 2017 of former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh has potentially opened a new chapter in the ongoing struggle for power in Yemen. There might be a possibility that with a major actor pushed off the stage, the lesser actors might accept the good offices of the United Nations (UN) mediator Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and form an inclusive central government. There is also a real possibility that the armed conflict becomes even more protracted as factions see increased opportunities to advance their interests.

The Saudi Arabian leadership had expected a quick victory when in March 2015 they launched their operation at the time called “Decisive Storm”. Despite limitless weapons from the USA and Great Britain, including the use of U. S.-made cluster weapons now banned by world law, the Saudi-led coalition made relatively few territorial gains beyond those tribal areas within Yemen that were already favorable to the Saudis, tribes that often existed on both sides of the frontier.

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Ali Abdullah Saleh

Both Saudi Arabia and Iran have been backing separate and opposing factions. The lack of progress as well as the costs of the military operations may create a climate favorable to stopping the fighting. However, Saudi Arabia and its coalition are directly involved in the fighting while Iran only supplies some weapons and political support to its allies. Thus, of the outside actors, most responsibility for a change lies with the Saudi decision-makers.

There are two major issues that shape the future. The first is the possibility or not of forming a decentralized but relatively inclusive central government. Yemen remains largely a tribal society with political decisions made by the tribal head. Tribes usually have a specific geographic base. Thus, a central government requires participation by members from the major tribal groups. However, through economic development, people from different tribes now live in the cities and larger towns. These more urbanized populations do not depend as much on the decisions or views of tribal chiefs.

The relative strength of the central government has been based on patronage strategies, offering major tribal leaders some economic advantages. Until March 2011, most people had little say as to government policy. In March 2011, in the spirit of the “Arab Spring”, there were popular demonstrations throughout the country demanding jobs, the end of corruption and some respect for all citizens. By the end of 2011 Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had been in power for 33 years, was pushed out and replaced by his Vice-president Abdu Rabbu Mansur Hadi who has the same governing style but who was considered as a change without upsetting too much the governing pattern.

Saleh, however, never really accepted the idea of giving up power and its material benefits. He formed an alliance with a religious movement that drew its members from the same geographic region. Saleh had combated this Huthi movement, including by force of arms, when he was president. But for a time, the alliance seemed to be mutually beneficial. The alliance broke sharply this November. Fighting among the Huthi forces and those loyal to Saleh broke out in the capital Sana’a in November and on December 4, Huthi troops shot Saleh in his auto as he was trying to leave the city.

Capture d'écran 2017-12-07 00.04.38

The second major issue concerns the ability of Yemen to remain as one State or again to split into two with Sana’a as the capital of one State in the north and Aden as the capital of another State in the south. The two States were the political structure until 1990 when the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, with its center in Aden, combined with the Yemen Arab Republic in the north to become the Republic of Yemen. Leading up to 1990, there was wide hope that the union of the two States would lead to increased economic well-being. In practice, there has been little improvement. If there has been an improvement, it is because of external economic factors and not directly linked to the union. The lack of improvement in the south has led to resentment in the south and on the part of some persons, a desire for southern separation. Now, some in the south have formed militias. It is difficult to know how far they will push for separation and the creation of an independent State. Already in 1994, there had been armed attacks to push for a return to an Aden-based State.

The Association of World Citizens (AWC) has been concerned with three issues in the Yemen conflict:

         1) The violation of international humanitarian law, involving attacks on medical facilities, medical personnel and the use of weapons banned by international treaties, especially cluster munitions. The AWC had been particularly active in promoting a treaty on the prohibition of cluster munitions.

         2) Humanitarian relief, especially food aid. With the Saudi-led blockage of ports and air fields, it has been difficult for the UN or relief organizations to bring in food supplies. It is estimated that some eight million people suffer from famine-like conditions and that some 17 million others are in conditions of food insecurity. The fighting makes certain roads unsafe, preventing the delivery of food and other relief supplies.

         3) The creation of a Yemen confederation. While the form of State structures depends on the will of the people of Yemen (if they were able to express themselves freely), the AWC proposes con-federal forms of government which maintain cooperation within a decentralized framework as an alternative to the creation of new independent States. In 2014, a committee appointed by then president Abu Hadi proposed a six-region federation as the political structure for Yemen. The AWC believes that this proposal merits close attention and could serve as a base of a renewal for an inclusive Yemen government.

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A Yemeni rally in Paris on October 28 (C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

Today, the choice between an end to the armed conflict with negotiations for a renewal of a Yemeni State on the basis of the con-federal system proposed and continued fighting in the hope that one faction become a “winner-take-all” is relatively clear. The AWC is resolutely for an end to the armed conflict with serious negotiations on the structure of a future State. We encourage others to support such a policy.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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