The Yemeni example is not something paradoxical or different from what was and is happening under similar circumstances in other Arab countries.
Both before and after the proclamation of our country’s unity in 1990, Yemen was going through a chain of endless conflicts and wars that led to many problems, such as the issues of the South, the Saada Governorate and terrorism, in addition to a failing economy and rampant corruption, a drop in the living standards and a lack of security.
The new Yemeni Government did not resolve these major problems because of the imposed system of “division and a fixed quota representation” in government bodies, which further aggravated corruption instead of fighting against it. The Conference on National Dialogue that was convened at that time failed to resolve the problems of the South and the Saada Governorate, these key issues for our country’s present and future.
As a result, protesters demanded the overthrow of the Government and received broad popular support, which allowed Houthis from Ansar Allah movement and their allies to enter Sana’a in collusion with some top government officials, and also Aden and other cities in the country’s South, which prompted the so-called Arab Coalition to launch an armed intervention in Yemen on March 26, 2015. As a consequence, the Yemeni people, like the Syrians and Libyans, paid a dear price for these military upheavals with a heavy loss of life and property. They inflicted deep wounds on Yemen and the entire region, which will not heal for a long time and, probably, will lead to new wars and conflicts in the future.
The Yemeni example is not something paradoxical or different from what was and is happening under similar circumstances in other Arab countries, notably, the emergence of a strong nation state as a homeland for all citizens, a state where citizens can be equal and where the force of law rather than law of force can prevail.
The solution of the South issue should be the first step.
It should be based on equality that considers the peoples’ rights. Since this issue emerged as a direct response to the collapse of political unity as a result of the war and the alienation of the South, the best option would be to establish a federation of two regions – northern and southern – within the 1990s borders. This approach was chosen as a foundation at the First Conference of the South held in Cairo in November 2011 and attended by representatives of the majority of groups and strata in this region.
The solution of the Saada Governorate issue should come next.
It has become the venue of six wars that had political, social, structural and economic consequences. It appears that to achieve a resolution, the Ansar Allah movement should become a political party taking part in government bodies and Saada’s restoration.
The third step should be to counter terrorism in Yemen
because it is only possible to fight the terrorist practices of al-Qaeda and religious extremists in Yemen within the framework of a comprehensive system with ideological, political, economic and military components and in conditions of building a modern civil state and promoting social peace and accord.
We believe that the fourth step should consist of the implementation of an all-round development plan.
It is necessary for the state to express its presence not only through security bodies and the military, which manifest its power, but also via its socio-economic policy – short- and long-term plans to develop primarily backward agrarian regions. Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy play a major role in disseminating al-Qaeda’s ideology among young people and involving them in its terrorist activities.
We in Yemen, both in the north and south, have been already through wars like the conflicts in Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq and Somalia. Incidentally, the opposing sides in these conflicts also had to agree to a dialogue in order to stop an armed confrontation. At this point I’d like to quote seasoned politician, Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko who said once that it is better to spend ten years on talks than enter a war even for one day!
As part of the efforts to overcome the yawning gap between the parties of the conflict in Yemen, I personally held several meetings with the Yemeni, regional and international parties involved in the Yemeni conflict in order to find a way out of this crisis. The following proposals were made:
1. Immediate and permanent ceasefire as a prerequisite for resuming a dialogue under the aegis of the Gulf, Arab countries and international mediators with the participation of all political forces and ethnic groups.
2. Restoration of control over the provinces seized by al-Qaeda and local militias, notably Hadramout, Abyan, Lahij, and Shabwa to name a few and their subordination to the central authorities again.
3. Repeated launch of a dialogue based on the Gulf Initiative, as well as decisions and agreements made at the Conference on National Dialogue, and the Agreement on Peace and National Partnership that was signed by all political forces under UN aegis, as well as the relevant international resolutions on settlement in Yemen. The new dialogue should be aimed at a comprehensive resolution of all problems that the previous conference failed to achieve.
4. Adoption of a commitment on resolving the problem in the south by creating a federative state of two regions for a fairly long period of time, after which the population in the south should be granted the right to hold a referendum on their future.
5. The building of military and state civilian institutions based on the results of a national dialogue.
6. Development of a stage-by-stage plan and a strategy for the country’s restoration and consolidation and the development of its economy.
7. Establishment of a commission to monitor implementation of the afore-mentioned measures from among the representatives of the Gulf Initiative sponsors and the Arab League with the involvement of representatives of various organizations and groups in Yemeni society.
This article is based on the speech delivered by the author for the participants of the Valdai Discussion Club conference "The Middle East: From Violence to Security"on February 25-26, 2016.