Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Breaking the wall of hatred between Yemen southerners and northerners

By Nasser Arrabyee 04/07/2009

The Yemeni opposition leader, Abdul Rahman Al Jafrey, said that the current unrest in the

southern part of his country is more dangerous than the civil war in 1994 when he was the second man in the leadership of the failed attempt to secede from the north which united with the south in 1990.

Al Jafrey, who came back to Yemen in 2006 after about 12 years in exile, said there is now a wall of hatred being built between the southerners and northerners.

Disgruntled groups in the south are now preparing for anti-unity demonstrations today, July 7th,, 2009 the day that marks the end of the peaceful unity in their view.

At the same time, governmental preparations are in full swing to celebrating the same date, July 7th, when President Saleh's army defeated the secessionists after 70 days of all-out war in 1994 , the day of confirming unity as they call it.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Al Jafrey said Yemen now is living under two extremisms: one wants to keep corruption and chaos and the other wants the secession.

Al Jafrey, currently chairman of the opposition RAY party, called for a recognition of the crisis in Yemen, which he described as a problem of life or death for Yemen.

He spoke to Gulf News about reasons behind the crisis, and solutions and also the impact on the neighbouring GCC if Yemen collapses into chaos.

Interviewed by Nasser Arrabyee

The Excerpts:

You suggested federalism as solution to the current crisis, why now?

People do not feel that they are partners in the unity because it was established by element of force only. The force may establish a State but it is impossible to make this State stays for ever because the element of force itself is not stable. As soon as, the State’s power weakens, the basis of the State collapses. So, since the beginning, we were with the decentralization.

Now, we are between two extremisms: one supports the current way of ruling which is extremely central authority, rampant corruption, and chaos; while the other wants to treat this situation by secession. We say there is no good in this way of ruling neither in the secession.

Both extremisms will lead to blood and we want to stop the bloodshed. We think that the federalism is the solution in which everyone will become a partner in the unity.

What is the difference between federalism which you talk about and the full-power local governance which President Ali Abullah Saleh talks about?

Local governance is close to federalism. I mean, we should name the things with their clear and scientific names. You can say full-power local governance if there is a problem in the term of federalism. There is misunderstanding, some people think that federalism is a prelude to secession; no, federalism is a prelude to the stability of unity. I challenge you to give me three examples from history for a unity that was based on federalism and then it was failed, or three examples for a unity which was based on centralization and then it lasted, you will not find.

Well, could you please tell us about the reasons behind this crisis, in your opinion?

Briefly, the reasons are: the centralization; the unidentified system of ruling which is not a parliamentary, not presidential and not mixed. And also the weak and corrupt system of judiciary.

This all led to the absence of equal citizenship, which, we believe, should be based on equal distribution of power and wealth.

What is the impact of the unrest in Yemen on the GCC countries? And do you think there is concern with the Gulf people over what is happening?

This talk must be stopped. Maybe, there is media concern in the Gulf counties but I do not believe that the Gulf countries have the same concern. Why? Some senior officials say “give us or the situation will explode or famine and chaos will take place in Yemen”. What is this? We should reassure them: help us to achieve the stability and security in our country.

We hope this talk will stop and we should try to send reassurance messages to the Gulf countries: Help us to make a radical change in the State’s structure.

In your opinion, do the GCC countries do what should be done towards Yemen?

We should do our duty first, and I am sure that everyone will do his duty. Yemen is important for the Gulf counties and the whole world, but it is not important as a bugaboo. Yemen should be a positive factor in the region not an intimidating factor.

What could the GCC countries do to help Yemen to come out from this crisis?

Look, I wish you could leave alone the story of one helping us, this does not work. If we want to solve the problem, we have to take the first step by our own, which is recognition by all that there is a serious problem, and it is a problem of life or death for Yemen.

Second, we should look for a comprehensive solution to get out from this problem. We believe that the solution is the federalism. Third, we should take legal and constitutional steps to implement the solution. After that, we should determine what we need from the Gulf countries and the whole world, and I am sure that everyone will help Yemen.

How do you look at the opposition abroad, especially the former two Presidents? Ali Salem Al Beidh and Ali Nasser Mohammed?

They are partners in this country. All people with senior or junior positions are partners in this country. I hope the day will come when no Yemeni is exiled, and no reason remains for secession. All are partners.

We should also accept each other. Those who want secession, we don't care about them. But we should discuss with them friendly. If we have a strong logic, and I think we have strong logic, we will convince them.

Last month, there was talk about dialogue between Yemeni government and the opposition abroad and your name was mentioned as one of those involved that dialogue in Cairo, is that true?

These are press leaks, I'm an honest person and I hate to do anything secretly without informing people. This did not happen.

Ok, are you ready to mediate if you are requested?

I'm not a broker. I am a partner in this country. There is a difference between playing a mediation role and playing a role like any partner. We are partners.

Does it means you can you make a rapprochement between the different views?

As partners, yes, I have no problem. But, as merely a mediator no, at all. Mediator between whom and whom ? The country is not theirs. It is not owned by the ruler or by those who are abroad. The country is for all.

Do you think that the-self appointment of Ali Salem Al Beidh as a head for the so-called southern movement will strengthen this movement?

I can not judge the decisions of others. Any person has supporters and opposers. Even the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was opposed. This would weaken the movement among those who do not like him (Al Beidh) and would strengthen it among those who like him.

Some say the secessionists were defeated in 1994 when they had army and weapons, and they will definitely be defeated now? What do think?

It is a very superficial argument. My assessment is that what is happening now is more dangerous than what happened in 1994. I said this to some officials a year and half ago. They said: why? I said, in 1994, the war was political, between of politicians; no wall of hatred between the southerners and northerners was built. Now, a wall of hatred is being built. This is more dangerous than the war of 1994.

Does the fact that 80 % of Yemen's resources coming from the south, where only 20 % of the population exists, cause a feeling of injustice?

In the whole world, this equation exists 80 % to 20 % ; the same equation of resources and population. Yes, this factor will lead to secession, if the people in the wealthy areas feel that they do not exist and that they are just an instrument of use and they are not partners in managing the resources of the country. This equation exists in America, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and in the whole world but no one called for secession and they do not feel injustice, rather they feel they are real partners in the management of resources.

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