Monday, 10 January 2011

Clinton visit puts terrorism in Yemen under spotlight

Source; DPA, By Ruppert Mayr , 10/01/2011

Sana'a, Yemen -The planned visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Yemen on Tuesday threatens to become an uncomfortable affair in light of information on her country's role there leaked recently by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world but receives a disproportionate amount of attention because of its reputation as a haven for al-Qaeda.

Information about US military 'assistance' in fighting the terrorist network, which has reportedly been entrenched there for some time, claimed that the US itself had troops in the country and was using drones to mount attacks on suspected militants.

Such US involvement is deeply unpopular both among Yemenis and there Arab neighbours.

The country's leaders in the capital Sana'a have always played down the terrorist problem and hushed up any US attacks on al-Qaeda.

But diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks quoted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for more than 32 years, as telling the US 'We'll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.'

During a visit by German Development Minister Dirk Niebel this week, premier Ali Muhammed Mujawar conceded that 'yes, there is terrorism in Yemen.' But while insisting the government would continue to fight against it, he also claimed that media exaggerated the situation in his country.

Terrorism was also an 'international problem' and Yemen therefore needed international support to control it, he added.

The US contributes an estimated 150 million dollars in military aid to Yemen every year.

It contributes another 40 million dollars per year for development in the impoverished country, which was only catapulted into modernity in the 1960s after the Imam and leader of North Yemen was overthrown.

Germany is the country's biggest donor in terms of development aid, giving 52 million dollars a year. The money is mostly used to help provide clean water, deliver basic education and fund good governance projects.

But minister Niebel this week had to concede that genuinely good leadership may have to remain a very distant prospect.

Neither the government or the opposition in Sana'a, or even the separatists in the south appear to have any goals other than the retaining or gaining of power.

As with Afghanistan, donor countries have to make do with promises of the introduction of basic democratic principles in the future.

Since progress has been slow despite years of German aid, Niebel this week threatened that aid might be cut if it was not invested in the intended projects quickly enough.

But complete withdrawal from the country was not an option, his delegation said, it was in Germany's interest to stabilise the fragile country.

The Saudis, Yemen's biggest donors by far, are also keen to avoid any further deterioration in the situation, though their interest seems to be more in propping up the Saleh-led government.

Although there is no actual proof, oil-rich Saudi Arabia reportedly donates 2 to 3 billion dollars a year to its neighbour - money which never features in the budget but most likely ends up in the hands of the government.

Numerous Yemeni tribes also reportedly receive generous donations from the Saudis.

But international aid groups say over 40 per cent of Yemenis live below the poverty line and the country is also facing a water crisis.

Entry into the World Trade Organisation, which Yemen is currently attempting to negotiate, looks unlikely.

It has potential but it is still much too early and the country needs to be better prepared, says Andreas Hergenroether of Germany's chamber of foreign commerce.

Friends of Yemen, a grouping of donor countries, have vowed to coordinate their aid better and above all to make the money transfer and aid projects more transparent - that would be a good beginning.

No comments:

Post a Comment