Yemen Dialogue: To Make Or To Break?
By Nasser Arrabyee, 22/03/2013
Yemen national comprehensive dialogue has started amid external and internal challenges. If the 565 Yemenis supposedly representing all groups in the 6-month process of dialogue, fail to overcome these challenges, the already conflict-torn country will be sliding into more devastating wars.
The final outcome of this long-awaited dialogue is a constitution agreed upon by all groups. The President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi at the opening ceremony on Monday March 18th, 2013, said that the solution of southern issue will be the key of solutions of all other issues.
This means that if dialogue members fail to find out a solution for stopping the increasing sentiment of separation in the south, then dialogue result will be zero. Now, the southern separatist movement is not represented in the dialogue.
Hundreds of thousands of separatists were protesting in the biggest square of Aden ( Show Square) when dialogue was starting in Sanaa. The "decision is ours" was the slogan of the protesting separatists who refused the dialogue and described the southerners taking part in dialogue as "traitors" including the President and Prime Minster who are originally from the south.
Mohammed Ali Ahmed, and Ahmed Al Suraimah, and Abdullah Al Nakhebi are three leaders representing three groups of the south separation movement. These three leaders are taking part in the dialogue and they raised the flag of the south inside the conference hall in the Presidential Palace at the opening ceremony.
Regardless of what the majority in the south want (Separation or Unity), or whether separatists taking part in dialogue are enough or not. The danger of failure stays high because of something else. The same old traditional forces who allied against the south in the war of 1994 are still the dominators of dialogue and they are doing their best to make the final results pleasing them and their trends not pleasing the southerners who want separation because of being politically and socially marginalized and excluded since after the war of 1994.
"The allies of 1994 war turned the south to a land for plundering and looting, and these allied forces are still having the money and weapons and army," said the minister of trade and industry, Saad Al Deen bin Talib who was speaking in the dialogue conference.
He said the money and weapons and army should have been taken from these forces before the dialogue.
Bin Talib, originally from the south, said that these forces are still controlling over all oil and gas companies in the country. " We will never hand our land to these forces again," Said bin Talib in obvious reference to religious, tribal and military forces who launched the war against the south as socialists and communists (kafirs or infidels). With these forces still dominating the dialogue and political , social, and economic scenes, the possibility of convincing even few of the southerners is very weak.
Dialogue,however is important and the only way to make or to break. Everybody notices that separation movement is increasing day by day in the south. But as they ( separatists) say the unity can not be imposed by force, the unionists say the separation can not be imposed by force either.
"There is a strong movement in the south wanting to disengage or disunite and restore the southern State, but the only way for that is the dialogue, the State will not come to them in golden plate," said Abdul Kareem Al Eryani, advisor of President Hadi.
So,the biggest internal threats to dialogue are the traditional forces who allied with exPresident Saleh against the south in the war of 1994. While Saleh is gone, they are still orchestrating the whole transition process and dialogue for their interests.
The cleric Abdul Majid Al Zandani is still the spiritual leader of the religious forces, Hamid Al Ahmar with his empire of various business including oil and gas companies, is still the leader of tribal forces, and general Ali Muhsen ( commander of 1994 war) is still one of two commanders of the army in addition to his wide-nation patronage networks. Each one of these men have his own people and his own groups in the dialogue conference.
If "modern forces" can express themselves even to the extent of preventing traditional forces from over-domination' this will be the best case for dialogue.
The second best case is keeping the current equilibrium between the rival traditional forces. Tribal, religious and military forces are still divided and split into two groups one with ExPresident Saleh and one against him.
The worst case is a complete failure of dialogue and returning into wars.
Observers see that the anti-Saleh traditional group, more specifically the Islamist party, Islah (which include tribal religious and military forces) does not like dialogue and tend more to explosion of the situation. Because in dialogue they lose the card of "revolutionary legitimacy", the most profitable card for them over the last two years.
"If dialogue fails and situation explodes, in this case there will be no constitutional legitimacy nor revolutionary, and it will be easier for President Hadi to use the army," said Adel Ar Rabeai, political analyst.
"And if Hadi fails to contain the split in the army, the two groups of old traditional forces will be in war, and the stronger will win," said Ar Rabeai.
The external challenge facing the dialogue is the foreign interference with its different and conflicting agendas. For instance, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have their own conflicting agendas in Yemen now, and United States and Iran have their own agendas,even though most of financial and political support come from US, Saudi Arabia. These interferences may lead to failure of dialogue because it kindles more conflicts between rival groups.