Steps toward Governance in Yemen
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 17 Dec 2018
14 Dec 2018 – Two useful steps were taken on the long road toward relative peaceful governance in Yemen. The first need of the country is an end the Saudi-led aggression and the civil war conditions. Without an end to the armed violence and insecurity in many parts of the country, it is impossible for the people of Yemen to decide on the structure of the State and the institutions of the society. Thus two useful steps to end the armed conflict have been taken by negotiations held in Sweden and a vote in the U.S. Senate
A consequence of the bombing in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition is the starvation of the civilian population due to lack of food and water. Due to the widespread use of defoliants in the Vietnam war, there was written as Article 54(2) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, a prohibition to destroy foodstuffs, crops, drinking water installations and irrigation works. Yemen is, at the best of times, short of food and drinking water installations. The bombing has deliberately increased the hardships as well as increasing the number of displaced people with the resulting lack of access to food and water.
The continued aggression of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition against civilians in Yemen, the use of U.S.-made cluster munitions in violation of the Convention of Cluster Munitions, the large-scale displacement of people and the wide-spread hunger highlight the relation among human rights violations, arms control, meeting basic needs and the resolution of armed conflicts through negotiations in good faith.
It is felt by the U.N. staff and the parties represented that it is too early to undertake direct discussions on political issues, especially issues concerning the structure of government which will only start next January. However, developing broadly-agreed-upon structures of governance are crucial to a resolution of the armed conflict.
Also on 13 December, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution, 56 to 41, calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led military campaign, especially the sale of weapons and midair refueling of the massive air campaign started by the Saudis in 2015. The resolution effort was led by Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Mike Lee of Utah, both long-time critics of U.S. support in the Yemen war. While the resolution by itself will not stop U.S. involvement, it is a good sign of “the way the wind is blowing”.
There are two major issues that shape the future. The first is the possibility 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 the chiefs.
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:
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.
René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Dec 2018.
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