Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Five more years?

Transitional Yemeni President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi seems set to enjoy a further five years in office, writes Nasser Arrabyee in Sanaa

Al-Ahram Weekly

Transitional Yemeni President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi is likely to be re-elected in non-competitive elections in February 2014, it emerged this week, following the suggestion by the six-month National Dialogue Conference (NDC) last week that Hadi should be re-elected for five more years so that he can implement the results of the dialogue.

Although this suggestion has not been officially approved, it has caused controversy in the conflict-stricken country. The NDC is scheduled to come to an end on 18 September, but its extension for one month at least is expected because many issues are still undecided, according to members.

The possible extension of Hadi’s term in office has both supporters and opponents. The Yemen Brotherhood Party, Islah, seems to be one of the supporters of an extension, while the semi-secular party of former president Ali Abdallah Saleh, Mutamar, seems to be one of the main opponents.

“The extension, if it happens, will be a very dangerous trick, a trick made by forces that are not ready for competitive elections. These forces have no desire to establish a civil state,” said Yemeni professor of politics Mohamed Abdel-Malik in a reference to the influential tribal and religious leaders of the Islah Party.

Hadi was elected in one-candidate elections in February 2012 according to a Saudi-sponsored and American-supported deal signed by former president Saleh and the conflicting parties on November 2011 in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Hadi may be re-elected if the NDC succeeds. However, if it fails, the conflicting parties in the country are likely to return to civil conflict. The main possibility of failure in the dialogue comes from the south, which was an independent state before Yemeni unity in 1990.

The most controversial group in the dialogue, the southern separatist movement known as Hirak, has pressed UN envoy Jamal Benomar to ensure that an additional period of dialogue takes place after the end of this one.

Hirak returned to the dialogue process on 9 September after a month during which it boycotted it. 

Although Hirak is involved in the dialogue, it does not represent all the separatist groups in the south of the country. The dialogue includes a so-called 8+8 Committee that includes eight people from the south and eight people from the north.

Benomar has promised to establish an international fund to help implement the results of the dialogue. Meanwhile, President Hadi last week reinstated some 795 military and security officials in the south who had been sacked or forced to retire after the war in 1994.

In order to convince Hirak to return to the dialogue after the NDC almost stalled, Benomar promised to compensate thousands of southerners who lost their jobs after the war between separatists and unionists in Yemen, with the Yemeni government saying that it would need some $1.2 billion to do so.

Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Mohamed Al-Saadi said Qatar would pay $350 million of these costs and the remaining sum would be paid by donors and friends of Yemen who are scheduled to meet on 25 September in New York.

Donors have been promising to help Yemen by pledging to finance development projects since 2006, but most of these pledges have never got off the ground.

The UN Security Council will be briefed on the Yemen NDC on 27 September, with Benomar praising the Hirak group for what he said was its bravery in returning to a dialogue deemed to be “the best example in the region”.

The 8+8 Committee has, however, been boycotted by some NDC members, with others protesting against it. The biggest problem facing the committee has been the same as that facing the NDC as a whole for the last six months: should there be separation or unity in Yemen?

The leader of Hirak involved in the dialogue, Mohamed Ali Ahmed, said after he had returned to the NDC with his group that “we have returned on condition of the restoration of an independent southern state.”

Before leaving for London last month, he said Hirak would not return to the dialogue until President Hadi met the group’s conditions on negotiations to re-establish the southern Yemeni state.

Benomar’s promise to Hirak of additional dialogue was criticised by many members of the NDC as making the resolutions and findings of the group more difficult to reach, since members would be discouraged if they felt that there was to be another round of negotiations.

“Talk of additional dialogue will make the nine groups in the NDC reluctant to take any decisions, because they will know that there can always be other ones,” said Ali Abu Hulaika, a member of the NDC.

Member of the NDC Abdel-Wahab Humaikani, the secretary-general of the Salafist Party Rashad, threatened to sue those calling for additional dialogue as violating the by-laws of the NDC.

Most ordinary people in Yemen have shown themselves to be uninterested in the NDC, with most not attending to the NDC’s resolutions and outputs.

“In the best case, these people involved in the dialogue will help themselves to salaries and jobs, but I do not think they will do anything to help my living conditions or those of my kids,” said Bashir Suwaileh, a barber, referring to his nine-year-old son Sakr.

Qat dealer Abdu Mohamed had his own opinion about the dialogue. “If there is any interest in the NDC, it will be that of the Americans, the Saudis and Benomar. It has nothing to do with what we want,” he said.

Tawfik Al-Ammari, who has been working as a history teacher in government schools for more than 20 years, criticised the official character of the NDC.

“The dialogue is a good thing, and I think it will succeed, but the problem is that the NDC ignores all other issues. The government should continue working and serving the people and not wait for the results of dialogue,” he said.

“If the father or mother is busy, the other members of the family should do their jobs normally, not wait or be busy with the same thing,” he added, referring to the government ministries and official institutions that have been using the dialogue to justify their shortcomings and their failure to do their jobs.

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