It does not matter whether a regime is republican, royal, centralized, federal, socialist or capitalist. What’s more important is a government’s ability to achieve justice and enjoy the approval of citizens. North Yemen was an inanimate regime until 1962. It became a republic following the revolution of the first president of the Yemen Arab Republic, Abdullah Al-Sallal. South Yemen was a British protectorate until 1967 when the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen was established and a Marxist–Leninist regime was adopted. The Yemenis suffered a long history of struggles between the two sister republics. After the Soviet Union collapsed, North Yemen seized the chance and unified with the South.
The unification’s period of jubilation did not last long, however, with a bloody struggle among the different partners erupting, ending with the Southern leadership’s defeat. Because of this history it will not be easy for Yemenis to overcome the legacy of tribal, regional and personal disputes unless they acknowledge this legacy and embrace the concept of the modern state drawn up by the United Nations with the help of its Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar.
Yemen’s new plan is to become a federal state of six regions with Sana’a as the administratively independent capital. Yemeni affairs experts must have agreed this proposed outcome after studying several complicated options.
If the mediators had listened to all demands, the Yemenis would not have agreed to the number of regions they proposed. During Britain’s final years of governance over the South, Yemenis agreed to establish the Federation of Arab Emirates of the South made up of 24 chiefdoms—but only four of them agreed and even they refused to include Aden. So even if Yemen were divided into 100 regions, everyone would still be dissatisfied. A practical model that can be developed or amended according to a constitution that allows future review of the regional borders and jurisdictions is therefore vital.
Establishing a real state with civil and modern institutions will save this highly populated country with little resources from the blight of its administrative backwardness. Recent fighting is not a coincidence as it aims to sabotage the plan for historical transition and the establishment of a modern Yemeni state.
One of the groups responsible for this fighting are members of the former regime, who wish to undermine the current interim regime and thwart the entire new plan in order to restore the power that was taken away from them. It is important to remember that this group is risking the granted amnesty and immunity given it for the more than 17 billion US dollars it stole and hid in secret Western accounts.
The patience of Yemenis will eventually come to an end, with the major powers also now totally convinced that the problem lies in the former leadership so ready to act against them. We hope these vandals will think clearly before they continue to support and incite those who reject transition and to fund tribal infighting.
The Yemeni people deserve to have a chance to build their state and co-exist together peacefully, whatever the country’s components.
The Yemenis have proven to be more civilized than others. Their revolution was peaceful as was their transition of power. They were above vengeance, and so the Yemeni revolution remains the best of the Arab revolutions to date, despite domestic and foreign attempts to thwart it.
We think the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) duty towards Yemen will grow—it sponsored the Yemeni people’s demands for change and was an impartial mediator. It also participated in sponsoring the transition politically and economically over the past two years.
We look forward to the GCC’s support of the plan to develop and rehabilitate Yemen and link it to the Gulf’s economy. The country’s stability guarantees the Gulf’s stability—and it is worth noting that Yemen will eventually become a member of the GCC.