There is a popular proverb of Hadhrami origins which is well-known to the people of Yemen: “Kill and reconciliation will occur”. The meaning of the proverb is clear. It simply s dictates that when matters escalate, things shall be decided one way or the other through reaching a mutually agreed upon solution as a compromise between the disputing parties. I recalled this phrase whilst watching the most recent statement made by Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh about the situation in his country, and his ridiculous announcement that he wouldn’t step down until his rivals do so. People have grown sick and tired of the Yemeni President’s statements; they know they are nothing but feeble attempts to buy time and extend the President’s stay Yemen, whilst at the same time he is employing all means of intimidation against his opponents, including threats and murder. The number of victims who have fallen since the return of the Yemeni President from his lengthy treatment in Saudi Arabia has reached alarming figures.
The state of affairs in Yemen requires assistance and intervention to end the current dire situation. Yemen has become a failed state par excellence, where the elements of corrupt governance, tribalism and religious extremism, each on their own, have played a role in the aggravation of the situation until it reached an impasse. If this situation persists, the country will be ravaged by a ruthless civil war.
Ali Abdullah Saleh has exhausted his time in power. The man has worn away all his pledges, and lost all his allies and backing supporters. Even his foremost traditional alliance which kept him in power all this time, namely the support from the most two pre-eminent tribes in Yemen: Hashed and Baqil, has disintegrated. After the passing of Yemeni tribal leader Abdullah al-Ahmar, his sons’ ambitions to accede to the country’s highest leadership position began to surface. The issue became more heated amidst the rise in status of Ahmed, the President’s son and commander of the Republican Guards Corps. This prompted the al-Ahmar family, especially the great economic magnate Hamid al-Ahmar, son of late Abdullah al-Ahmar, to advocate the revolution’s demands via his satellite TV station “Suhail”, and through charitable efforts to provide food and relief for the revolutionaries.
Hamid al-Ahmar is a very successful businessman, having participated in most of the major projects in Yemen when he was part of the regime. His economic contributions and close proximity to the regime were part of the “tax” imposed on Al-Ahmar family. Owing to their influence in some of the army’s enclaves, and their tribal sway over certain members, the al-Ahmar family repeatedly turned a blind eye to the incursions made by Houthi rebels, out of a desire to embarrass Ali Abdullah Salah, his sons and his relatives. Being so powerful within the military establishment, the al-Ahmar family was able to do this effectively, however, Ali Abdullah Saleh soon became aware of what was happening and exploited it well.
Nevertheless, all of the aforementioned scenes provide conclusive evidence of the collapsing regime which Ali Abdullah Saleh had built. Saleh himself rose to power in highly suspicious and obscure circumstances, after the assassination of Yemeni President Ahmed al-Ghashmi. Ghashmi was mysteriously killed by a briefcase bomb delivered to him from the then President of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, Salim Rubai Ali. One month later, Ali Abdullah Saleh assumed power.
Up until the very last moment, the Yemeni President is trying to pull surprises out of his hat. A few days ago, the Yemeni Ministry of Defence announced the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric who was one of America’s most wanted terror suspects, in a rocket attack on his convoy (note that the assassination of al-Awlaki has been announced before on two occasions, but this time the statement appears correct). Saleh is sending a message to the world that he is the most capable man in Yemen to combat terrorism. By doing so, he is offering a “token of affection” to the world to keep him in power.
Restoring order in Yemen means uniting a practically war-torn country. The deplorable status quo is characterised by the predominance of corrupt rule, prevalence of nepotism and loyalist groups, triumph of tribalism over civilian law, pervasion of doctrinism and the spread of provincialism. Kill and reconciliation will occur. However, if matters in Yemen continue to move in the same direction, perhaps the proverb should read “kill and Saleh will remain”.