Sanaa, Asharq Al-Awsat- The general mood in Yemen is one of satisfaction at the calm that finally prevailed in the northwest region of the country following ferocious clashes between the government and insurgents. However, this feeling is coupled with a preparedness of a different kind; one that deals with establishing a stable, safe, and wealthy country.
In spite of the great challenges standing in the way of achieving this goal, most Yemenis now realize that calls for separation in several governorates in the south are no longer acceptable and must be stopped. On the other hand, the continuing presence of Al-Qaeda leaders in the country, particularly in the southeastern regions, is no longer in line with the state’s strong desire to impose its prestige and extend its sovereignty to all its territories.
Government officials, Yemeni researchers, experts and intellectuals say that the state will impose the law of the land on everyone, no matter what the tribal, regional, or confessional obstacles, in order to step up the efforts to implement Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Selah’s emergency project. The aim is to pave the way for giant reform plans regarding the state’s administrative system and land ownerships and to enable international oil companies to drill for oil and gas.
This is in addition to reconsidering the subsidy regime, providing services, and encouraging investors to work and complete their projects that were delayed in the last four years because of the periodical disturbances that take place in Yemen. The value of these investments is estimated at $10 billion.
The Yemenis’ hopes appear to be pinned on the Gulf Cooperation Council more than at any time before. They want a reciprocal treatment for the Yemeni workers in the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. They say they have a priority over Asian workers. They add: “Simply, we are more deserving because we suffer a crisis and because we are brothers.”
Many Yemeni citizens want to know what happened to the billions donated to Yemen since 2006. Officials in Yemen now acknowledge slackness in spending these funds. They say the reason is not only the disturbances in the country — whether in the south where the Southern Mobility Movement and Al-Qaeda operate or in the north where the Sa’dah war finally stopped — but also the existence of an administrative disorder, part of which is local. They add that part of the problem has to do with some donors. This problem impeded the delivery of funds to the intended projects. Thus, this delay added to the anger in the Yemeni street.
Although the Fighting in Sa’dah has ended, the state continues to have its finger on the trigger. It now appears more determined than ever to stop any attempt to revolt, break away, or cause fear and terror in the country.
Government and military officials say the calm that sometimes prevails in the southern battlefields with Al-Qaeda and the separatists does not mean that the state ignores the situation. As it aims at its target, the state extends a hand of peace and promises of development plans, employment, and construction in the hope that its sons who had deviated from the right path will return to their senses. The state hopes that they will abide by the country’s constitution and law and will be contented with living together under the single banner of the Yemeni Republic. Moreover, the Yemeni state, in cooperation with friendly and sister states, intends to repair the damage that was caused in the past. It intends to reconstruct Sa’dah first at the cost of approximately $4 billion and to implement an emergency program that will take three years at the most to revive the country economically, with the aim of easing the anger in many regions.
This program includes giant projects in all governorates of the country. Under this program, Aden is expected to turn into a special economic zone, and it will be followed by a number of other southern governorates, including Hadhramaut. The program will also include the repair of sea and air ports, construction of roads, schools, and hospitals, and provision of water, sewage, and other services.
The view in Sanaa is that, even if the cease-fire suffers some violations, the local government is committed show to resolve the problems there without engaging in a new war.
This way, the state will maintain calm in the areas where some might try to involve it in a new war. Also, it will focus from now on fighting a new battle, the battle of development and comprehensive reform, seeking help from local popular councils or what it calls local government. Citizens’ refraining from protecting criminals and wanted people whether from Al-Qaeda or the separatists has become a condition to introduce serves to the deprived populated areas.
Some people say it is difficult for the government authorities and the agencies that operate under the head of the state to achieve their goals. Others say the problems in Sa’dah are likely to come to the fore sometime this year or early next year. They cast doubt on the government’s ability to resolve the interwoven problems in the south. They note that the greatest challenge there lies not in the separatists whose movement may be crushed, as was the case in 1994 when they were stronger, but rather in the increasing number of the Al-Qaeda members.
Leaders of both the Al-Qaeda in Yemen and the Al-Qaeda of Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, with whom Asharq Al-Awsat met and spoke, said that the Al-Qaeda members spread in large numbers in the midst of the population in governorates, such as Shabwah, Abyan, and others.
These leaders noted that a number of Yemeni tribes in the south and east pledged allegiance to the amir [leader] of Al-Qaeda there and that the state is unable to catch the organization’s members on land. They added that the [government’s] attempts to attack the Al-Qaeda members by air infuriate the tribes, which consider this bombardment as aggression against them and their lands and hard-line guests.
However, an official in the Yemeni Government responds by saying: “The Al-Qaeda remnants are scattered. We have information indicating that the leader of the organization, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, was killed during Yemeni planes’ strikes late last year” and that his Saudi deputy, Saeed al-Shihri, runs the organization.