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Tribes Still Rule in Yemen

The Yemeni revolution did not overturn the influence of tribes on Yemen politics.
Tribal fighters loyal to al-Ahmar family, which leads Yemen's powerful tribe of Hashid, carry their AK-47 rifles as they secure a street where recent clashes with government forces took place in Sanaa December 21, 2011.  REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (YEMEN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR2VIKY

A few weeks ago, the period specified for the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference ended. After information about what happened at the conference was leaked — most notably, talks about adopting a federal system for the new state — President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi met with Yemen’s tribal alliance, headed by tribal sheikh Sadek al-Ahmar. Hadi sought reassurances that Yemen’s unity will not be touched following the tribes’ opposition to dividing the country into regions. But Hadi said nothing — didn't even give a speech — to the civil forces that have serious reservations about what happened at the dialogue.

The tribal sheikhs — and not the tribe members themselves — have been directing Yemeni politics more than any other social or political force. Although these sheikhs are involved in and lead many influential political parties, they also engage in political work outside the framework of these parties. They think that they have the right to do what other citizens don’t. They sometimes work outside the context of, and sometimes in opposition to, the political parties that they joined only to use as tools to perpetuate their tribal power, and not as civil political groups whose members are equal.

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