Yemen, Between State and Non-State

In the wake of the Yemeni revolution, political forces must work to establish a state of law as corrupt parties seek to profit from the absence of an effective government.

al-monitor Delegates attend the third general plenary session of Yemen's National Dialogue conference in Sanaa, Oct. 27, 2013. The conference is expected to come out with recommendations on a new constitution and voting system, paving the way for full democratic elections in 2014. Photo by REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.

Topics covered

yemeni revolution, yemeni government, yemeni elections, yemen, south yemen, sharia, islamic

Oct 27, 2013

The southern movement in Yemen in 2007 reflected the demands arising from unjust acts carried out against citizens of the south, following the historical victory by the looting and exclusion forces in their war on the south and on all of Yemen. It was also an expression of the feelings of the southerners. For over a quarter of a century, these citizens were accustomed  to the state’s (presence), order, institutions and laws governing everyone and deemed as the sole reference. When this state was no more, it caused loss of rights, sense of belonging, identity, history and even geography. Citizens became just human beings not connected to this geography and this history.

The youth's peaceful revolution was consistent and harmonious with this demand. Yemenis have been dreaming of a state project for nearly half a century. However, the project remained a dream, since those entrusted to build the state were preoccupied with their own projects and abused the positions they had filled. They disregarded history, breached the trust vested in them, misused the wealth assigned to manage, and falsified factual information to make them more suitable to their projects, whether individual projects or, at best, familial and  regional projects.

The conflict in Yemen is not a regional, provincial, tribal, partisan or social conflict. It's rather a conflict between two projects that are totally and fundamentally contradictory in both form and content, as well as in the means of achieving their respective objectives. Whether Yemen will move forward toward a better future or remain hostage to its past — haunted by agony, decay, suffering and bitter wounds — rides on the outcome of the struggle between the state project and the non-state project.

The state project is not easy to establish. It is not a mere procedural process taken by virtue of an administrative decision or even a political agreement or legislative decree. It is a long, bitter and difficult struggle, yet achievable and possible. Such a project is as necessary and vital as water and air. It is necessary for any people wishing to keep pace with the requirements of the modern era and the conditions of its development and progress. The state building process does not require a magic formula or a supernatural power derived from surreal mythical creatures as much as it requires political will and modern know-how, in terms of the meaning, content, concept and function of the state to be built. This holds inevitable importance for the process of transition from underdevelopment, disintegration and multiple regional and sectarian identities to a certain degree of living, service and social advancement, in addition to a minimum of security and stability, and all the way towards a society of citizenship, belonging and uniting national identity for all of the people of Yemen, its provinces, regions, individuals, social segments, and tribes.

Yemenis’ failure to build the state project is not because of the Yemeni citizen’s refusal of the state, the impossibility of his cohabitation with the system, his non-abidance by the law and non-observance of institutional traditions. These are all just pretexts used by those wishing to maintain the non-state situation. Those people have several objectives: they want to keep on tampering with political life, disposing economic resources and using chaos and lawlessness in order to present themselves as substitute for the state and law. This will allow them to reap tremendous financial gains, strengthen their influence and acquire a illegitimate reputation based only on usurping power, monopolizing decision-making, deceiving people and insult their intelligence.

The peaceful popular revolution and the peaceful southern movement before it are the clearest representation of Yemen’s need for a state, regardless of whether the players in these two revolutions had called for state-building or not. If we had a state, people would not have complained about the cruel injustice they were subjected to. If we had a state, corruption and abuse would not have spread without holding any small-time corrupt people liable, let alone those looting billions right under the nose of law enforcement authorities and the law they represent. If we had a state, killing would not be legitimized and the systematization of abuse, the rule of anarchy and the spread of taboos would not have been allowed. If we had a state, gangs, contraband dealers, bandits, thieves and lowlifes would have not been given the opportunity to participate in the management of the country’s affairs and control the fate of its citizens and future generations.

Nowadays, Yemenis have the opportunity to start building their state through the long-awaited outcomes of the ongoing national dialogue. However, the outcomes will not easily see the light. We have been hearing about the emergence of blocs and clusters within the dialogue conference, about statements anticipating the conference to announce the repudiation of its results by influential forces having multiple interests and benefiting from the absence of the state.

Those who want to build the state are not looking for personal gains for their own people, communities or even areas or political parties, as much as they are looking for a new path that ensures dignity, pride, freedom and prosperity for all Yemenis and enables them to participate in making crucial decisions about the future of their country and the Yemeni people in all of its categories, components, social powers, and political affiliations. Therefore, they submit radical modern visions tackling institutions, equal citizenship, reviewing of the form of the state, the governance system, the legislation system, the foundations of constitutional and legal life, the methods of investing of the national wealth, the transition to the application of one system enforceable to all, and the enforcement of the spirit of the law instead of customs, arbitrariness, and improvisation.

Those opposing the state project do not hesitate to talk about the state. They may even exaggerate in talking about it more than those actually requesting it. However, they are working to impede the establishment of this state and destabilize any attempt in this respect. They incite against every attempt to bring Yemen into the era that the remaining parts of the world had entered decades, or even centuries ago. For this purpose, they do not hesitate to support murder and chaos gangs and cover up for criminals. They assign bandits and looters of tankers, people who blow up electricity towers and oil pipelines and those will not hesitate to commit any crime to support and strengthen the non-state option.

Dwelling on national gains or Islamic Sharia and alleging that these two pillars are in danger underlay other issues those invoking this allegation do not dare to disclose. They refuse the state and the law, not because they threaten Islamic Sharia and national gains, since national gains had been destroyed decades ago and Islamic Sharia was exploited as a tool to legitimize looting, murder, torture, abuse and all forms of injustice, but because the state project threatens the giant and massive illegal interests achieved by those in power for more than a third of a century to the detriment of people's suffering by obstructing the establishment of the state.

Yemen's wounds will only be healed by the establishment of a modern civil state integrating all of the components, tribes and geographical and administrative subdivisions of the people in one large entity expressing their identity, fulfilling their needs and entrenching their interests. In this entity, Yemenis will have a sense of being and belonging and will find their dignity, freedom and prosperity and aspirations towards a more secure, stable and sovereign future.

Maintaining the non-state situation (or the delusional state situation as is the case today) will only cause millions of Yemenis more suffering, disintegration, chaos and destruction. It will only cause the country more tension, wars, conflicts and crimes. This situation will only be beneficial to those feeding on the absence of the state, just like parasites feed on nutrients in the intestines of a patient, causing him anemia, emaciation, weakness, collapse and eventually death.

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