Thinking outside the box: Towards a new legitimacy in Yemen
I write this from Riyadh after meetings with representatives of all political spectrums in Yemen. Fifty-four months after the start of the war there and after all the military and UN efforts and calls for a dialogue that would put the country on a path to peace and spare future generations the scourge of bloodshed, destruction, hatred and revenge with no tangible results, it is time to try to think of a different approach to the crisis.
I do not doubt that what happened on September 21, 2014, was a defining moment in Yemen’s history, what with the inaction of official institutions and the dubious reactions of the political parties to it to have a fait accompli that they accepted to arrange their own affairs within the framework of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement, which, in essence, transferred power to an inexperienced armed group that did not have legitimacy.
In my opinion, the war in Yemen:
1 - is a struggle for power using military tools;
2 - is going to leave a profound and chronic negative effect on Yemenis because of the unprecedented bloodshed and destruction it caused;
3 - is a war of influence between the major regional powers;
4 - is a clear illustration of the great political failure of those who ran the country during the transitional period;
5 - is a natural consequence of the failure of the regimes preceding the transitional period to establish and consolidate the foundations of institutional rule and of the spread of corruption as well as the autocratic political and economic rule of a small powerful minority;
6 - was the expected result of the failure of the neighbouring countries, despite multiple warnings, to pay attention to Yemen as an important and pivotal state in the regional conflict, since it was a link with the weakest resistance in the attempts by rival powers to penetrate the Arab region;
7 - was the result of the regional neglect to develop the largest reservoir of human and agricultural resources in the region and of being content with handing out grants and loans rather than setting up an ambitious plan to raise the standard of living of Yemeni citizens so they feel a sense of belonging to the region and not just a recipient of humanitarian assistance.
Accepting the principle of constitutional legitimacy is a foregone conclusion and this despite the many reservations and criticism that one might levy against those who represent it but I reiterate my view that we need to consider the convictions of the leaderships of all sides that the military options did not and will not lead to the victory of one side over the other and that the human and economic cost of these wars will undoubtedly cast a heavy shadow over coming generations and that it will not be easy, and perhaps impossible, for the region to regain its social peace soon.
What we need to do is to think about solutions that some might see as diminishing their political status or as expressing their lack of decisiveness or as an attempt to establish a fait accompli without the backing of an encompassing national will.
I, therefore, put forward the following proposals:
1 - The Gulf initiative is no longer valid now that the facts on the ground have changed; a new framework must, therefore, be agreed upon to accommodate the current political map.
2 - UN Security Council Resolution 2216 is the cover for the continuation of this war and the continuation of the authority system in its current form. This necessitates the search for amendments to meet the requirements of a new phase whose features differ completely from those of the situation prevailing in March 2015.
3 -There is almost unanimity on the incapacity and corruption of the current authority, on its inability to think positively and on its lack of political imagination.
4 -The current legitimacy does not enjoy popular support and depends solely on regional support, which is beginning to look at it as a slouchy and corrupt body and a heavy burden. Hence, it is necessary to think seriously about finding an alternative body capable of facing reality because it is rather like doing battle with windmills.
These are ideas, not decisions. All I wish is that they be considered and discussed without preconceptions or intolerance or sectarian or partisan entrenchment.