” SMILE THIS IS YEMEN ” Yemen report for December 2013
This is a sarcastic slogan that is now circulating within Yemen, used whenever one questions or makes a complaint on the deteriorating situation regarding events of any kind or form of mishap or lack of services. He gets the quick response ‘smile this is Yemen’ !! It is indeed a very sad situation that has befallen the population NOT only in the Southern provinces, but it is believed to be the same in the North as well. So those abroad keep smiling while the Yemeni population suffers!!
Aden & Mukalla :
First point of call was Aden the once advanced bubbly city , the hub of business for the whole region and one of the most beautiful spots to live in the past. The first impressions of anyone who knew Aden then, will now notice that it is run down. Aden was then the capital of the South and a thriving seaport for commercial vessels and was one of the busiest ports in the Middle East.
On Thursday and Friday evenings it is bustling with chaotic drivers and walking around, you will notice slogans on the sidewalk walls both in Arabic and English written/painted by the young ‘Hara’k’ activists The capital now sees two days a week of civil unrest/protests and disturbances. ALL businesses, civil servants, school children are obliged to take the days off (Mondays & Wednesdays) in addition to the two days official weekend holidays (Fridays and Saturdays). Those defying the disturbance days by opening their businesses have their shops attacked. You are therefore left to go about your normal duties for the remaining 3 days of the week. No one seems bothered that the kids do not have proper education and their upkeep becomes somewhat at the bottom end while their actions are not questioned. The blame rests solely and squarely on the shoulders of their parents, educationalists and most of all the politicians, the political parties including some so called religious figures (I will not call them Ima’ms or scholars in this case). I have been to a number of mosques and have heard from the pulpits the sermons which were all condemning what was going on in the country and giving sound advice. There are check points within Aden itself while all the tire burning and street blockages take place. Some of these protestations are carried out in front and in the presence of the security services who are entirely oblivious of what was going on. Newspapers are aplenty some lambasting the authorities, and in cases naming and shaming, but get a deaf ear. This is maybe a sign of showing the world how democracy in Yemen was open and kicking!!!
The main shopping mall ‘Lulu Centre’ was a meeting spot for the young who at times misbehaved and are very unruly. As the main Aden attraction for families, it is mostly visited on Thursdays and Fridays as an outing for the families. The young population has witnessed the darker part after the unification nearly 23 years ago and may thus be the generation of the failed state, where corruption and disrespect has ensued during their life time. They perhaps rarely know of any other societies that confront injustices peacefully and make a great impact for their legitimate demands.
What Aden has experienced and to some extent befallen Mukalla where both their circumstances do not differ greatly. With the only difference visible is that the civil unrest/ disturbances witnessed are called only for Wednesdays of every week instead of two days as in the case of Aden (thus excluding Mondays).
Mukalla and Hadhramaut at large enjoy some form of peace and has seen quite a flow of people moving from other provinces to Hadhramaut. If only the security situation had improved in contrast to the unmanned drone attacks that are carried out from time to time bringing havoc as well as adding to the peoples anxiety and concerns in the area. There have been many targeted killings that have taken place against both security officials and civilians in Hadhramaut. All this has made the situation much worse and has created animosity instead of winning their sympathy and respect.
Electricity , and other utility services are deplorably bad and in many cases you hear of people connecting electricity to their premises illegally to avoid paying bills (this does not apply in Mukalla at least for the moment). The state of irrelevance persists and most government institutions are virtually dysfunctional with many public employees abstaining for most part of the month. There are those who are on government payroll and are non performing, in many cases there are names of employees listed but they are invisible. This is very true in most parts of Yemen, their salaries are pocketed by those running the various departments. Lack of transparency, patriotism engulfs the whole country and what is supposed to be the anti corruption authority is in itself a none starter having been in existence for several years now and NOT A SINGLE official has so far been brought to book!
The increase in the number of beggars on the streets of Aden and Mukalla is heart breaking they have also been the added number of Syrian refugees who take onto the streets, mosques, malls and other places begging. It is indeed a human catastrophe when you see the elite rarely concerned except for a very few who offer a great help to the poor. The work of many local as well as foreign NGOs must be praised in coming to aid the deserving. This covers, welfare, food as well as healthcare programmes.
Every official drives a 4×4 Land Cruiser worth millions of riyals plus free petrol
( I cannot think of any sane country that gives such perks to most of its officials, ministers included!). Yet Yemen the most poorest country on earth can afford to provide ALL such officials even after they leave the service either on retirement or otherwise including being sacked. Such luxury persists to this very day. Yes this is the democracy that is supposed to take the country out of its quagmire with the blessings of the international community and the friends of Yemen.
Yemen whether North or South must not and should not carry a begging bowl forever. Yemen needs dedicated youthful brains to come out with a vision which should be implemented with honesty, transparency and above all collectively to fight corruption, nepotism and poverty .
The National Dialogue Conference (NDC):
Since the outset of the above, many had little or no confidence that it will bring any kind of stability, normality or hope to the vast majority of the population. Corruption, Nepotism is on the same theme and probably greater than before, while the NDC delegates enjoy the perks of a five star hotel plus US Dollars 150-250 per day for each delegate. The result is the NDC has so far been extended several times when in fact it was to complete its work by 18 September 2013!
The Southerners have as ever been in disarray, the walk ins and outs have been normal as there is no clear leadership or vision. Everyone in Yemen has now turned out to be a politician, you only have to sit in a tea/coffee cafe’ with everyone offering his analysis of the situation and the NDC.
We still cannot see light at the end of the tunnel, but the Yemen situation has been decided, signed ,sealed by other players and not the NDC who will only need to rubber stamp the documents put in front of them. Meanwhile they can keep on arguing and pour out their rhetorical and sometimes philosophical speeches to entertain everyone. Many of them will still keep their continuity one way or the other as long as they toe the line!
Qat has been talked about in many venues to the extent some call for it to be banned or a religious edict (Fatwa) be issued to ban as well as criminalise those chewing it .
Will keep this bulletin open for future comments and reporting………………………MBD

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