True or Cruel Intentions: How loyal are some of the opposition’s political interest groups? And what does this mean for our transition?
The Islah party, the Yemeni Socialist Party, Hisb Al-Haq, the Nasserite Unionist Party, the Popular Forces Union Party, the Houthis, Southern secessionists and the list goes on and on. These are all political interest groups that are part of the opposition. This is what we are left with and what the opposition now encompasses; groups each seeking their own interests. The only homogeneity within the movement is that they all want Ali gone. This however is not enough.
These divisions are weakening the opposition movement. It’s something we have all been thinking about. It’s a fear we all share. It’s a weakness that the ruling party has exploited for their own political platform and is the foundation of their manifesto to keep Ali Saleh and his cohorts in power. It is the fear of shifting loyalties amongst the opposition once the regime collapses (i.e. defectors that have joined the opposition).
Yet it seems like we are all in denial or at least have set these concerns aside. This revolution started as a youth led movement. It started as a movement led by students, professionals and the average citizen. Why have we allowed this movement to become so politicized and divided? As I walk through Tagheer Square, the once firm and distinct voice of revolution is now replaced by echoes of multiple disorienting positions.
It is a shame and it leaves me concerned about the favorable outcome of this revolution. After all we have lost, and after months of tireless effort, how certain are we that once its time for Ali to step down, we would have a smooth transition? The fact is that we won’t. I’ve heard too many people speak of a smooth transition, but let’s be clear, like every other transitioning government, there will be controversy, and there will vultures waiting to swoop in and take over. This fear will continue to proliferate so as long as we continue to set it aside.
As a concerned citizen I wonder. I am also certain, that some of those on the opposition reading this wouldn’t be too happy with my candid views. My concerns are valid. And they represent the angst and apprehension of the Yemeni people as a whole. One thing we all have in common, whether oppositionist or loyalist, is a genuine concern for Yemen’s future posterity. Isn’t this what this whole movement is about? So let’s voice our concerns and set aside our differences and speak frankly. Lets leave no room for obscurity and be as transparent as can be.
Since the start of the movement, there has been little to no room for open dialogue on this issue. Most are ignoring the elephant in the room, and guys, it’s getting larger by the day. As Ali’s resignation is near, tensions amongst these groups have intensified. Some of these groups, former cohorts and defectors of the current regime have been allowed unlimited access and involvement within the movement, some more than others.
It is important that we address the concerns of all opposing views, while bearing caution. We need to recognize the differing ideologies within our country and ensure all that our subsequent government will equally tackle the challenges of each faction. We must demonstrate to all that our days of marginalizing and disenfranchising are over. It is something that needs to be proven. I am sure that most are skeptical of this just as some of us are skeptical of each other’s intentions, so this change starts now. There have been a number of complaints made by groups within the square of such alienation. Members of youth and student led groups for instance, have reported that their concerns have been ignored and overlooked.
How can we promise and demand change when this isn’t always demonstrated within the opposition? When the JMP agreed to the GCC plan, no one was celebrating at the square. What many perceived as a step towards change most deemed as a subversive move by individuals seeking their own interests. Many argue that although the main opposition bloc has a formidable voice within the movement, they are in no way a representation of the voice of the people. Again, this is a clear implication of distinct inconsistencies within the movement.
In order to achieve something close to a smooth and stable transition, we must first start by establishing transparency through open dialogue. I attended a meeting at the Square on April 26th, mediated by Tawakkol Karman and Khaled Alansi. The meeting was held in attempt to do just this: unite all groups into one solid bloc. We need to increase such efforts in establishing one voice.
There is a possibility of success if these divisions amongst the opposition are overlooked for the sake of the movement. Our only option at avoiding civil unrest is if these groups can unite and form an interim government; one that demonstrates legal pluralism and can address the political concerns of all. This is our current challenge. We asked for the end of our current regime, and its end is imminent. We must now tackle the issue of divisions and work to unite.
Lastly, we must not allow our differences as oppositionists and loyalists to interfere with our efforts of building a stronger and better nation. We are all one people. Whether we demand reform or restructuring of government, we must now extend negotiations and establish dialogue within the people collectively. We have built Berlin walls, and have developed sentiments of rage, indignation and intolerance for one another.
When I visited last Friday’s Pro-Saleh rally, I admit, I entered the square with similar sentiments; however, once I began talking to people and as I stood amongst them I ironically felt a strong sense of patriotism. They have every right to share their opinions. How could I fight for democracy while concurrently viewing their demands as uninformed? How could I fight for democracy while concurrently viewing these individuals as misguided simpletons? How could I consider anyone of an opposing view as a negligent member of society? This in itself is counterproductive and a contradiction to this revolution. This is where I fail. This is where we all fail. We need to overlook our differences and retract from all inclinations that may direct us to further divide ourselves as a people. We need to remind ourselves why we are all out here. It is for Yemen. Bilaadana al Yemen.
Al-Islah is a key opposition party in Yemen. They hold about 20% of legislature’s seats. Al Islah carries both Islamist and tribal undertones. A major figure in their party is Salafi preacher, Abdul Majid Al-Zindani who has been referred to by the United States as a “global terrorist”; however, Al-Zindani has established a strong following in Yemen, and is revered by many. The Muslim Brotherhood is also an active part of the Islah party. The Ahmar family’s late patriarch, Abdullah Al-Ahmar, founded the party.
Due to the Islah’s Islamist/tribal split, there are many internal ideological differences within the party in regards to the role of government, women in politics, and some other issues. These differences have counteracted their active role in government, and instead have kept their influence at a minimal function for quite some time.
The Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) was founded in 2002 as a coalition of opposition parties working towards political and economic reform. The Islah party has since joined the coalition. JMP also includes the Yemeni Socialist Party (YSP), which is more popular in the South, Hisb Al-Haq, the Nasserite Unionist Party, and the Popular Forces Union Party. The JMP is can also be synonymous to the Common Forum. Given its diversity in political theories and convictions, you will also find division within the JMP.
Al-Ahmar Family One of Saleh’s main political challenges comes from the sons of the late Abdullah al-Ahmar, the former leader of the Hashid tribal confederation. Abdullah was a longtime ally of the president’s, but his sons are less loyal – particularly Hamid, a prominent businessman who is considered a potential successor to Saleh. Hamid has opposed the president for a number of years – in a 2009 interview with Al Jazeera, he accused the president of treason.
Several other Ahmar brothers help to make the family a potent political force. Himyar al-Ahmar is the deputy speaker of parliament, and Hussein al-Ahmar is a leader of the Hashid – though his influence is limited – who resigned last week from the ruling General People’s Congress. “The Ahmars are the paramount sheikhs of the Hashid confederacy,” said Abdul Ghani al-Iryani, a prominent Yemeni political analyst. “They clearly think this is an opportunity to take what they’re entitled to.” [Source: Aljazeera]
Houthi Rebellion It is hard to imagine the Houthis, who have fought an on-again, off-again civil war with Sanaa since 2004, playing any role in any “unity government” sponsored by Saleh. Their grievances are complicated. They worry that their religion (the Houthis are Zaydi Shia) is threatened by creeping Wahhabi influence; and they are frustrated with the economic marginalisation of the north, particularly Saada province. Sanaa, in turn, has accused the Houthis of being Iranian agents.
Various cease-fires since 2004 have inevitably collapsed, and so the Houthis’ political role has been extremely limited. Saleh said last year, following the most recent truce, that the Houthis could form a political party and contest elections. But they have had little involvement with Yemeni politics since. The Houthis issued a statement endorsing the anti-Saleh protests, but it is unclear what role, if any, they would seek to play in a post-Saleh Yemen. [Source: Aljazeera]
Southern Movement Also murky are the desires of the secessionist Southern Movement. The movement’s leaders have temporarily dropped their demands for independence, choosing instead to support the protests and call for Saleh’s ouster. If he is to fall, it is uncertain though whether the Southern Movement would revert back to demanding secession.
The movement traces its roots back to 1994, when south Yemen tried (and failed) to secede from the north. Its longstanding grievances are economic: Sana’a has not done enough to develop the south’s economy, the movement argues, and many northerners enriched themselves by illegally seizing land from southerners.
Its anti-government demonstrations have increased over the last two years, and the movement enjoys popular support from many in the south. And its grievances are systemic: Saleh’s resignation would not, by itself, resolve Yemen’s economic inequality. [Source: Al-Jazeera]
- Brigadier Ali Mohsen Saleh, head of the North Western Military Zone
- Brigadier Hameed Al koshebi, head of brigade 310 in Omran area
- Brigadier Mohammed Ali Mohsen, head of the Eastern Division
- Brigadier Nasser Eljahori, head of brigade 121
- General Ali Abdullaha Aliewa, adviser of the Yemeni supreme leader of the army
- General Faisal Rajab, based in the southern province of Lahij
- “Dozens of officers of various ranks” – AFP
- Abdel-Wahhab Tawaf, Ambassador to Syria
- Mohammed Ali al-Ahwal, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
- Ambassador to Jordan
- Ambassador to Egypt
- Ambassador to Kuwait
- Ambassador to China
- Ambassador to Algeria
- Ambassador to Indonesia
- Ambassador to Iraq
- Ambassador to Qatar
- Ambassador to Belgium
- Ambassador to Pakistan
- Ambassador to Czech Republic
- Ambassador to Spain
- Ambassador to Germany
- Ambassador to Oman
- Ambassador to the UN
- Charge d’affairs to Tunisia
- Representative to the Arab League
- All embassy staff in Washington except the ambassador
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