Government Sits Idle as Dammaj Conflict Widens
Yemen Times — 26 December 2013
As ongoing clashes in Dammaj in Sa’ada governorate between the Houthis and the Salafis enter their third month, the expansion of the conflict into surrounding areas is worrying to both the central government and locals. While tension between the Houthis, who are Zaidi Shiites, and the Salafis, who are conservative Sunnis, first began to emerge late last summer, at the end of October intense fighting between the groups picked up, with casualties on both sides being hard to track. Estimates have been as high as in the hundreds. Due to roadblocks and lack of security, the assistance of aid organizations in the area has been extremely limited.
Yemen wastes time
Al-Monitor — 23 December 2013
According to the best estimates and personal experience, Yemeni government employees waste three hours a day (out of the seven-hour work day, according to the civil service laws). So public offices are effectively open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., minus the time for breakfast, of course. With no accurate statistics about the number of state employees, there are deep administrative imbalances. Many think it is about one million for the civil and military corps. Given that the annual working days per employee number 302 — after excluding weekly, national and religious holidays — about 906 million work hours are wasted annually in the Yemeni government sector. There are also no criteria for evaluating worker performance, except for teachers, who have specific lecture schedules. Business hours are uncontrolled. A worker requires one signature for showing up and one for leaving, but both are often signed at the same time.
There is no common GCC vision on Yemen
Asharq Al-Awsat — 26 December 2013
The most effective way to help Yemen’s economy would be to allow Yemenis to work in the GCC. Unfortunately, the GCC appears to be adopting the reverse policy because it seeks to create employment opportunities for its own citizens. GCC citizens, however, will never take up the lowly jobs that Yemenis occupy. The present policy of expelling Yemenis will create more suffering and frustration in Yemen and lead to the exacerbation of an already dire situation. It is urgent that the GCC sees its own fate as being linked to that of Yemen—before a rude awakening takes place when Yemen implodes and proceeds to export its problems to its neighbors. Continue reading
The Red Wedding
Foreign Policy — 18 December 2013
Whatever happened on Dec. 12, it was not a “targeted killing” — the language President Barack Obama’s administration often uses to describe drone strikes — nor was it consistent with the White House’s claim that the strikes are only carried out when civilians will not be caught in the crossfire. It’s not just a matter of the morality of the drone program: The confirmed deaths of noncombatants in this strike will set back anti-al Qaeda efforts everywhere in Yemen, and its effects will only be exacerbated by the restive area where it occurred. The strike was followed, as always, by silence from Washington, which has acknowledged carrying out drone strikes in Yemen but never publicly comments on individual attacks. The Yemeni government, however, released a statement the following day that said the strike targeted al Qaeda militants, but neglected to mention either the country that carried out the attack or the apparent civilian casualties. The actions taking place behind the scenes, though, painted a vastly different picture: Al-Baydah’s governor was dispatched to mediate between the government and the families of the dead, while Yemeni officials that were previously supportive of the drone strikes cast the attack as a tragic error.
Yemen’s harrowing transition
Al-Monitor — 14 December 2013
Most importantly, some intelligence cooperation with the Yemeni authorities could have prevented the morning headlines from reading “air strike kills 15 at wedding.” The US drone operation on Dec. 13 came a week after Yemen’s national tragedy in Sanaa had shaken perceptions of safety and security. This attack further weakened an already fragile situation and drew attention to the multiplicity of actors in Yemen’s security arena. Death in Yemen is now more imminent by the hands of al-Qaeda or the United States.
Yemen’s Parliament Approves Non-Binding Ban On Drone Strikes
International Business Tribune — 16 December 2013
Sunday’s proposal, which follows reports of a deadly drone strike earlier in the week on a wedding party, is seen as a recommendation to Yemen’s president who holds veto power. Lawmakers voted to “prevent drones in the skies of Yemen, stressing the importance of protecting innocent citizens as well as the preservation of the rule of Yemeni territory,” Yemen’s official Saba news agency said. Continue reading
Down and out
The Economist — 10 December 2013
For decades, the kingdom turned a blind-eye to the millions of illegal and migrant workers who quietly took on the manual labour jobs that Saudis didn’t want. But facing an unemployment rate of 12% and growing pressure to create opportunities for its own citizens, in March Riyadh ruled that illegal workers would no longer be tolerated. Yemenis have been among the worst affected. The International Organisation for Migration, a UN body, says nearly 8,000 were sent back through al-Tuwal in a single day in early November. Yemeni officials say the monthly total of 71,000 brings the number of returnees to between 300,000 and 400,000 since the beginning of the year. Both deportees and critics of the Saudi policy admit the kingdom has a right to enforce its laws and that most of the Yemenis being expelled were not there legally. But concerns rest over the way that the deportations are being carried out and the effect they will have on Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world where at least a third of citizens live in poverty.
Yemen unlikely to join GCC if union is formed
Yemen Times — 12 December 2013
Yemen’s chance to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be slashed should the organization decide to form a union, political analysts say. But the move has not been embraced by all members of the GCC, who are unlikely to trade in sovereignty for integration. Earlier this week at the Manama Dialogue, held in Bahrain, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu Bakr Al-Kirbi reiterated that Sana’a is wiling to join the GCC and “now the decision is up to the council.” Given the sectarian conflict between Salafis and Houthis and the weak security and political situation in the country, the odds of Yemen being accepted into a union are dismal, said political analyst Adel Al-Sharjbi. As for joining the GCC, pre-union status, Qatar and its allies support the move while Saudi Arabia and its allies oppose it. The Saudi influence is stronger in the GCC, he said.
Attack fears close UN offices as Yemen condemns ‘smear’
AFP via Yahoo! News — 12 December 2013
The United Nations closed its offices in the Yemeni capital on Thursday over fears of possible car bomb attacks, although Western embassies remained open. Despite official denials of an alert, most shops in Sanaa were shuttered and little traffic ventured out onto the streets as rumours swirled among the city’s residents of the risk of an imminent attack. State television on Wednesday aired horrific images of the defence ministry assault, taken from surveillance cameras, showing the assailants executing civilians and medics in cold blood. The images show a car packed with explosives detonated at the gate to the complex, sending soldiers, medics and civilians gathered inside the compound running for cover. After the blast, heavily armed militants dressed in combat fatigues are seen wandering through the corridors of the complex, shooting anyone they see, including a wounded female nurse who appears to be looking for help. Another gunman in military uniform calmly approaches a group of people huddled in a corridor after the initial blast, before pulling a hand grenade from his jacket and hurling it at them. Continue reading
Yemen’s Economic Agenda: Beyond Short-Term Survival
Rafik Hariri Center — 5 December 2013
What has been glaringly absent from most conversations about Yemen’s delicate transition is the need to focus on transforming the economic environment and actually implement the short-, medium-, and long-term plans that were put on paper. In an effort to stop the economic bleeding, the transitional government developed a fairly comprehensive Transition Plan for Stabilization and Development (TPSD), with considerable input from the World Bank, in advance of the Riyadh donors’ conference in September 2012. The document outlines priority areas for the government, with the objective of matching donor assistance according to the framework. By design, the TPSD has a short-term orientation and stops short of laying out a full economic agenda for the country to move forward. When pressed on this point, ministers in the transitional government reply that their mandate is limited to implementing the GCC agreement and does not extend to charting a course for Yemen’s economic future. But even if the benchmark is the plan set forth in the TPSD, one is struck by how little has been achieved.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry Is Attacked on 2 Fronts
New York Times — 5 December 2013
Assailants carried out a two-pronged attack on Yemen’s heavily guarded Defense Ministry headquarters in the center of the capital, Sana, on Thursday, ramming a car packed with explosives into one part of the complex as attackers on foot opened fire with automatic rifles on another, witnesses said. News reports quoting Defense Ministry officials said 20 people had been killed, including militants and Yemeni soldiers, and dozens wounded. But other accounts put the death toll higher. Several foreign medical workers were also reported to be among the dead after the attackers stormed into a hospital within the complex.
Yemen’s New Ways of Protesting Drone Strikes: Graffiti and Poetry
TIME — 30 November 2013
“We [have] tried to be a little bit more creative on ways [that] we can really combat the fact that drones are hovering over our cities and villages,” said Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist and project coordinator for the British-based organization Reprieve, which advocates for the rights of prisoners to receive a fair trial. Taking their lead from Yemen’s reputation for recitation, the group organized an anti-drone poetry contest earlier this month. The top prize: $600 or, in Reprieve’s words, “1% of the cost of a hellfire missile.” A panel of Yemeni poets whittled the more than 30 submissions down to six finalists and a winner. Frontrunners gathered on a recent Tuesday afternoon to share their work. One by one, contestants read their poems aloud. Some delivered their verse – containing lines such as “From above, Death descends upon us,” “Drones are the friend of our enemy” and “Do you fight terrorism with terrorism?” – more fluently than others, but the small audience of mostly friends and fellow activists greeted all of the contestants with equally boisterous applause. The winner: Drones Without Rhyme, a catchy free verse poem with a familiar theme. The winning poet, Ayman Shahari, beamed as he walked on stage. Continue reading