by Robert Sharp and Marwan Noman
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2051 placed Yemen at the top of the international community’s agenda when passed on June 12, 2012. It confirmed international support to Yemen’s transition. Much has happened globally since then. Syria is deteriorating; the Annan Plan has failed and Russia is meddling by supplying helicopters to Assad’s regime. Iran is proving troublesome again as the talks seem to be going nowhere. The U.S. is building forces in the Middle East to signal that they mean business to Iran, and with/without Israel, are likely warming up their engines for a military response. Yemen has understandably been lost within the background noise of global tension and conflict. Although many people heard about the tragic humanitarian crisis that 44% of Yemenis – 10 million people – are starving, few have heard that Yemen’s President Hadi is locked in his house. He is unable to move without a significant security presence because of real fears the old regime will topple him. Everyone knew that for Hadi it was always going to be tough. The challenges he faces are daunting. He is fighting to maintain control while wrestling ghosts from Yemen’s past. The current situation is verging on unmanageable if not also gravely dangerous. President Hadi needs newly invigorated United Nations support. The situation in Yemen is - at the least - a cause for serious concern.
Most government ministries are still operating by the rules of old Saleh loyalists. They ignore the mandates issued under both the GCC transition mechanism and Resolution 2051. No real progress has been made to accommodate all political players into the National Dialogue process. The debates over the draft transitional justice and national reconciliation law, opposed by ministers of the Peoples General Congress, have not been settled. Security has proven to be a personal challenge for President Hadi. He has expelled Ansar Al-Sharia from the Abyan and Shabwa provinces to try and restore government control and to safeguard the start of the National Dialogue process. But security in Sana'a, Taiz and Aden is still at the mercy of the Republican Guard corps, still under the command of Saleh's son. Additionally, both the central security and anti-terrorism forces are still under the de-facto command of Saleh's nephew. The July 11 suicide bomb attack killing a reported 22 police cadets at the Police Academy in Sana'a, the June 8 assassination in Aden of Major General Salem Ali Al-Quton – the commander of Yemen's southern military district - and the suicide attacks on May 21, 2012 that claimed the lives of 100 soldiers in Sana'a, were all major setbacks. The chiefs of both the Central Organization for Political Security and the Central Security Organization have recently submitted reports to President Hadi about a range of terrorist attacks, including the assassination of an American teacher in Taiz. No details have yet been released. We are concerned that President Hadi might be wary of taking action based on information within the reports, because: (1) he is worried about Yemeni popular support, (2) he is worried about an old-guard response, and (3) he is not yet convinced that he truly has the backing of the international community.
The political situation is getting worse. Last Monday, members of the Yemeni Socialist Party issued a statement criticizing all decisions taken by both President Hadi and Prime Minister Basindwa. The Party claims that their decisions are discriminatory, non-conciliatory, counterproductive and contradictory to all agreements and the general understanding of all concerned parties. The Party has proposed a twelve-point proposal to secure their future participation. United Nations Special Envoy - Jamal Benomar - arrived in Sana’a recently. He is there to establish: “a small presence, to support the implementation of the transition process and to provide advice to the parties in conjunction with the government of Yemen, in particular in support of the National Dialogue process.” The Interpretation Committee provided for in the GCC mechanism was supposed to form within five days of signature; it has not met thus far.
On July 3, 2012, the International Crisis Group (ICG) produced a report titled: “Yemen: Enduring Conflicts, Threatened Transition.” The ICG remarked that the: “political settlement has numerous flaws. It was an elite compromise that excluded many original protesters as well as marginalized constituencies. It failed to adequately address issues of justice and it kept in power leaders and parties at least partially responsible for the country’s woes. But, at a minimum, it offers the chance for a different future. If politicians in Sana’a fail to resolve, or at least contain, the ongoing elite confrontation and move forward with an inclusive dialogue, the country risks experiencing further violence and fragmentation. Yemen has long run away from critical decisions. It should run no more.”
Now is, therefore, the time for the United Nations to harden the edges of their action and provide a new resolution. The Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2051 threatening sanctions against groups seen as undermining Yemen's political transition and staging attacks in the country. The new resolution, which we are sure Dr. Benomar will recommend, should now move beyond threatening sanctions to directing them. In so doing, it should maybe name former President Saleh and his direct family together with other ex rulers of south Yemen. It should use stronger language reconfirming its established commitment to safeguard Yemen’s political settlement by February 2014. We suggest an ad hoc committee be established to review names of those impeding peaceful transition and pass them to the United Nations for action. The United Nations might direct the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on violations of human rights and crimes against humanity for submission to the International Criminal Court. Supported by the United Nations, President Hadi should then feel confident enough to use the constitutional mandates stipulated in Article 14, Paragraph 6 of the GCC mechanism with respect to his right to issue decrees he considers necessary. The GCC agreement and mechanism supersedes Yemen’s constitution and may not be challenged by the institutions of the State. Yemen needs to be moved up the list of international priorities. The United Nations should discuss a stronger resolution. President Hadi must act too. But he will only feel confident to act when he knows the United Nations is providing the teeth to enable him the freedom of movement necessary to deliver the needed change. Without that, he cannot reach out to the people – as part of the planned national dialogue process – and will remain home alone impotently surrounded by battalions of security guards.