Yemen: The Old Ways Are The Worst


May 19, 2010:  The UN has cut food aid by half, because most donor nations refuse to contribute until the corruption is taken care of. That is easier said than done, because government officials, tribal leaders and warlords expect to be paid (for not pointing their guns at the aid workers), and that's where a lot of the food aid goes. This is a common problem in many parts of the world, but it is getting more publicity, and aid donors can no longer just ignore the stealing (and pretend it isn't happening). Because of situations like this, many tribesmen support, or tolerate, al Qaeda because the Islamic radicals make their usual claim that, via Islamic law, they will clean up the government. It doesn't work that way, and never has, but it's something to believe in. The current bunch of government leaders are thieves and incompetent, and very unpopular out in the countryside.

Yemen has an obvious, and major, problem with unemployment and poverty. Thus it is believed that if you create jobs, many other problems will go away. That won't work, as there are other problems causing poor economic performance. These include unwillingness to cooperate and establish rule of law (something we take for granted in the West, but is quite rare in much of the world). There is also a lot of pride, paranoia and sense of entitlement. At least that's how Westerner's would describe Yemeni attitudes towards foreigners (anyone not from their tribe or clan) and foreign ideas. While many Yemenis understand how things work in the more prosperous West, they are a minority and many of these people want to emigrate. Trying to change things in Yemen is not only difficult, but also very dangerous. Attempts to establish rule of law (especially for commercial transactions, so foreign investment can create jobs) has not been very successful. Greed and selfishness, plus the tribalism, are the real plagues that keep Yemen poor and unsafe. These problems have deep cultural roots, and take a long time (based on historical experience) to change.

May 18, 2010: Government negotiators made a deal with tribal leaders to free the two Chinese oil company employees who were kidnapped earlier. Police were then allowed to search for the kidnappers. No details of the negotiations were released, but it was believed connected with a dispute by one clan of the tribe with the government over the shooting of a clan member by a policeman. Compensation (a bribe) is demanded. The way these deals work, the tribal leaders were paid, in one form or another, and the kidnappers were forced to free the captives, or have their fellow tribesmen turn on them. The tribe can protect you, as long as you are a member of the tribe in good standing. The tribal elders decide who is and who isn't. It's a shaky system, with frequent feuds and clashes within the tribes. Some of the clans within tribes are large, well armed and suffering from anger management issues.

May 17, 2010: Saudi troops crossed the border and rescued two Germans (girls aged 3 and 5) who had been kidnapped eleven months ago by Yemeni tribesmen, along with five other foreigners. Three of the captives (two German and one South Korean women) were killed quickly, and the infant brother of the two girls, and two other adult captives are also believed dead. The foreigners were taken prisoner in an attempt to get the government to free tribe members held in prison. The government won't free prisoners under these conditions, as it just encourages more kidnappings. The Saudis carried out the rescue here, it is believed, because Saudi forces were closer, and there would be less retaliation against the Yemeni government for the operation.

Six Somali pirates, who seized a Yemeni oil tanker last year (and killed two of the Yemeni crew), were convicted and sentenced to death by a Yemeni court.

May 16, 2010: In the southeast (750 kilometers east of the capital), local tribesmen kidnapped two Chinese oil company employees, along with their two Yemeni guards and two drivers. The government promptly

May 15, 2010:  the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasir al Wahayshi, announced, via pro-terrorist web sites, that he would protect Yemeni Islamic radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki (an American citizen of Yemeni descent who has been connected with many recent Islamic terror attacks in the West). The U.S. wants Awlaki, dead or alive, and is determined to get him. Wahayshi's promise to protect Awlaki is in response to the recent U.S. announcement that Awlaki was considered at war with the United States, and thus liable to attack at any time, most likely via a Hellfire missile fired from a UAV. The government, fearing trouble with Awlakis tribe, refuses to try and arrest and extradite Awlaki (who is hiding among his ancestral tribe down on the southern coast). But the government has been silent on trying to prevent the Americans from going after Awlaki themselves.

In the south, tribesmen ambushed a military, killing a soldier, and then disappearing into the hills.

May 14, 2010:  In the north, troops clashed with Shia rebels, leaving two soldiers and several rebels dead.

May 13, 2010: In the south, troops intervened to break up an eight day standoff between heavily armed tribesmen. The dispute was over water. The soldiers killed two people and damaged twenty buildings while driving off all the everyone. There is a growing water shortage, due to a growing population and more land being used to grow the narcotic plant Khat (which now accounts for about 37 percent of water used). About 90 percent of the war use is for agriculture, which is still the mainstay of the economy.

May 12, 2010:  In the north, rebels continue to seize schools, which are useful as bases. This often triggers an army response, and the kids don't get any education while the adults are fighting over who shall use the buildings. About half the population is illiterate, although most parents understand that education is a key tool for avoiding poverty.

May 11, 2010: Al Qaeda took credit for the unsuccessful attack on the British ambassador last month, claiming that the British were leading a war on Islam.

In the capital, gunmen attacked a convoy transferring a prisoner (a convicted arms dealer with terrorist ties). One guard was killed, but the attack failed to free the prisoner.

The government accused Shia rebels in the north of kidnapping four soldiers, and violating the truce in many other ways.

May 9, 2010: The navy arrested several Yemenis and Somalis who were found using a fishing boat equipped with automatic weapons and night vision equipment.

In the port of Aden, two small bombs went off, wounding four people.






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