By: Almigdad Mojalli
SANA’A, June 25- In addition to the social and cultural impact of tribal leaders’ power, this power extends to reach other aspects that influence Yemen as a state and society.
The political influence of tribal leaders has been increasing dramatically since the revolution of 1962 and could have reached the climax during the reign of the outgoing president Ali Abdullah Saleh. During the revolution of 1962 tribal leaders stood with the revolution and due to their strong power supported by their tribes, they could assume high positions.
“The minister of interior at that time was a tribal sheik, and the governors of some governorates were sheiks and the head of the Parliament at that time was a sheikh as well…even in the army, many of them were appointed as brigade’s commanders,” said Mohammed Hassan, a retired officer.
The fastest way for the sheikhs to start involving in politics is by running for the Parliament’s membership through elections. The sheikhs guarantee that all or the overwhelming majority of their tribesmen will vote for them rather than anyone else even if the latter is obtaining higher education certificates, “In most of the tribes, no one can compete the sheikh in elections …people usually support the sheikhs putting aside all the standards that should be available in the sheikh’s personality,” said Jamil Ahmed Nasser, a schoolmaster in Bani Al-Harith tribe.
Tribal sheikhs intervened in laws legislation to be formulated in harmony with their level of education that enables them to reach political power. For example, the standards of a Parliament member requires him or her to be able to read and write, “ Just imagine that the Parliament member who is responsible for all debating and endorsing all legislations, and regional and international convention can only read and write. What is the back ground that his opinions, discussions, approval or disapproval is based on,” Izzaden Mohammed Saleh, a tribesman from Khawlan.
The most prominent influence of tribal leaders’ power emerged in the civil war 1994 when they advocated people to support the army which was fighting the defected army led by some of the Yemen Socialist Party in the south, “the tribal sheikhs had an important role during as they directed their tribes to gather foodstuff and furniture for the soldiers fighting the insurgents,” said Ahmed Saleh Yahya, a head of a village in Khawlan tribe.
The influence and intervention of tribal leaders in politics and political issues increased during the six wars launched by the Yemeni Army against the Sheiite Houthis group in Sa’ada at the north of the country, when some of tribal leaders were allowed to push their tribesmen to participate in the confrontations either with or against Al-Houthi group, “some of the tribal leaders were appointed as militant commanders on some battalions composed of their tribesmen,” said Mohammed Najib, an officer in the army.
Many tribal sheikhs were blamed for participating in the assassination of former president Ibrahim Al-Hamdi, “ many tribal sheikhs who were against the civil modern state that Al-Hamdi was establishing conspired with some neighboring countries and could assassinate him… they did not assassinated Al-Hamdi but all Yemeni people along with their hopes of prosperity and development, and then we saw them assuming high ranked positions in the state along their lives,” said Abdullah Mohsen Saleh, a political activist.
Moreover, the tribal leaders have a strong influence during the borders demarcations process between Yemen and Saudi Arabia where some sheikhs, according some allegations, urged the Yemeni government to abandon with big areas of Yemeni lands for Saudi Arabia, “they were selling Yemen and Yemenis along their lives; they worked as brokers to sell Yemeni lands and then we saw them depicted as leaders and heroes..,” Abdullah Mohsen Saleh.
Tribal sheikhs are one main barriers and obstacles standing against the economic prosperity and development of Yemen according to many Yemeni intellectuals. They realized that their power won’t be influence unless this power is supported by material power, so they started thinking of gathering money and having as much as possible of revenues.
Many tribal sheikhs ran to establish big companies in different fields exploiting their powers evading payment of taxes and customs, which consequently harms the national economy. “many tribal leaders have many companies and most of them evade payment of taxes and customs either by gaining exemption from taxes and customs or by using their direct power,” said Mohammed Ali Mohsen, a tax collector in Sana’a city.
The greed of tribal leaders reached trying to share international investors in their business. Many investors dropped investing in Yemen due to being encountered by some tribal leaders and high ranked officials who wanted to share them. “whenever an investor comes to invest in Yemen, certain tribal sheikhs encounter them and ask to share them under the pretext that the latter will provide security as if we live in a jungle not a state that has official security bodies,” said Mohammed Ahmed Hashim, an economist.
Some international investors complained that some tribal sheikhs and officials wanted to share them without paying anything, “I received a tribal sheikh who is a businessman as well and asked to share me not only in the profits but also in the assets for nothing but offering security… which security? I am coming to invest in a country that has army and security forces to protect investments…these people are the main obstacles of the development and prosperity of the country,” said a Saudi investor Hussein Abdurrahaman.
Some tribal leaders are also involved in bombing oil pipes and electricity power passing Nihm and Khawlan tribes. These bombs contributed to a big extent in harming and destroying the national economy. According to the Minister of finance, Yemen lost about USD$1.5 billion during the past one and half year due to stopping exporting oil caused by bombing oil pipes.
Moreover, sources in the state announced that Yemen has lost over YR 31 billion due to bombing electricity towers. “ tribal sheikhs either from GPC or JMP are responsible for power cuts… they are destroying the whole country..” said Hizam Mohammed Nasser, a tribesman.
The political and economic influence of tribal leaders contributed hugely to hindering development of the country along the past five decades, and now with the revolution against corruption, it seems that tribal sheikhs are carrying the wave again.
2012-08-09 12:14:40 UTC