Political Analysis

Tribal Chiefs Influence Political Process in Yemen

National Yemen

Sadiq-al-Ahmar, Chief of Yemen tribes

By Sadam al-Ashmory

The general state budget for 2012 included the salaries of more than 1218 tribal chiefs with a total cost of about 13 billion YR. The new Minister of Finance refused to issue these salaries under the pretext that the tribal chiefs were loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

New President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi ordered that the salaries of tribal chiefs be issued, yet still Sakar Al-Wajeeh refused to obey. However, parliament exercised pressure on the National Unity Government until the salaries were approved.

Many people were happy by Al-Wajeeh’s bold decisions as well as his attempts to treat tribal chiefs equally with the people and cancel their unearned benefits.

Political analysts believe that the Finance Minister Sakar al-Wajeeh forgot that most parliament members are tribal chiefs or their followers. As everyone knows, they serve as powerful centers that play the role of mediators between the political leadership and the people.

In a preplanned way, the former political leadership used tribal leaders to exert influence over the people as it chose them as representative and candidates.

Realizing the importance of the tribal chiefs’ role in the Yemeni politics and understanding well his predecessor’s game, Hadi ordered the Finance Minister to issue the tribal chiefs’ salaries.

For its part, the Economic and Media Center condemned parliament pressure aimed to issue the suspended salaries to the tribal chiefs.

The center stated that issuing the suspended salaries of chiefs by presidential orders is a form of public corruption that goes in contrary to Yemen’s constitution and laws as well as the international treaty of combating corruption.

The center further considered such a move indicative that the former regime is still in control.

“At the same time parliament refused to pass the judiciary budget, it passed the tribal chiefs budget in order to buy off their allegiance,” said the center, adding that such illegal budget should have been rejected by the parliament.

Parliament Member Ahmed Saif Hashed accused parliament of being devoted to the former regime. He considered the budget law illegal as it was passed by parliament, which is also illegal.

Al-Hamiri, another member of parliament, said that the salaries are not issued for all tribal chiefs rather for selected Shieks known for their positions against the youth revolution.

Meanwhile, other MPs believe that issuing the tribal chiefs’ salaries is important and stressed that such salaries should not be suspended again in light of the current deteriorating security situation.

The people still remember how the tribal chiefs hijacked the Yemeni revolution and how they turned against the civil rule of judge Aburrahman al-Aryani in 1974.

Similarly, former late President Ibrahim al-Hamdi was killed due to his opposing position toward the advantages granted to tribal chiefs.

Ali Abdullah Saleh has dealt with the tribal chiefs in a clever and cautious way. He paid them off and used them within his regime allowing him to remain in power for over 33 years.

Many sheiks exploited the political and financial advantages granted by the former regime, but these advantages were not reflected in the welfare of their areas as the tribal chiefs sought to keep their followers away from developing in order to continue controlling them.
The current regime headed by President Hadi also sought to buy off the tribal chiefs although he realizes that they use the government’s support to strengthen their own influence.

Many people think that if this money was spent in development projects, the tribal chiefs could have never been so influential and would have never been able to control or blackmail the government.