OP-ED

Citizens Await Compensation in Abyan

National Yemen

Side view of Abyen City

By: ziad al-Mahwari

At the end of June 2012, the Council of Ministers was approved to established fund to re-build Abyan province after its recent war with al-Qaeda, which caused substantial damage to a number of houses throughout the city. The fund was established by an initial contribution from the government estimated at 10 billion, but so far no noticeable repairs have been made in the province. The only change has been an increase in the bank balances of those in charge of repairs, a sign of the corruption that has run rampant since the fund was established.

Rumors of the corruption spread quickly, and a report was issued by the Central Agency for Control and Auditing last August to ascertain the veracity of the rumors. According to the report, “the fund official has looted millions from the total amount.” Although the fund received huge a massive amount of support—7 billion as the initial payment—the fund was administered and drawn from randomly, with no monthly or annual plans for disbursals. The most noteworthy aspect of the fund, though, is the lack of connection between the fund and Abyan’s affected people.

The law consultants hired to work on the fund outnumbered the engineers, who had the more important task of actually rebuilding the city. According to the report, 25 legal consultants were hired, 36% of the total staff. Only six engineers were recruited for the project.

The report also mentioned that the fund had already been entered into 685 cases of accused fraud, involving over 900 million dollars. One hundred and thirty cases have already been compensated, involving 300 million dollars missing from inventory lists. Fifty percent of the assisting organizations handling this money were working directly with President Hadi’s home village in Abyan.

A local newspaper covered the corrupt dealings in a recent report, copied below:

The endless suffering of the affected in Abyan:

In the spread of the corruption, we find that some people are becoming more than rich, while hundreds of others have been left homeless and without assistance in Zinjibar. Some of them received a small amount of assistance, but that is insufficient to make up for what has happened to them.

In the Bajaddar neighborhood, we met Sheikh Mohammed Khedr Nasser Ambol, whose house was damaged beyond the point of habitability. A project engineer decided to destroy the house. The damage to the house was estimated at 4,900,000 rial, “but they gave me 1,900,000 in the initial phase. And now I have been forced to stop the reconstruction on my house due to the difficult situation I am in.”

Sheikh Mohammed added that he isn’t satisfied by the compensation, but he has no choice but to take it. “Otherwise I can’t build my house again.”

Another example is the house of citizen Hisham Nasser, which was destroyed entirely. The reconstruction fund agreed to grant him 5,8000,000 rial, but he refused to accept this amount because it would be insufficient to rebuild his house.

According to Hisham, local authorities and the leader of the fund have used the investments—meant to heal the pain of the province—simply to increase the size of their bank accounts.

Hisham described a number of families who had begun reconstruction on their houses, but were unable to finish because of lack of funds. Funds were supposed to be delivered in multiple phases, but the fund managers have not submitted the second phase of funding in a number of cases. This has forced some families to rent apartments in order to house their families.

Salim Saleh Omar Bawazeer, another citizen rebuilding his fallen house, had the damage to his property estimated at over 30 million rial. The fund offered him 23 million, which he initially refused. The amount was finally raised to 30 million, but despite Bawazeer’s agreement to take the funds, he has yet to receive a penny. “I now live in Aden with my family,” he says, “because I didn’t receive any money to rebuild my house. Many of us have been displaced, and left homeless.”

These are just some of the cases of suffering Zinjibar citizens. It falls on the shoulders of Hadi to relieve them from the troubling situations in which they find themselves.

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