Political Analysis

Celebrating Unity… An Unfortunate Decision

National Yemen

Soliders celebrates the 24th anniverssary of the National Day

Asma al-Mohattwari

The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) outputs came as a contemporary formulation for the project of Yemeni unity on the basis of a federal democracy that guarantees justice and equality for all Yemenis. The NDC outputs aimed to build a new country on the principles of good governance accompanied by a unified Yemen to start a national partnership with real wealth and power. Unfortunately, the NDC failed to agree to a definitive solution to the Southern issue and most of the southern people are still asking for separation.

President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi insisted on celebrating the Unity Day celebration. He issued a statement before May 22, the Day of Unity, to stress that all government agencies and leaders of local authorities have to prepare to celebrate the Unity Day. The Yemeni people have different points of view related to the unity celebration. Some of them consider this day a national struggle to keep unity and view that it should be celebrated to remind the people of the unification sacrifices. While others see it as preferable if the costs and large amounts of money spent for ceremony were spent on poor people and solving the problems of oil, electricity, and hunger in Yemen. The third group understands the 24th celebration of the unity as a setback of the NDC outputs and a provocation to the southern people.

Haykal Bafana, a lawyer, thinks that the difficulties Yemen faces make it even more important that Unity Day be celebrated. He considers it a beginning to heal the wounds of the past and a foundation for creating a Yemen that is united in form and substance.

“My worries are about the security risks, as definitely AQAP and others exist who wish to sabotage the transition and will be actively seeking to draw blood and create mayhem”.

According to Dr. Mohammed Marem, in 1990 all Yemenis aimed for unity and the disturbances that accompanied unification ere due to setbacks in the union agreement and because of individual practices that led to the demand for secession. Yet the president’s decision to celebrate that day came to emphasize the importance of unity for all Yemenis and the whole region and it is a prove that unification is still alive.

Marem pointed out that NDC came out with two purposes: one is to form a new federal nation state aimed at enabling the government to have a new shape to ensure the survival of unity while the other purpose is to break centralization, which was the reason for the weakness of Yemeni unity.

“We must explain to ordinary citizens that unity did not fail. It was just individual failures and practices. Those who reject unity were exposed to many rights violations and injustices, but we must correct the path in the light of unity,” Marem added.

On the other hand, Wadea al-Shibani, an activist, stated that writer Mao Tse Tung once said “power is a tool of politics” and that power will not come from political action, but that power achieves what politics fails to do. “Therefore, Hadi should know that he can’t be strong by celebrating unity day but by achieving the wishes of Yemeni society.”

Al-Shibani said that in the current situation, the existing system is confronting formalities and neglecting the importance of dealing with the deteriorating situation that threatens the peace of Yemen.

“The celebration of the unification anniversary is emptied of its content and declines to find solutions that the Yemenis wish for. What ensured is the doubling of threats after the 2011 revolution and divisions of state institutions for specific parties to bring only power, prestige, and wealth for themselves,” al-Shibani stated.

Ali al-Bukhaity, writer and politician, said that the memory of Yemeni unity is very important for everyone but what happened in 1994 distorted it. Therefore, it is better if the celebration of unity was minimalistic, particularly in the southern provinces so they may be returned to harmony as they were before the war in 1994.

“I didn’t want to repeat the tragedy that occurred two years ago during the celebration of unity in Aden and dozens were dead and wounded. This led to a greater sense of hostility towards unity,” he stated.

During the past three years, Yemen has faced the most difficult times in its history. One of the difficulties was that the south wanted to break the unity. Sadeq Noaman, Senior Engineer at Jannah Hunt Oil Company in Yemen, said that the celebration of unity should not be exaggerated because of the situation of Yemen and to respect the feelings of those in the south.

The Republic of Yemen was declared on 22 May 1990. Ali Abdullah Saleh of the north became Head of State, and Ali Salim al-Beidh became Head of Government. A 30-month transitional period for completing the unification of the two political and economic systems was set. A presidential council was jointly elected by the 26-member Yemen Arab Republic advisory council and the 17-member People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen presidium. The presidential council appointed a Prime Minister, who formed a cabinet. There was also a 301-seat provisional unified parliament, consisting of 159 members from the north, 111 members from the south, and 31 independent members appointed by the chairman of the council.

A unity constitution was agreed upon on May 1990 and ratified by the populace on May 1991. It affirmed Yemen’s commitment to free elections, a multiparty political system, the right to own private property, equality under the law, and respect of basic human rights. Parliamentary elections were held on April 27, 1993.

Conflicts within the coalition resulted in the self-imposed exile of Vice President Ali Salim Al-Beidh to Aden beginning in August 1993 and a deterioration in the general security situation as political rivals settled scores and tribal elements took advantage of the unsettled situation. Haidar Abu Bakr al-Attas, the former Southern Prime Minister continued to serve as Yemen’s Prime Minister, but his government was ineffective due to political infighting. Continuous negotiations between northern and southern leaders resulted in the signing of the Document of Pledge and Accord in Amman, Jordan on February 20, 1994. Despite this, clashes intensified until civil war broke out in early May 1994. Significantly, one of the institutions that had not yet unified was the military arms of both nations.

Southern leaders seceded and established the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) on 21 May 1994, but the new state was not recognized by the international community. Ali Nassir Muhammad, the exiled South Yemen leader, assisted military operations against the secessionists.

Aden was captured on 7 July 1994 and other resistance quickly collapsed and thousands of southern leaders and military went into exile.

In the aftermath of the civil war, Yemeni Socialist Party leaders within Yemen reorganized the party and elected a new politburo in July 1994. However, the party remained disheartened and without its former influence. Islah held a party convention in September 1994. The General People’s Congress did the same in June 1995.

In 1994, amendments to the unity constitution eliminated the presidential council. President Ali Abdullah Saleh was elected by Parliament on 1 October 1994 to a 5-year term. The constitution provided that henceforth the President is to be elected by popular vote from at least two candidates selected by the legislature.