Tariq al-Fadhli, a major southern movement leader in Abyan, appeared last week in a new style of protest, to reap the benefits of the harvest season — that is, the upcoming election. Abyan, like some other restive southern governorates, has been seized by protests, clashes, assassinations and attacks on soldiers before the start of any big occasion. Such was the case before the announcement of the Gulf Twenty in Aden and Abyan and now with the constitutional amendments and the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The overview of the political situation indicates a market share and a payment dividend for every governmental step toward making progress in the reform agenda. Both government and opposition and the leaders of the Southernist “Hirak” leaders have mislead the citizens into believing that they are actually fighting for their rights – really, only the elites’ bank accounts are the issue.
In his rather unfair statements, al-Fadhli appeared as if he was doing whatever was necessary to court the attention of the government. Since his stay in his Zinjibar compound over the course of the last eight months, al-Fadhli gave notice to the government that he and his underlings are planning for a massive protest on February 11th, 2011. But why even burn the American flag? If his main quarrel is with the Yemeni government, why not just target its symbols, and leave Uncle Sam out of it?
Clearly, al-Fadhli, like so many people in the country, has become confused and disillusioned. The best strategy the government can adopt against all those like al-Fadhli is to build a community in which citizens feel safe and secure and have the possibility for a better life.
Creating more opportunity and reducing prices will make more citizens believe in the state, support unity, and, yes, even back the ruling party. What happened in Tunisia has made some Arab countries reinstate food subsidies, clearly not because they have suddenly become responsible to their citizens, but because they have perceived a real danger to their thrones.
Again, Yemen should turn its attention to the need of the community, and not to the need of sheikhs or corrupt bureaucrats.