Optimism for Yemen Only if Weapons are Put Away

By Fakhri al-Arashi

Yemen’s new political environment can be viewed through a wide range of conflicting perspectives. These range from seeing Yemen as a safe country, to one on the brink of collapse. This binary of extremes has been brought upon by the presidential elections expected to be held this upcoming February.

Even with the election as a touted path to Yemen’s future, there has been a loss of hope by Yemenis on the ground. The election looks fragile as the election committee  struggles to create all the legal documents for the election and the military committee issues unending orders to rid Yemen’s cities of the presence of various military factions.

The hope of the election, however,  is still carried by the international community, but they are driven by their interest in preserving their own strategic interests.

The contrast between been Yemenis and the international community is large. In the media, the work of the election committee and military commission’s decrees are treated as significant steps forward. However, their work does not reflect the dark reality on the ground in Yemen. The work of any commission quickly falls into the shadows of heavily armed militants who refuse to return to their barracks.

People outside of Yemen, and outside realm of Yemeni politics, don’t understand that the language of decrees is empty in comparison to factors contributing to Yemen’s potential collapse as a state. It is hard to be optimistic for what an election can bring to Yemen when a sectarian threat grows in the north, a separation gathers momentum in the south , and jihadist recruit more loyalists by the day.

Perhaps the international community would have a better read of Yemen’s situation and be more cautious in their optimism if they didn’t remain in their armored cars and buildings surrounded by guards.

The basic fact is that if militias don’t put away their guns, nothing in Yemen will change, regardless of any optimism by those interested in Yemen.