By: Yaseen Al-Tamimy
Here in Yemen, since the mid-nineties, we became used to witnessing a new round of riots every time a national dialogue was held. Riots were a clear indication that dialogues couldn’t resolve pending issues, with the result that people believed that war represented the only way to solve problems.
However, I am overwhelmed with optimism this time around. Although the National Dialogue continues to face difficult problems, it may yet be successful and prevent the possibility of a new civil war. I would attribute my positive feelings to the UN’s attitude towards Ali Abdullah Saleh and his supporters, who badly wish to have enough seats in the dialogue to foil it. Fortunately, they are seriously counterbalanced by the UN, which doesn’t exhibit as strict an attitude towards the JMP.
To remind those who might have forgotten, in the past, Saleh had enough authority and sufficient capacity to foil any attempts to hold a serious national dialogue. He would create problems and obstacles before the dialogues and so could perfectly control their outcomes. A simple example of this was the dialogue of 1993-1994, and how it resulted in a full-fledged war. A worse outcome awaited Saleh when he followed the same strategy, when Yemeni powers wished to hold a national dialogue in 2010. The outcome was a revolution which compelled Saleh to leave office.
In accordance with what I mentioned above, I would suggest that National Dialogue supervisor Jamal Benomar and ambassadors of countries sponsoring the GCC initiative pay closer attention issues concerned with representation in the dialogue. There must be a meeting to choose a suitable place to hold the dialogue in order to allow it to succeed, and to remove all factors which may contribute to its failure either in Sana’a or any other location in Yemen. I suggest that they choose a tourist resort in any place around the world, as it will give everybody the opportunity to think more seriously about helping Yemen overcome its crisis.
If they shared the same living quarters – and especially if they were nice ones, dialogue participants would think about the word ‘life’ instead of ‘death’. It would also help to get rid of the armed bodyguards who also form parallel conferences of their own outside halls and who create a number of problems.
A good portion of the dialogue’s participants will lack the sense of living in a modern city; rather, they carry the habits which come with living in a harsh geographical environment. Taking them to a wonderful resort such as Sharm Al-Sheikh in Egypt would give them the chance to come in contact with life as it should be. Such people would rediscover themselves and then would earnestly consider living the rest of their lives in more appropriate ways.
Holding the national dialogue outside Yemen is a chronic need, and one which is no less important than achieving fair representation. If it is insisted that the National Dialogue be held in Sana’a, participants should expect many problems, including but not limited to armed attacks which target participants in attempts to prevent them from reaching the conference venue.
A firm stand on the matter of holding the National Dialogue outside Yemen would help ensure the outcomes Yemenis aspire to.