This past Sunday, I approached the front gate of the Movenpick Hotel , where Yemen’s first human rights conference was being held.
A small, civil group of youths and families was there, holding signs up high and calling for rights – not just their own, but also for those of revolutionaries who were left injured, for the families of those were killed last year, and for the release of youths illegally detained during the revolution which led to the eventual ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh.
I made my way past the chants and the signs and soon enough was in the conference hall, where Prime Minister Mohammed Basindowa was preparing to speak. While the protesters outside the front gate had been passionate, they had delivered their message in a civil manner.
Inside the conference room itself, it soon became clear that those in charge of selecting the conference attendees had failed to perform their duty in a responsible manner.
A show of blatant disrespect was soon directed at Basindowa by some of the youths present in the conference hall. The disrespect came in the form of angry comments to the effect that the Prime Minister should step down as he had forgotten the rights of those who had yesterday promoted him to the leadership position he today holds. Soon enough, Basindowa himself had allowed himself to enter the fray. He proceeded to call the youths failures who had been paid off by ex-president Saleh to disrupt the conference.
Was today’s debacle (at a conference on human rights, of all things) a forewarning, an ominous mirror tilted in the direction of the near future, when we assume our National Dialogue Conference will kick off? Are we naïve to imagine that the wishes of an exhausted populace will translate into civil and productive behavior at the dialogue table? Of questions we have many, but answers…
For such questions… Well, in reality, we have nothing. Will the pressures of reality bring out our representatives’ best – or their worst? If anyone claims to have a definite answer to such questions, be wary – but not because this someone knows too little. Such certainty at such an unpredictable time?
Best to ask yourself who this someone knows – and also whether this person might just know too much.