Yasser Abdullah Al-Roaini made a name for himself during the political uprising that brought down 33-year ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Al-Roaini, born in Ibb, is married with three children. He helped form the Youth Supreme Commission and was elected its Chairman. He is also the Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the National Youth Conference. He was chosen to join the Technical Preparation Committee to prepare for the National Dialogue Conference, which started on 18 March.
Al-Roaini is the Deputy Secretary General of the National Dialogue. The appointment was made by presidential decree.
Al-Roaini describes his hopes for Yemen’s future in an exclusive interview with National Yemen. By Asma Al-Mohattwari:
NY: Al-Roaini, could you please brief us about the NDC thus far?
YA: In its few short months, the NDC has already come a long ways. If you compare the conference from its first few days with the conference now, you’ll see significant progress in the ways that members deal with each other. Perhaps that all thought they had to set the tone and be tough, but after the third week, I’ve noticed a lot of harmony and understanding amonth the members. Members of different political parties and groups are able to listen and speak with each other. I personally think that, despite being from groups that may have different visions, the members have similar values. A problem is that because they perceive themselves to be so different from one another, they are typically unwilling to communicate. As they get to know each other, they find that they often have the same ideas regarding the country. Although there were some bumps on the road while distributing the field teams, the NDC overcome the challenges. Every day, NDC members demonstrate that they take seriously the great deal of responsibility they’ve been giving to solve the nation’s biggest problems.
NY: You said that the NDC had a rough start. How exactly was that overcome?
YA: All members agree that we are here to build a new Yemen based on equality, but some members, we can say with certainty, are accustomed to the former regime and the ways old ways of handling things. Some tried to enter the conference with their weapons and guards, but we managed to solve those issues. Now, every member regardless of political or tribal affiliation, enters alone and without weapons. We solved this not by force, but by a system of rules. Simply, those with weapons or guards could not enter.
NY: What are the consequences if a party or representative of a group withdraws from the conference? To what extent would this affect the next stage of the NDC?
YA: If an individual wants to withdraw from the conference, we would sit down with that individual and see what the problem was, and what solution we can come up with to fix that problem. There’s also the possibility that the individual is replaced by someone else. If an entire group or party decides to withdraw from the conference, we would start negotiations. The withdraw of a party would badly affect the NDC. The rules and regulations for the NDC state that in the case of any resignation, the NDC must fully document that reasons. I think that everyone is keen to continue participating in the conference; I don’t expect any parties to stop participating. Usually, when there is a threat of withdrawing, the conference freezes until the issue is dealt with.
NY: How are you dealing with such dilemmas?
YA: By considering the reasons behind the desire to withdraw. For example, the Houthis refused to participate for 24 hours after the attempted assassination of one of their representatives. I don’t think that was reasonable because it was an event outside of the conference. The internal rules explain all procedures and conflict-solving mechanisms for internal issues. An issue such the copying of a member’s NDC card to give to a follower, that sort of issue we have mechanisms and rules in place to deal with.
NY: The main problems facing the country include the southern issue and Sa’ada. What can you tell us about these two cases and the NDC thus far?
YA: These are two of the most crucial issues facing the country. The closing statement of the first session discussed both issues. In regard to the southern issue, a committee was established to develop a working plan. Another was established to explore the issues dealing with Sa’ada.
NY: Speaking of Sa’ada, rumor is that some members of the committee refused to be lead by a woman. Is this true?
YA: No, that is not correct. Women are involved in all the groups and there are no differences in power between men or women. Women hold positions in the presidential board, the general secretary office and the standards committees. This is very important, women must be represented.
NY: How would you explain the assassination attempt against Houthis’ representatives and the Vice President of NDC? Did it affect the procedures and future plans of the conference?
YA: I think there have been events aimed at blocking the conference before it ever started; those plans did not pan out. People have been trying to sabotage the dialogue since the first day of the Technical Committee formation.We all came together to demonstrate our will to continue on, and a united determination, we made it happen. If you recall, many doubted that the nation would ever hold the conference.
NY: As the Chairman of the Youth Supreme Commission as well as the Preparatory Committee for the National Youth Conference, do you believe that the youth were fairly represented in the NDC?
YA: Honestly, I do not believe the youth were granted enough seats in the dialogue. The issue of whether youth demands and desires are being articulated and considered is a separate question from representation. What is unfair is that independent youth were only granted 40 seats. Compared to their sacrifices over the past two years, that seems low.Nonetheless, this is the reality and youth outside the dialogue must work within the framework offered. They should organize and support the propositions made by youth inside the NDC.
NY: Some would say that independent youth are not really represented in the dialogue. thoughts?
YA: There is concern that youth affiliated with and loyal to certain parties have joined the dialogue as part of the independent youth contingent.
We have repreatedly stated that anyone with any evidence bring their concerns to the Standards committee for investigation.
NY: Critics say that the National Dialogue is an opportunity for different groups to divvy power amongst themselves with little regard for the public interest. How do you answer to those accusations.
YA: That is completely untrue. The participants in the dialogue discuss various issues that are of public concern. Their own interests should not contradict the general interest of the country. If there is a public concern that is not being addressed, we would be glad to receive it and to assign it to a group to address it.
NY: How can citizens communicate their concerns or ideas to you?
YA: We have many different methods to allow people to convey their suggestions and messages, including dialogue tents, emails, social networks, and sms messages.
NY: Many people say that the dialogue path ensures the division of state after the ‘inevitable’ failure of unity. Is there a clear path for the future of the state?
YA: It is so early to be talking about this, there is no clear path for anything at the moment. We are listening to each other, listening to different visions of different groups and parties right now. Some are demanding complete separation, some are asking for federalism; everything is up for discussion.
NY: What is your vision for Yemen?
YA: I believe it will be a state that offers justice and equality.
NY: Based on statements by some NDC members, it appears that the timeline for the NDC may not be sufficient, leading some to speculate on the political challenges that would face the conference if it extends the NDC. What are some possible outcomes?
YA: It is important to take into consideration that the preparations done by the Technical Committee were not limited to the timeframe of the dialogue. There are nine different groups assigned the task of resolving conflicts. I truly believe that six months is enough. We aren’t in this alone, Yemen has help to resolve its issues.
NY: Is it possible for members of the nine groups to walk the streets openly in southern provinces?
YA: Yes it is.
YA: When the nine groups gather to up final plans, they may decide to shift their work to any of the six announced provinces. If any of the teams decide they need to move to a different province, we will coordinate with the president and the secretariat to know what the possibilities are.
NY: Do you have a message for the public?
YA: Yes, I would encourage everyone to be positive about this stage in our country’s future and to participate in the building of a new Yemen. I also call on the media to convey the dialogue’s message to all Yemenis inside and outside the country. Finally, I call on the youth revolution to continue the effort of change that was started in 2011 and to work as one team.