Yemen is a relatively big country facing huge problems; apart from a shortage in the water supply, a population surge and high unemployment, recent security breaches have highlighted Yemen’s increasing Al-Qaida presence. With current problems facing the Government by the northern Houthi rebels and the Separatist movement in the South… it begs the question, how long will it be before Yemen is labeled a failed state?
With all these problems, where does Yemen begin? What is, or rather, should be, the priority? The Yemeni government has been busy with its own national issues and this has affected its hold on its own people. The Northern and Southern crises have not only diverted the attention away from Al-Qaida’s increasing presence and activity, it has drained the government’s limited resources, and legitimacy. As Al-Qaida was not a first order of priority, vital resources have not been sustained – and this has had a huge economic affect.
Yemen is caught between a rock and a hard place; The US want Al-Qaida to be the top priority but how can this be tackled if many Yemenis do not even recognize the legitimacy of the government to show support. Many argue that the Yemeni government first needs to extend its legitimacy, rather than authority, and concentrate on human and state capacity development. Having said this, with a lack of resources, this will be very hard.
The US have given military aid and support, however this in itself makes one turn a skeptical eye as no one wants another Iraq, Somalia, or Afghanistan. So how we escape from this? Yemen is different; it does not have a large sectarian divide as Iraq does, or a history of war lords or clan violence like Somalia. The US needs to help Yemen fight its national problems in order for the government to help themselves. Focus should be on developing Yemen’s infrastructure rather than purely sending military aid. What needs to be done is to put people first, rather than security.
The fear is that the US’s involvement in Yemen will fuel grievance, thus stimulating more anger, however with the economic problems Yemen is facing it needs all the forms of help it can get. The fact is that more countries should be involved in helping in the development of Yemen, from the Western Powers to Yemen’s neighbors.
More focus needs to be on rebuilding and developing Yemen’s state capacity as terrorist networks and attacks increase as a state continues to collapse. The people and government of Yemen need to be empowered to build their own capacity in order to move forward (without the need for external forces’ boots on the ground!)
Although it seems that Yemen is on the verge of becoming a failed state, it is not there just yet. With the right help and resources injected where necessary and committed partners, Yemen can be nudged into the right direction.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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