Yemen's unrest isn't because of U.S. drones. It's because there is no unity
On May 22, many Yemenis will be celebrating the 24th anniversary of its national unification, which came into force on May 22, 1990.
That historical day of union brought joy and happiness to many Yemenis, but led to the disgruntlement of others. While some saw the unification as incomplete, others saw it simply as unfair. Those disputes created the conditions of misery that Yemenis suffer from to this day.
Many Yemenis argue that their country was known historically as one entity, and that there was no existence of “northern” or “southern”.
Unity was not a decision taken by the governments of the North and South, but it was a natural dream of union and strong demand by the citizens over the years.
Since the 1970s, various governments in the north and south initiated the union process in several stages. In the 1980s, preparations for unity started with economic agreements between the two countries in the North and the South, followed by agreements on the withdrawal of all forces from both borders, and then the elimination of restrictions on the movement of individuals, removal of fees and taxes on vehicles, traffic and cargo.
Both governments took several steps and proactive measures to declare the unity on 22 May 1990.
The success of Yemen’s unity however did not last for so long; it was ravaged shortly by political crises between the main political parties, General People’s Congress party in the North, and Yemeni Socialist Party in the South.
The conflict intensified between the main parties’ leaders, headed by former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his deputy on one side, and Ali Salem Al Baid, the former President of South Yemen, on the other.
The political differences and the assassinations of over 100 southern leaders deepened crisis and evolved into military confrontation in April 1994 despite the numerous attempts by internal and external parties to find a solution, and the final such attempt was the signing of the document of pledge and accord in Jordan on February 20, 1994, which has been agreed upon but never enforced.
In May 1994, civil war broke out between the north and south where Yemenis lived a bloody summer. The civil war inflicted significant damage on Yemen, collapsed the economy, and destroyed northern and southern properties leaving Yemen with an estimated loss of $11 billion. Seven thousand people died and 15,000 were wounded in the clashes.
Analysts say that it was a major mistake to unite the two countries without the integration of military institutions and the formation of a national army.
The lack of unification of the armed forces led to the formation of northern and southern fronts. The northern army fought to keep the unity, and the south army fought in attempt to return to the pre-May 22, 1990.
The northern forces triumphed after two months of fierce fighting, and former president Ali Saleh ruled Yemen until he was ousted on 27 February, 2012 following massive street protests and attempts at his life.
A number of pro-unity figures in Yemen continue to support Ali Abdullah Saleh, seeing him as the man who defended the unity of the country, but many southerners and supporters of Ali Salem and the separatist Southern Movement accused him of imposing the hegemony of the north on them and “occupying” Southern Yemen.
After the civil war however, corruption in political rule set in and its impact was clear: it led to Yemen becoming the poorest and least-developed nation in the Middle East. The war destroyed the country’s infrastructure, and Yemenis suffered the economic downturns leading to deterioration in the security situation for 18 years.
After Saleh’s stepping down, the new president of Yemen, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and his government started to implement the GCC initiative which aims to rescue Yemen from going into another civil war.
The new government has been keen to make sure that the new federal state system in Yemen with six regions will reflect the needs of all Yemenis, and major steps were taken to implement fundamental economic reforms, and more importantly the bold step taken by the new government to integrate the military to form a national army protecting Yemen’s interests and preventing a civil war in the future.
By Khaled A. Ziadi