Marib sheikhs vow to repel electricity vandals

Published on 19 February 2012 in News
Sadeq Al-Wesabi (author)

Sadeq Al-Wesabi


SANA'A, Feb. 12 — Marib’s Gas-Powered Generation Center, which feeds about 60 percent of Yemen's cities, is back in operation after being shut down for five months, according to Saleh Somi, Minister of Electricity.

On Saturday, many Yemenis enjoyed hours of electricity but afraid that the region’s supply towers will be attacked again.

Over the last ten months, millions of Yemenis suffered the consequences of repeated attacks on power supply towers, resulting in power cuts of up to 18 hours a day.

The ongoing lack of electricity provoked anger among Yemenis who lost their confidence in the government after repeated, failed promises that the situation would be resolved.

Over the past year, Yemenis who could afford generators spent thousands of rials buying fuel to power their homes. And despite the power cuts, Yemenis continued to receive high electricity bills.

With the aim of stopping attacks on electricity supply lines, sheikhs of Marib governorate agreed to deter vandals from attacking public property.

Sheikh Ali Al-Munifi, a tribal leader from the region told the Yemen Times that all Marib's sheikhs have agreed to fight vandalism.

"Influential tribal leaders of Marib gave a green light for the security to kill people who try to damage power supply towers or oil pipes even if they are from powerful tribes," he said.

Al-Munifi added that local tribesmen also agreed to cooperate with security forces to secure all roads adjacent to power supply lines and oil pipelines.

He said the current security reinforcement is as required, praising the cooperation of Marib's locals to eliminate vandals from the governorate.

As well as deterring vandals, Marib’s tribesmen plan to raise awareness among locals about the danger of damaging public interests.

"We will hold meetings and sessions with normal people to make them more enthusiastic about the protection of public interests and deter all vandals," said Al-Munifi. "People here have an honest intention to protect public properties from harm."

Poor financial conditions

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Electricity released a report on the difficulties it is facing.

It indicated that Yemen's General Electricity Corporation has been suffering financial problems since the Gas-powered Generation Station in Marib shut down five months ago.

The Minister of Electricity promised to solve Yemen’s power cuts in December but continued attacks made this impossible.

Earlier this month, the cabinet ordered the Ministries of Interior, Defense and Electricity to repair damaged power supply towers and protect both the towers and stations from any further attacks.

The cabinet said that any attacks were seen as banditry, ordering the Ministers of Interior and Defense to take strict legal action against those involved.

Eng. Abdul-Rahman Saif, general manager of Marib’s Gas-powered Generation Station, told the Yemen Times that security reinforcements are needed in the area to protect the station, which he considers “one of the most important projects in Yemen”.

"We must protect this project, which cost more than $500 million," he said. "It's not good for the station to be repaired a lot because it will affect its lifespan."

Sheikh Sultan Al-Arada, an influential tribal leader in Marib, stressed the importance of enhancing the prestige of the state.

"The state is capable of repelling those groups who aim to damage our properties," he said.

Al-Arada added that it's not the ethics of Marib's locals to vandalize public properties, but explained that some think they will obtain their rights and demands using the threat of vandalism as leverage.

"They used to make their demands in such ways but this culture will fade after the election," he told the Yemen Times. "This culture is against our principles and all people here reject such actions."

A well-times return

However, many are questioning the timing and motives behind Yemen’s newfound electricity supply in the run up to presidential elections on Tuesday.

Fahd Al-Omairi, a prominent pro-democracy protester from Taiz governorate, told the Yemen Times that the return of electricity at this time is simply a game by the regime to enhance Vice President Hadi's image.

"Unfortunately, they use basic services as a card to exploit our kind people at the proper times," he said.

Speaking about the sheikhs who announced their protection for public properties in Marib, he said, "Why didn’t they protect power supply lines in recent months?

“Where were they? The announcement of Marib's sheikhs that they will protect public properties at this time proves that they were complicit with the regime."