UN envoy to Yemen: ‘Yemen’s transition is fragile’
It his visit this week, he witnessed the passing of power from former president Saleh to new president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and although he is optimistic, he is concerned that progress is slow and the transition is remains tenuous.
“Yemen’s transition is fragile and is just beginning. It needs those who will support it. And there are really serious challenges in terms of security and politics that should not be underestimated,” he said.
He believes that Yemen will need more support now than ever before. One of the main tasks is to support the national dialogue process, which is going to be difficult, but, he says, Yemenis cannot allow it to fail.
“Now that the peaceful transition of power has officially happened the most important next step is the national dialogue which could make or break this transition,” said Benomar.
But still, several steps that must be taken before the national dialogue can commence, according to the UN envoy. The process of the national dialogue was designed specifically to include all actors in the political process and is the vehicle through which Yemen will debate and agree on how to address long-standing grievances and national issues.
However, committees responsible for reaching out to various groups have even been formed yet and this is a concern.
“It is through the national dialogue conference that the southern question will be addressed,” explained Benomar. “Their reaction to the elections was partially because no one included them in the process or even talked to them.
“You cannot blame the southern movement or Houthis for not being in the political process when no one really made the effort to bring them in,” he insisted.
Although there are many factions in the south, Benomar is optimistic that most are open to dialogue. However, to date no organized dialogue has begun, and this is the problem.
Roadmap to transition
According to the Gulf Initiative roadmap, Yemen’s military committee should have already cleared city centers of any military signs or armed militias, yet progress has been slow.
“There remains a deep distrust among the parties and this is slowing the process along with the wide spread of arms,” explained Benomar.
More dialogue between different groups will help the ease the military tensions while progress on the security front will help create favorable conditions for the national dialogue.
“The one thing the military committee could improve to make more progress in its tasks is to work on cooperation on all sides,” said Benomar. “It needs to put more pressure on the influential players in this sector.”
Benomar noted the efforts made by Mohammed Al-Mikhlafi, Minister of Legal Affairs, who is championing the transitional justice law – especially the fact that the law has been placed as matter of public debate. According to Benomar, the transitional justice law has been designed to ensure the rights of victims to know the truth, receive compensation and redress and guarantees that past violations will not be repeated.
“Yemenis have to figure out for themselves what sort of healing process they need. There is no one recipe on how to address the issues of the past,” he said.
Concluding, Benomar explained that many countries in transition are struggling with the same issues, and Yemenis will need to find a consensus on their own model on how to deal with the past and move on.