Insights into the national dialogue
However, adequate preparatory steps for the national dialogue have not yet been made, including the creation of government outreach committees responsible for communicating with the various political groups and stakeholders in Yemen’s transition.
“The delay in creating those committees also means there will be a delay in the creation of the agenda, timeline and action plan of the national dialogue. I expect nothing concrete will take place until the end of 2012,” said a western diplomat.
According to UN Secretary General’s Special Advisor on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, who was in the country last week, many of the groups including the factions of the Southern Movement, women and youth in the ‘Change Squares’ have not yet been approached.
“You can’t blame them for not cooperating when no one has made an attempt to hold a dialogue with them,” he said to the Yemen Times.
However, he urged strong members of Yemen’s women’s movement, civil society, media and aspiring political groups to integrate in the preparatory committees for dialogue so as to have a say.
“Being part of the national dialogue is the only real chance to have an influence in Yemen’s transition and its future,” said Benomar, emphasizing that the success of the national dialogue will lead to the success of transition.
Despite the seemingly peaceful transition Yemen has gone through compared to other Arab Spring countries, many Yemeni revolutionaries are skeptical and remain indifferent to the Gulf Initiative which was the basis of today’s politics. The main complaint they have is the amnesty provided to former president Saleh and his regime. Equally rankling to them was the way Saleh was portrayed as a hero saving Yemen through stepping down and allowing the early presidential elections to take place on Feb. 21, 2012.
“We don’t recognize these elections because they are a result of the Gulf Initiative which we are against. But now it is a reality that we can’t ignore.
Both Saleh and the new president, Hadi, are being portrayed as the saviors of Yemen despite their bloody history,” said Areej Al-Khawlani, one of the protestors in Change Square.
However, political maneuvers to absorb such tensions are currently being created in order to give protestors and others with grievances new projects to channel their resentment into.
Although it is part of the Gulf Initiative roadmap, the Transitional Justice law proposed by the Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohammed Al-Mikhlafi, has found some appeal in the youth squares.
“It talks about the rights and compensation for the victims of Saleh’s regime,” said Talal Rizq, whose older brother was among those killed on March 18, 2011. “There are thousands of families who were deprived of their source of income when the bread winners of the family were killed by the cruel soldiers. There are others who were maimed or injured and need urgent medical treatment.”
The law also provides victims with the mechanism to claim justice from their proclaimed opponents in a legally organized manner.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakul Karman commented on this law saying that the right to forgive should remain only in the hands of the victims’ families, who if they want could choose to prosecute.
“This law is aimed at allowing all Yemenis to move forward and reconcile with the past. But for it to happen a basic step of removing armed militia and demilitarizing the cities needs to take place,” said the minister of legal affairs.
Under this law the national reconciliation authority will be created which will also deal with the grievances of the 1994 civil war as well as those of the 2011 uprising.
“The most important aspect of this law other than justice for those who were wronged, is the creation of a mechanism to ensure such injustices don’t take place in the future,” said the minister.
The mechanism includes a section on reforming state institutions, especially the security and military apparatus. Another section allows for the creation of a human rights body according to Paris Principles which were adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993.
However, several academics and civil society activists criticized the Transitional Justice law and labeled it as another attempt to dominate Yemen’s revolution.
Director of the Tamkeen Foundation, Murad Al-Gharithi, in a seminar on the transitional justice law last month stated that there must be inclusion of civil society in the creation and implementation of this law.
“We must make sure that it represents the people not the regime, and that it is going to bring true justice to them, not just another attempt to empty the squares of protestors,” said Al-Gharithi.
Moreover, the coalition government announced in January its intention to create a fund to support families of the victims of the uprising. The fund will provide financial as well as medical support for these families.