Army vs. police force
At this point, Yemen’s biggest problem is internal. We are not worried about invasion or protecting our borders. Indeed, it is good to have a strong army, [or Republican Guards for that matter (which is theoretically a part of the army). But our main concern is building a strong police force to protect the citizens from each other.
This includes the anti-terrorism entities which are affiliated with the Ministry of Interior.
Unfortunately, all of the internal organizations that are supposed to make life within the country secure have so far failed to do so. This is due to a lack of capacity and funding, as well as to a lack of political will and rivalry between various institutions.
One of the key demands of Yemen’s political transition, which is also a point in the Gulf Initiative, is to restructure the army. An initial step in this process is to unite the various army entities under the umbrella of the Ministry of Defense. Likewise, the security and police forces are to be brought under the umbrella of the Ministry of Interior.
A major obstacle to accomplishing these goals is that the largest and strongest military entity, the Republican Guards, is led by the former president’s son, who refuses to let go of the old glory. This is troubling everyone working on the dialogue because they feel that the Republican Guards could seize power at any time and derail the transition.
This may sound naive, but I think most Yemenis care more about everyday security (or the lack of it) that the police forces provide (or are supposed to provide), than about the plight of the Republican Guards, whose presence within cities is still slowly diminishing.
I believe that if we focus on the various Ministry of Interior institutions, work on reforming the police force and institute rule of law around the country, it would make a greater difference for Yemen than forcing the Republican Guards to go under the Minister of Defense’s wing.The former is a local, practical social requirement; the latter is a political consideration.
Yemenis today are realizing that their cities are changing, and that once safe neighborhoods are infested with thieves and armed gangs. We did not have that much faith in the police to start with, but today criminals have become so daring -- even in places like Aden, which was once a model civilian city -- that they operate freely right under the nose of police.
So while we continue to work on the politically intensive, heavy issues, let’s not forget what really matters to most Yemenis and what will dramatically make their lives better.