After 50 years of conflict, Yemen seeks a vision for the future
Since that revolution, this nation has endured civil wars, raids on its borders, armed tribal conflict and violent uprisings.
Unfortunately, today, as we stand to celebrate the jubilee anniversary of the 26 September revolution, we don’t look back and admire how far we have come. Instead, we look back in shock, thinking, “How did we survive all that?”
If it weren’t for pure evolution, then we would not have managed the simple improvements we have today compared to the past. It unnerves me to hear the political rhetoric of those in power, tapping themselves on the shoulders and congratulating each other for the achievements of today.
“We discovered oil,” they say. “We brought electricity to this nation.” “Education and healthcare!” Recently, they even discovered a cure for AIDS!
The single most distressing problem Yemen has suffered during these 50 years is a lack of vision. The country’s leadership never looked into the future and said, “This is what we want Yemen to be like in ten, twenty, or fifty years.”
Today, Yemenis don’t have a sense of national identity or a patriotic value system that inspires them to greatness.
I can’t celebrate 50 years without feeling sorry about the lost time, the lost energy and the lost lives. There is so much catching up to do, and today, instead of celebrating progress, we are holding our breath hoping this transitional and semi-peaceful time will last us until we figure out what we want from Yemen.
The discussions in the National Dialogue Conference Preparatory Committee indicate that the idea of planning a future for a country is something entirely new to us as Yemenis. The committee includes top-level leadership as well as young professionals and social figures—people who are used to success one way or the other, and people who have experienced their relative shares of planning and management.
Yet working on a national vision for the country and translating popular jargons such as “modern state”, “equal citizenship” and other buzzwords seems very hard and unprecedented. This shows how important the work this committee is doing today in determining the future of Yemen and whether it will finally catch a break and see peace. So far, it is difficult for hardline politicians to accept others who are different from them, and there is a sense of insecurity and suspicion. They try to sound tolerant and accepting, but you can see the veins almost popping out as they force themselves to swallow terms that go against their interests in an attempt to allow consensus on controversial issues.
Relatively, this is a good sign, but we are still waiting to see if it lasts and works. Hopefully it will.