A nightmare worse than Libya

Published on 29 March 2015 in View Point
Yemen Times (author)

Yemen Times


Today there is an estimated 320,000 combatants spread across 11 factions in Yemen and all are preparing for war. The majority of these combatants are young people between the ages of 15 and 24. They are under-fed, under-equipped, and under-trained youngsters who have little knowledge of where this is heading, but what they do know is that there is violence coming down the road. In such a situation, their AK-47 is going to be their best friend and potential life saver, which they can not afford to let go silent in the near future.

These 11 factions are spread across the country and most have their geographic strongholds. The expected meeting point is the Taiz-Aden-Al-Baida triangle, with spillovers in every city across the country. The conflict is likely to be protracted given the incapacity of any party to declare a quick victory, and the human cost may be unprecedented. This is indeed a serious and frightening scenario for Yemen, considering that these factions are still actively recruiting and the war propaganda machine is in full swing. Today’s situation was rather difficult to imagine just a year ago.

Another worrying development is the alliances forming among these factions in preparation for war. The first camp includes the Houthis, Saleh, and Iran, as well as a wide following in tribal regions and within the military. The second camp is Hadi, supported by some followers of the Southern Movement (Hirak), southern tribes, and to a limited extent among military personnel. The third camp is a consortium of extremist radical organizations such as AQAP and Islamic State, with the latter claiming responsibility for the murderous bombings in Sana’a last week. The protracted conflict is likely to benefit these radical organizations the most, as they thrive in situations of lawlessness and exploit emerging sectarian tensions among Yemenis.

Unfortunately, Hadi, although backed by the GCC and receiving vague verbal support from the international community, can not effectively deter the Houthi-Saleh camp from advancing their military campaign. His survival and legitimacy is highly dependent on his capacity to exert his influence and show confidence in his civil and military institutions, institutions which themselves are being taken over by southern popular committees and extremist groups.

As head of state, Hadi needs to reinforce his institutions, not undermine them. His popular committees should not be seen as a faction like the other ten. They need to show a degree of organizational sophistication which even a new uniform can bring as an identity of legitimacy, which is a basic tactic any crisis administration should consider. This stands to show that Hadi’s crisis administration is on the borderline between nonexistent and archaic, particularly considering the size of the challenge the country is facing. It is not all hopeless yet, but it may be in a matter of days.