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National Dialogue Conference in Yemen: The Conclusion & Aftermath

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Dr. Haifa AlMaashi

Director, Geo-strategic Affairs Division

Tag: Yemen Current Affairs Geostrategic Affairs GCC conflict
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The United Nations Assistant Secretary General and his Special Adviser for Yemen, Jamal BenOmar, commented on The Yemen National Dialogue Conference, held in Yemen on September 2013, as an optimal model for national dialogue based on participatory and transparency, describing the anticipation of the process of the conclusion as the final moments. This comment was made despite the ambiguity surrounding those moments even until now, and in light of the violent confrontations in the south, the ongoing fighting in Saada province, an intensive political controversy between the parties of the dialogue within the halls of the conference and outside through media statements, and assassinations of security and political figures. Some may describe these  as a declaration of failure and it is difficult to refer to as the birth of a new Yemen" according to the current course of events in Yemen. 

After the conclusion of the conference, the approval of the final document and the final statement on January 21, 2014 in the meeting chaired by Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, BenOmar confirmed that the Yemeni dialogue conference proved to be a "miracle"!
 Mostly, BenOmar wanted to emphasize the success of the mechanism of action of the conference in bringing together adversaries around the same table, and had confirmed it in more than one occasion since the launch of its first meeting on March 18, 2013 in Sanaa, where it was approved under the Gulf initiative, political patronage and financial support from the ten countries that sponsored the initiative: the United States , Russia , China , United Kingdom , France , Saudi Arabia , UAE , Kuwait  and Oman; except Qatar which withdrew.
The National Dialogue scenario may appear civilized, refined and unusual in the political scope and conflict resolution in  Arab countries, especially in a closed regionalism and tribal environment full of sectarianism and political conflicts such as Yemen. This portrays it as a successful and peaceful method to resolve the crisis in Yemen and the methods to get rid of any defensive or offensive which could be exploited by parties of the conflict. However, insiders suggest that it is full of declared and undeclared conflicts about rights, freedoms, descriptions of the Yemeni state that will be established in the future, and blatant contradiction between the political agendas of the various parties and community groups; especially the youth segment, which had the primary role in the revolution of 2011, and believes that vision may be lost in midst of different formal and informal visions.
The national dialogue conference that followed what was known as the youth revolution, which was classified in the context of the Arab Spring, began to hold its first conclusion session in October of last year, and continued those meetings privately and publicly for four months until the signing of the final document for national dialogue, where President Hadi declared that the conference may have succeeded in fulfilling its duties to the fullest!
If this is true, then what is happening in the southern provinces, and what is going on within the province of Saada? Is it a passing summer cloud or sharp and drastic changes in the political climate of Yemen?
Perhaps the scenes that used to be aired by the "Yemen today" channel of the General People's Congress of the controversy between the interlocutors in the national dialogue conference within the conference room reflects these challenges, which argue the parties to dialogue with each other about specific contents and the dialogue escalates up to an  exchange of violence between the attendees verbally and physically, reflecting an image completely different to what the official government sources state about the agreement between the dialogue parties. The controversy has ranged more than once about "Building the State" , especially among the representatives of the General People's Congress and Reform party, and representatives of the southern issue, which resulted in the withdrawal of Mohamed Ali Ahmed, the President of the Southern mass, who represented factions from southern movement from the conference and the subsequent withdrawal of his deputy Mohammed Ben bin Fareed Al Soraima and former Interior Minister Hussein Arab, and the boycott of the final session of the Conference on the objection raised on the southern issue.
This issue did not stop at the withdrawal of the representatives of the movement in Sanaa, but was followed by the withdrawal of the representatives of the Houthis and their later rejection to the contents of warranties amended document approved by the Head of State Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on the drafting of the coming executive legislative government, then public rejection through the statement of Abd Elmagid Al Zindani of Yemen Scholars Commission, considering the outputs of the dialogue as a coup against the religion and unity in Yemen, and all of this logically refers to the failure of the dialogue not its success, unless there are other equations to calculate the results.
The comments of the Secretary- General of the National Dialogue Conference, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak during a press conference in Sanaa, prior to the closing session of the recent dialogue explained that "the dialogue does not represent the authority or the government, if he were to represent all Yemenis this will be "a disaster" according to him. Although the commentary contradicted the reality in its first part as in fact the dialogue is representing primarily the government and it is the main mover of all its instructions and the center of reconciliation between all elements of the dialogue with the support and the sponsorship of the state, but he might have been nearly truthful in the second part of the comment which stated that the dialogue does not represent all Yemenis.
For ordinary Yemeni nine months ago they felt that the dialogue had nothing to do with them, and even the representatives to the National Conference of Yemen from General Peoples Congress  or southerners, women or Yemeni parties in Sanaa, the Houthis or civil society organizations or youth, and reached 565 members have been identified according to the directions and suggestions of leaders and Yemeni political, religious and cultural elite, and do not constitute a true representation of the millions of residents of the state in different provinces.
The average citizen, even if he tried to follow-up the details of the dialogue and its outputs, he does not in fact have the ability to mandate solving his problems, which leads to a loss of confidence in this dialogue as a political or socially successful entity, as the citizen still lacks the most basic requirements of daily life, and maybe he is not concerned with the complicated political and economic issues.
Perhaps in the statement of the Secretary General of the Yemeni Socialist Party in Sanaa ,Yassin Said Numan, a summary of the success or failure of the Yemeni national dialogue conference where he explained before his withdrawal from the political work and leaving the national dialogue conference that " if the dialogue conference did not work to fairly resolve the South issue there is no meaning to it since the resolution of the South issue is crucial to the stability of Yemen".
The current military confrontation in the southern provinces, such as the bloody confrontation in Hadramout between the Yemeni army and the allied tribes which declared the popular revolution in 20 December last year, and the movements of the leaders of the Southern Movement in Mukalla and Shahr and Dali, confirms that the political tension has escalated, therefore warning the trigger of more violence and confrontations. This may contribute to the delivery of the wrong message to the essence of the work in the national dialogue depriving it from transparency, credibility and realism, especially since there is a media blackout in the official media channels about the events that is going on The attempt to circumvent these events without finding the correct solutions to them by signing a document of solutions and warranties for the issue of the South in January 9, 2014 , while violent clashes continue in the south is an unsuccessful attempt to bring the national dialogue which sapped human efforts, financial resources and time to conclusion without achieving its goals.
The issue of Saada highlights another scene tweeted by Yemeni via "Twitter" claims that the military commander Ali Mohsen ,adviser to President Hadi , warned the president at the beginning of the new year that the Houthis are near Sanaa and risks may include everyone without exception. This tweet may reflect the concerns of those ordinary Yemenis that the conflict in Dimag" in Saada province sparked violent clashes between Salafists and Houthis and moved as seen by international observers to the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, and that its effects may reach other areas in Yemen .
Recently there has been the signing of a cease-fire in Dimag as a result of movements of the mediation committee between the two parties has been interpreted by some as an attempt by the Yemeni government to make the outputs of the national dialogue successful and focus on the sharp rise and rapid repercussions of the southern issue. The document serves as a temporary and not a final expected solution, and that was proved by the subsequent exit of Salafist from the Dimag led by their leader Yahya Alhjor. Some parties inside Sanaa are trying to exploit this situation and employ it politically to renew the confrontations. The recent assassination of a representative of the Houthis in the dialogue conference, Ahmad Sharaf al-Din, in Sanaa gives serious implications on the future prospects for dialogue with the Houthis and the future of the new state.
However, President Hadi 's insistence to continue the dialogue and sign a document prepared by the National Dialogue could be considered as a determination to reform at any cost, and others may consider it ignoring current events in Yemen and a failure to acknowledge the failure of dialogue between the various political parties. What may likely confirm this theory is the continuation of the committees work emanating from the national dialogue conference whether the Conciliation Commission, which will oversee the implementation of the document or the dialogue committee responsible for the drafting of a number of constituent regions of the Union State, or the Commission on shaping the new constitution. There may be other committees in the coming period, which could mean that the national dialogue conference has ended apparently but still actually working through their representatives in these multiple committees.
What is mentioned in the final document adopted by the Council at its recent meeting contradicts the ideal visions for the future of Yemen, which the dialogue conference at the beginning of its launch aspired to achieve, and the harmony between dream and reality was lost.
The good governance was one of the ultimate goals of this ideal in achieving a number of elements including the peaceful transfer of power. Despite denials by the UN envoy Benomair on the existence of an agreement on the extension of the presidential term of President Hadi, which was scheduled to expire in February, the outcome document of the national dialogue confirmed this extension until the election of a new president. It also confirmed that the members of the legislative authority in the parliament can keep their places, and to work towards reshuffling the cabinet without dismounting the government which means that the situation will remain as it is until further notice!
 With regard to building the state, which is the essence of the dispute with representatives of the South issue, the matter is still pending for the lack of agreement on the wording on the distribution of regions in the scope of the federal state to be founded between the interlocutors which means that the issue is subject to debate and change. This suggests that the selection process between two or several regions is not a process based on a study of the reality of the Yemeni various political, social, cultural and economic differences to reflect that this choice is a fateful decision crucial to the present and next generations in Yemen, but unfortunately the process lacks the most basic standards of logic, which expands a circle of controversy around and makes it difficult to have a consensus on the final version.
It seems that  to put an end and a final scene for the interlocutors in Yemen in  light of these successive and accelerated events at all levels is extremely difficult, but the conclusion itself may contribute indirectly to send several important messages to both political parties within Yemen  or outside Yemen to the sponsoring states of the dialogue throughout the last period that the situation in Yemen is in need of extensive in-depth insight review into appropriate solutions.

Dr. Haifa Al Maashi Senior Researcher at the center of "Bhuth" and former University professor

Interview with Jamal bin Omar on 29th September 2013, link: http://www.skynewsarabia.com/web/video/445636/%D8%A8%D9%86-%D8%B9%D9%85%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B7%D9%86%D9%8A-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%AC%D8%AD


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