All WritingsReporting

Division of power puts Yemen in an impossible position

By 2 June، 2014July 24th, 2019No Comments

Yemeni citizens have never felt the need for a strong state as much as they do now, writes Farea Al Muslimi.


Yemeni citizens have never previously felt the need for a strong state quite as much as they do now. They want a strong government that can protect them from stray bullets and from rogue explosive devices. They want a government that can stop armed groups from tampering with the fate of the country and its people. They want a government that can govern.

Yemen has reached this dire situation because of the policy of sharing the country’s positions of leadership among the forces that have entered the political scene since 2011 – and it is something that the state is paying dearly for. Yet despite this, the practice has flourished.

The committee on security and military affairs was formed as a power-sharing deal between the forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, and the rebels at the end of 2011. It helped end the violence in Sanaa and ease military tensions. This was the start of a process that considered the country as war bounty to be divided up between interested parties.

It created one of the worst models for power-sharing, because it included the army and the security forces. Yet the deal passed with little debate because the people urgently wanted change.

Since then, Mr Saleh’s supporters have been waiting for a new power-sharing scheme as a reward for handing over power. Meanwhile, the opposition forces are also waiting for a deal based on the presidential decrees as their own reward for pushing Mr Saleh to hand over power.

Each side has a list of names it wants to put in senior positions.

With every batch of presidential decrees, a number of names get appointed, but always based on political and ideological affiliations.

This greatly harms the performance of some state institutions.

For instance, the security services were intensely targeted in organised operations to frustrate the efforts of the interior minister, who belongs to Islah, the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Likewise, power lines were targeted to make the electricity minister fail. Oil pipelines were also often bombed to ensure the relevant minister would be cast in a bad light. It is only the interests of the people that suffers in such infighting.

Dividing up the state’s lean body is not something new in Yemen. In 1990, the leaders of the two ruling parties in the north and south agreed to unify the country and divvy up the rule and government jobs between the two parties. Thousands of politically independent jobs were split based on partisan-criteria.

Early in January 2014, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the current president, made a famous and ill-conceived speech that considered the power-sharing process, but little has happened since to move the country’s institutions forward.

More than 20 important Yemeni embassies are still without ambassadors, and this is at a time when Yemen has been identified by the United Nations as a fragile state. Political circles in Sanaa attribute Mr Hadi’s delay in appointing ambassadors to his failure to carve up power in a way that satisfies all political parties.

Each party is asking for important embassies to represent Yemen, and each side fears that the other party will represent the party, not Yemen, in the important embassies.

Although the president has strengthened his private diplomatic channels at the expense of the ministry of foreign affairs of Yemen, the absence of diplomats in important countries like the US can only be bad news.

The state project in Yemen is being harmed by the partisan power-sharing of government jobs among political factions, more so than by the armed forces fighting the state.

Since 2011, power-sharing has increased, but all that’s left of the state is a weak structure that cannot bear the burdens of a country where forces are competing to devour the state piece by piece.

Farea Al Muslimi is a Yemeni activist and writer

On Twitter: @Almuslimi

This article was published on the National