By Said Jama Hussein

I am so moved by what is going on in Yemen. I am also terribly saddened watching ADEN – the bastion of light in the Arabian Peninsula – being dismantled stone from stone in front of our own eyes by a coalition of forces, the Saudi-led coalition on the one side and the Houthis armed by former president Salih’s loyal forces on the other side. The Saudi coalition is further said to enjoy the support of the US as well as the UN Security Council. These are, according to the powerful western media, the two main rival groups in the current Yemeni crisis going on unabated in that country.


One cannot fully grasp the implications of the Yemeni crisis, nor the extent of its impact in the region as a whole without having a clear picture of how the Saudi-Yemeni relations has been fluctuating over the past 50 years. So, for this purpose, let us from the outset cite some prominent landmarks of these relations during the said period.


Saudi Arabia became the biggest Absolute Bedouin Kingdom in 1932 ruling over an area of more than a million square miles of the Arabian Peninsula and not so long after with the oil bonanza discovered and run by the ARAMCO Company became the most influential economic power in the whole region. Since its inception, the Saudi Kingdom has made hugely impressive developments in the country; but the system of governance remained as petrified as the times of its founding father, the tribal warrior King Abdul Aziz Al Saud almost one century ago in a world dramatically moving forward. It is not a secret that Saudi Arabia’s record of the Human Rights violation is very appalling and that is the main reason why, albeit its financial wealth, the kingdom feels so alarmed by the slightest positive changes taking place all around its moribund aging monarchy.


Since the demise of the feudal Imamate Rule of Ahmed Bin Hamidaddin in Yemen and the proclamation of the Yemeni Republic in 1962, the Saudi Kingdom has been ill at ease with its Southern neighbour, the Yemen. But owing to Yemen’s economic weakness, the Saudi Kingdom has been able through financial handouts to thwart any uneasiness arising from those quarters. It is not, however, in the nature of things to remain static at all. The unification of the Yemen Republic with its southern sister The Democratic Republic of Yemen in 1990, and the emergence of a United Yemen with territories extending from the Red Sea to the vicinity of the Arabian Gulf alerted the Saudis to the impending danger to its outdated monarchy. Once again the Saudi Kingdom was able with the aid of its allies to pique the two Yemen against each other in a ferocious civil strife in 1994, in which their man President Ali Abdalla Salih emerged victorious. At about the same time with the Al Qaeda’s affiliate appearing to be active in the Yemen itself, President Ali A. Salih became also the US man in the region fighting its proxy war against local terrorism. A very lucrative business, and for a time the powers wielded by President Salih seemed virtually beyond any challenge in Yemen.


The people of Yemen, on the other hand, with their political and social organisations were struggling hard to set their own house in order. All efforts were geared towards affecting an overall reform in the state structure as well as the malfunctioning system of governance. While diligently engaged in this formidable task, a fair wind blew from the North. The reverberation of the Arab Spring has caught up with this region boosting its already growing political momentum. An upsurge took place in Yemen and a popular uprising brought about the demise of the unpopular President Ali Salih regime. Once again the Gulf States were alerted to the looming cloud overhead. They came to the rescue of their man, this time by brokering an agreement that President Ali Salih step down in exchange for immunity from prosecution of any crimes committed during his 34-year tenure of office.


The popular movement led by the National Dialogue Council comprising of 515 members from all sections of the Yemen society continued undeterred with its task of preparing the blue print for the newly reformed Yemeni State. The first plenary meeting for adopting the Council’s resolutions and recommendations was scheduled for the end of March 2015. Unsurprisingly, the prospective outcome of this historical meeting set the Saudi Kingdom apprehensively wild with anxiety. Hence its sudden frantic and violent air strikes of Yemen.


In addition to this short account of the Saudi-Yemeni relations, an essential backdrop, indeed, to our analysis of the Yemeni Issue, there is also another equally important factor to be taken into full consideration: the main players in the game, their various interests, and different roles in order to envisage with much more clarity the possible outcome of this highly controversial Yemeni conflict.


The Saudi Kingdom, along with some of its closest feudal Gulf States, has always been extremely obsessed with fear of the prospective emergence of a secular democratic state in the Arabian Peninsula particularly in Yemen. Lending credence to the Saudi apprehension is the fact that Yemen, despite its derisive definition as the poorest and most backward country in the region, yet it abounds with both natural and human resources capable of freeing her from the current socio-economic quagmire in a relatively short period of time. Looking at the geographical map of Arabia, Yemen is the only environmentally green spot in that vast desert. It has the longest coastline extending from the Red Sea to close to the Gulf of Hormuz. Both the Canadian Off Shore oil company and the French Total Gas Company have been for the past 25 years engaged in the production of oil and gas in that country respectively. Moreover, Yemen is among the very few Arab countries where the peaceful transfer of political power has since 1990 been practically implemented through free elections, based on its secular national constitution, as attested by the United Nation’s electoral observers. A multi-party system of government in which the Islamic Islaah Attajamu Party is numerically the second largest in the house of parliament and the (Marxist) Socialist Party the third in line of strength.


Freedom of the press is guaranteed and the social organisations and the trade unions are safeguarded by the constitution of the country. All the political parties and major social organisations such as the women association and trade unions of the Yemen society are evenly represented in the Yemeni National Dialogue Council whose final meeting scheduled to be held last March was deliberately stalled and overshadowed by the sudden launch of Saudi Air strikes against Yemen. Strangely as it may seem, both the Houthis in the North and the Southern separatist group known as the Harak Aljanoubi in the South are active participants of the National Dialogue Council, a testimony of the good will and support this council enjoyed. All the Council resolutions are almost adopted by consensus in order to keep every party on board, an indication of the confidence, the dedication and the expertise the council participants truly wield.


Said Jama Hussein

Said Jama Hussein, is an author and analyst on Somali language and literature. Mr. Hussein is the author of numerous books, among them Safar aan Jaho Lahayn. He is also a regular contributor to WardheerNews and the former vice chairman of Somali Pen.