Tribes reconcile as president threatens civil war

News and Press Release
Originally published

Shatha Al-Harazi


SANA'A, Apr. 3 — As President Ali Abdullah Saleh threatens civil war and the separation of the country if anti-government protests continue, tribal leaders and opposition parties accused Saleh of leading the country towards civil war and separation.

The governorates of Al-Jawf, Sa'ada and Abyan have already been taken over by those opposing the government. Those in control of these governorates claim that their acts are only a step towards forcing the current regime to step down. Security forces have also been withdrawn from Marib and Shabwa governorates.

Many tribes that have a history of revenge attacks lasting over three decades have reconciled for the first time. They have been united in their opposition to President Saleh. In Al-Tagheer Square, two previously opposing tribes who have been trying to kill each other for almost 30 years, now live together in one tent as a family.

The Al-Jawf governorate now is run by local tribes that rebelled against the Saleh regime. It was reported that 'thugs' looted government buildings taking everything including windows and bathroom fittings. Shiekh Sanan [please check spelling] Al-Iraqi, one of Al-Jawf's tribal leaders, said that everything is now stable and under the control of the revolutionaries.

"The foundations of government are working normally. The revolutionaries control the governorate and have peacefully taken over the public buildings," said Al-Iraqi.

Al-Iraqi said that his tribe, and their traditional enemies the Al-Otmi, have ended the revenge killings that have been on-going for 30 years. Their common opposition to President Saleh was what allowed mediation to occur between the two tribes. The end to the revenge killings and the reconciliation of the tribes is due to their common desire to force the president to leave office.

On Feb. 21 the governorate witnessed clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in which one person was killed.

"The killer was the director of the social welfare fund from the Al-Hamd tribe. His tribe helped the revolutionaries to catch the offender, which shows that tribal standards are not the way they were before the revolution, and civil war will not start between the tribes," said Al-Iraqi.

According to Al-Iraqi, the executive of the governmental social welfare fund, went to the roof and started shooting at protesters, causing 28 injuries, seven of which are in a dangerous condition.

Last week, President Saleh assigned new leadership to military camp 115 in Al-Jawf governorate. The soldiers rebelled against the new leadership and left the military camp, allowing the revolutionaries to take over.

"Now the revolutionaries protect all the property at the camp. All documents and equipment are the same way as they were before."

Some of Hamdan's tribes took over the Central Bank in Al-Jawf, demanding YR 20-30 million to leave it. "The central bank is still under the control of these thugs. They are from Hamdan's tribe. They are known to be supporters of the regime," said Al-Iraqi.

The revolutionaries are protecting the bank from the outside. "The thugs tried to reach a deal with the deputy governor where they would leave safely without taking any money, but he rejected the deal. I don't know for whose good he did that!" said Al-Iraqi.

The Murad and Abeeda tribes from Marib have a 30 year history of revenge killings, but now share one tent at Al-Tagheer Square. Nasr Al-Qadhi, one of the tribesmen, said that the whole revenge problem was created by Saleh. "The best way for him to rule us was by creating crises among us, to keep us busy," he said.

In Marib governorate, between five and seven thousand people demonstrate everyday at Al-Tagheer Square in the city. Hussein Al-Qadhi, one of the protester leaders in Marib, said that the tribal youth have made public committees to protect public buildings, and that they are the only ones allowed to carry weapons.

"We are protecting the governorate as the security have withdrawn. We face some thugs from different tribes, some are from my own tribe, but it's not a tribal issue anymore," said Al-Qadhi.

"Some of the pro-government tribes in Marib, like the Al-Jeda'an and Al-Kua'lan are closely connected to the General People's Congress. They distributed themselves pretending to protect the high road from Sana'a to Marib after security withdrew. But they are really looting," he added.

Al-Qadhi said that some of the protesters had tried to coordinate with the Al-Jeda'an tribe, but were rebuffed. A gas crises is emerging as one of the problems from the political turmoil in Marib. Al-Qadhi said that he and two others talked to the head of the gas and oil office in the governorate and offered to protect the transmission of gas from Marib to Sana'a.

"I went to Ben Me'aili, the head of the oil office, and offered to transfer the gas myself with some of the protesters if he provided us with 10-20 tanks. The government has accused us of preventing the transmission of gas, so we wanted to show the world their lies by delivering it ourselves," said Al-Qadhi. Ben Me'aili rejected the offer even after giving his word to cooperate, according to Al-Qadhi.

Some tribes were encouraged by officials to steal weapons from security depots after security forces withdrew from Shabwa, according to Naji Al-Sumi, head of the political department of the Islah Party in Al-Jawf governorate. The security forces have yet to withdraw completely from Shabwa.

The tribes formed a public committee to defend the governorate four days before the president or the Joint Meeting Parties did. The committees reached an agreement with the security forces in the governorate to support the security as long as they are doing their job.

"The amazing thing is that it was the tribal position that brought balance to the political game," said Al-Sumi.

"One of the protesters saw his uncle for the first time in 16 years. They had not seen each other because of a revenge issue. They hugged and cried in public, forgiving each other. No civil war will occur in Yemen as long as the tribes are acting this way," he added. Al-Sumi said that no tribe will try to harm another tribe, as they don't want to start new revenge issues. And this makes all the tribes on one side.

Al-Qaeda member have made their appearance in Shabwa. They have started contacting some figures in Shabwa and introducing themselves clearly as Al-Qaeda members in the Azan and Mazna'a areas of Shabwa.

The tribes have made a coalition to demand that Al-Qaeda leave the governorate, according to Al-Sumi. "It's obvious that Al-Qaeda appeared after the president said 'Yemen is a time bomb'. Then the security withdrew in preparation for Al-Qaeda to appear," said Al-Sumi.