While the roar of war has cooled slightly in Yemen, as it awaits the results of international diplomacy, the future of the country is still uncertain.
But it’s obvious that the future of the state cannot be built on the concepts of the old and historical consensus that ruled the country before the revolution in 2011 or on the fragile consensus that prevailed before Al Houthis coup in September 2014. Regardless of the many perceptions of a post-war Yemen, discussions would be a good tool to reach a scenario for new stable Yemen. Before reaching that stage of debate, here are some “day-after” scenarios that many observers and analysts might suggest:
First scenario: a political settlement in which both Al Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh accept to work within a political movement in a normal political life based on conditions that have been agreed in a document of inclusive national dialogue. Although the document of national dialogue is a new Yemeni social contract, ensuring compliance and implementation will depend on what kind of a political settlement can be reached between the parties involved. The proposed formula within this scenario is only in one format to codify the elements of aggravation and prevent a new crisis, but it’s a temporary truce, not a viable formula.
Al Houthis will not stop planning to rebuild their capabilities again with long-term goals, in which, they will certainly re-arm themselves better. And most certainly, Saleh will not stop manoeuvring and buying loyalties for one goal only: revenge.
More importantly, in what capacity should the Yemenis and the international community deal with Saleh? Despite his usurped wealth, he has no capacity at all to sit and talk about the future while he bears the bulk of responsibility for the tragedy in Yemen, with a new crime added to his record: Dividing the army, the only institution that guarantees the sovereignty and independence of the country.
If the regional and international powers and parties, including the United Nations, consider Saleh a fait accompli, that would only lead to a status that would bring about another Yemeni crisis. The same conditions should apply to Al Houthi rebels who have to lay down their arms and become a political party. The consequences of this scenario seem likely to create more crises.
Second scenario: A settlement based on the surrender of Al Houthis and armed forces loyal to Saleh and the demilitarisation of both sides with strict control to prevent them from rearming in the future.
The problem will appear again, as Saleh is not only guilty of supporting Al Houthis’ coup against the legitimate government, he was convicted at the grass roots level for his long record in office (32 years) and in particular for acquiring a wealth of billions of dollars. This will remain an ongoing source of aggravation and, therefore, he should be forced by international courts to return this wealth to the Yemeni government. These huge funds from Saleh could form the basis of a compensation fund or development to help rebuild projects in Yemen. Giving back this wealth must be an essential condition of any agreement with Saleh. He must bear his share of responsibility in restoring his country’s reconstruction and spending on his people instead of seeking foreign aid.
In short, the survival of Saleh must be on the condition that he is stripped of all elements of power, especially financial power. Without this, Saleh will remain the main obstacle to a better future in Yemen. The consequences of such a scenario could lead to extending the war and instability in the foreseeable future and increase the cost of war.
Third scenario: A gradual rebuilding process in the liberated areas based on the outcomes of the national dialogue with the continuation of the war against Al Houthis and Saleh unabated. Gradual construction seems a moral obligation more than a political necessity. Beyond the political necessity, such an option will confirm strong determination of the Yemeni legitimate government and its Gulf and Arab allies to achieve the political goals of this war.
It’s not about the provision of essential services only, much more is required. The most important challenges that might prevent an accelerated process in this regard are related to security, represented by Al Qaida in the south.
Despite the painful blows suffered by Al Qaida in Yemen over the past few years, the war against Al Qaida is a war against Saleh. Striking the remains of Al Qaida requires a military campaign based on extensive and accurate intelligence led by Yemeni forces with support from the coalition forces.
This scenario is based on the desired political model of the Yemeni people in accordance with the principles of the national dialogue of good governance and seeing the war as it is in reality, a “rebellion” powered externally rather than a civil war or a war related to injustices of any kind.
Alternative scenario: Progress in the war against Al Houthis in parallel with similar progress on the political front, but with the escalation of southern unrest and the growing possibility of a limited war led by the southern movement, supported by some of the tribes, to pressure the Yemeni government to accept the independence of the south. The fate of the south greatly depends on the extent it can absorb and understand the current leaders and government and the Yemeni political elite in general as one of the requirements of this stage. Accommodating the demands of southerners may not be related to whether the secession is the right or wrong option, but rather a suitable response to a historical necessity.
Secession seems a difficult choice, but one that’s required nonetheless. In fact, the fate of the new state in Yemen is linked to two crucial developments: First is the fate of the South and the second is the rectification of the historically dysfunctional relationship between the tribes and the state in the north in favour of the existing state citizenship.
Such a scenario requires a high degree of political maturity from those capable of absorbing all lessons from the modern history of Yemen and addressing the elements of aggravation within it, especially the dysfunctional relationship between the state and the tribes. War provides very favourable circumstances for the reformulation of the foundations that should underpin a modern state in Yemen. The main obstacles facing this scenario is the existing mentality of the Yemeni political elite based on the continuous pattern of the tribal quota system within the same fragile balances that ruled Yemen before the youth uprising in 2011 and before Al Houthis’ coup in 2014.
Final outcome: The outcomes of the inclusive national dialogue provide political, economic and social ground for the reconstruction of the state in Yemen, but just as history has always proved, the principles need a social force or alliance to impose compliance. It is not only the coercive force or political alliances, but rather harnessing this coercive force, in a wider social alliance involving all citizens in different affiliations and levels.
Mohammad Fadhel is a consultant in regional affairs in Bhuth research centre, Dubai.