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Tribal Coalitions Outside Official System
Written By: Hasan Al-Zaidi
Article Date: February 18, 2008
Since the beginning of 2008, different conferences in tribal areas have taken place creating rare tribal coalitions as a result of the ongoing tension and developments in the country.
The new collations are different from the past official coalitions between state and tribe which have existed for decades. Tribal leaders demands have grown today, as the tribal sheikh can be seen as a party figure, tribal leader, member of parliament or businessman. Each tribal leader fights to insure that his tribe is given special treatment by the government, or else risk that tribe joining a coalition against them.
As a result, the Yemeni tribe has been brought once more into the core of the politics as it is a key component of Yemen's political society.
Change has occurred in the nature of relations linking the tribe to the state especially after some tribal leaders seek to ascend to power and from outside the natural tribal and state coalitions. Such actions have shown hostility to the ruler and those revolving in the same orbit. However, tribal leaders blame the ruling party for this, as they have been ignored for years. "Tribal leaders in the past wanted to help the president and the ruling party, and tried desperately to have any such link with the president, however, they were ignored and not given the attention they were supposed to be given," said Shiekh Abdul Nasser Ali Al-Hajari, a tribe leader. "Today opposition members have came to us and offered to be our allies and we agreed. Lack of governmental power and respect for its people will have such outcomes," he added.
He continues “we are tribal leaders and our duty is to work for the best or the people we represent. they chose us for this post to help their needs and ease their daily sufferings”.
Meanwhile, a number of political forces and tribal leaderships have been trying to reach power by their tribe's unity, power, and fighting capabilities to serve their interests. This has become clear over the recent period in Yemen's political field as was the case under 1994 summer war where conferences and tribal coalitions were clearly present.
Even with the lack of education and experience in politics, tribes are now practicing politics with different parties, seeking to ascend power prompted by the failure of the existing political parties and civil society organizations.
According to tribal sources, the government has created and is the reason for a large number of the revenge killings that occur in tribal areas. Sources confirmed that the government stays away from such incidents in order for tribes to busy themselves with problems and not become allies with forces opposing the ruling party. "For over 20 years, and with the thousands of victims that have died in revenge cases, the government has not even tried to stop the conflicts that seem only to grow every year," says Saleh Ali Al-Sarari, a tribal Sheikh or the renowned revenge city of Gaifa, considered to be the home of a large number of revenge cases in the country. "All the government has to do is be present and give small efforts to stop the conflicts. Both sides want to stop fighting, but they need governmental mediation," he concludes.
In return, such a move by the government plays a role in removing the tribal Sheikhs from the political arena and marginalize their political roles, but without bringing the modern and active substitutes to them, therefore keeping them behind in the new and developing Yemen.
Observers fear that the new coalitions involving the tribal and traditional religious forces could be stamped with a religious significance and opposition presence differing from past coalitions that were built on small goals and reasons.
Today, eastern provinces especially Mareb, Al-Jawf, Amran, Sa'ada and Shabwa witnesses tribal coalitions urged by religious and political motivations.
Despite the different symposiums and conferences addressing the political roles of tribes in Yemen, the politicians and exports have been dealt with the types of coalitions we spoke of before and they have not come up with clear visions that could prevent possible clashes anticipated from these tribal coalitions.