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State Officials Responsible for Land Theft; Weaker Citizens Suffer and Stay Hopeless
  Written By: Abdul Rahim Al-Showthabi (YEMEN POST STAFF)
  Article Date:
November 03, 2008



Last week, hundreds marched in protest to the organized theft of lands that takes place by state officials and high-ranking security and military officers. Locals in many governorates claim that their lands were looted, and because they are weak they cannot do nothing to get their property back.

In a letter handed to the governor of Shabwa Ali Hassan Al-Ahmadi, protesters voiced their rejection for the theft of lands and stressed they will spare no effort, blood and money to safeguard their lands. 

Similarly, earlier this year, hundreds of people protested against the policy of looting lands in Aden and Lahj provinces. Former Member of Parliament Saleh Harbi accused 15 top military leaders and heads of the local authorities in Aden and Lahj of manipulating lands, pointing out that President Saleh knows those officials well and knows what they are doing.

The looting of lands is a crisis that has been spreading throughout the country since 1994. Economists consider this practice by government officials as a negative spot on the side of the country, which is supposed to attract internal and external investment.

According to government officials in Aden, 10,200 pieces of lands including lands belonging to overseas investors were looted by executive officials in the southern region of Yemen.

In parliament session, MP Sakhr Al-Wajeeh urged the government to hold back measures being taken by the Land and States Authority in giving the Military Economic Corporation a piece of land in Dar Saad of Aden, and  keep the lands in the ownership of their legal owners.

Lately, Justice and Endorsements Committee in the parliament revealed a report accusing the Office of Endorsement in Aden of land looting. The committee also accused endorsement employees of robbing the endorsement’s registry documents.

The Yemeni Parliament also pointed to the governments’ weakness as it failed to protect investors from the frequent aggression on their properties, especially in Aden and Sana’a. The chief of Lands and Estates Authority Office in Aden, Yahya Ba Dwaid, admitted that some legal failures led to the crisis of land in Aden, which in result affected social peace in the governorate.

German development agency GTZ’s advisor, Gabrielle Hermann whose agency is now working with  the Yemeni Court of Commerce to find faster solutions to people’s cases going through court procedures, said that most of the cases in  courts were that of land looting. “Despite the fact that I obtained a court order reinforcing my rights to the land I bought in the capital, several men including President Saleh’s relatives still claim they are the owners of it “ said 46 year old Ali Hassan Al-Ezani, who bought a land in the capital more than 10 years ago.

Further, a number of citizens in Sana’a claim that their lands were taken away by authorities, saying that the land will be used for public parks, while they later realized that they were  used to build private villas and houses for high ranking officials.

According to official estimates, conflicts over lands between the owners and looters result in 1,500 death cases every year; let alone the number of those injured in clashes.

A study conducted by the National Democratic Initiative revealed that 80 percent of revenge killings are motivated by disputes over lands.

However, land problems in Aden date back to the times of political conflicts when socialists were in power, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s. Citizens during that time were denied the rights to possess lands.