US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today praised the first Arab woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and embraced her vision of a democratic Yemen. But analysts warn that the country’s political standoff is generating a “permanent deterioration” within what many already consider a failed state.
Citing Tawakkul Karman’s “commitment to democracy and human rights,” Clinton lauded her efforts to fashion a better future for the Arab world’s poorest state.
Yemen’s protest movement surprised the world with their revolution and would again defy expectations by forging a democratic state, said Karman.
Karman is a co-founder of Women Journalists Without Chains, a Sana’a-based NGO, supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.
Yemeni women are in the forefront of the peaceful civil society movement, she said, and no longer hide behind veils or walls as they press for basic human rights. She referred to the hundreds of Yemeni women who this week protested President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s violent crackdown by setting fire to their traditional veils (below).
But even if Saleh was forced to resign, Reuters reports, “Yemen’s descent into anarchy and deprivation looks irreversible, posing vast risks for its people and their neighbours, not least oil giant Saudi Arabia:”
“Yemen has entered an almost permanent deterioration that will take years, if not decades, to reverse,” said a Western diplomat in Sana’a. “It’s hard to accept, but we’re not going to get closure with a political deal. We are in for a long haul for decades.”
The unstable political stalemate has encouraged insurgents, tribesmen and Islamic militants to chip swathes of the country away from government control, never very strong in Yemen….Yemen’s tribal networks have often challenged government control, often seeking cash or development projects in return for accepting it, but recent land grabs may mark a darker trend.
“These takeovers have a more political agenda with separatists groups gaining ground,” said Yemeni analyst and journalist Sami al-Ghalib. “Disintegration will spread as we see local groups establish their own cantons or emirates.”
While some analysts fear that pro-democracy forces are being eclipsed by Islamist groups or armed tribal factions, others cite the divided opposition’s inability to develop a common front and its failure to take advantage of Saleh’s absence in Saudi Arabia for several weeks after a bomb attack that left him badly injured.
“It makes Saleh’s job of postponing this that much easier,” says Barbara Bodine, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen. “You had not just Saleh, but most of the senior political leadership out of the country for three months, and the opposition wasn’t able to pull itself together to take advantage of that.”