Victim of mismanagement
By: Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
When people discuss Yemen, they usually refer to the large southwestern area of the Arabian Peninsula strategically sandwiched between Saudi Arabia and Oman with thousands of miles of beautiful and pristine seashores. Whenever Yemenis are discussed, they are seen as one people bound by centuries of tradition sharing a common ideology.
However, those well versed with true situation in Yemen knows fully well that the case is otherwise. It was until recently that Yemen was divided into two countries: North and South. Both sides, unfortunately, spent years fighting each other. Suddenly, we saw them getting united. That unity did not come cheap. Many Yemenis paid with their lives for that unity. The bloody game is far from over in Yemen; internal disputes continue to haunt this Arab country.
Historically, People’s Republic of South Yemen was more stable and prosperous as compared to its northern counterpart. Aden was famous for its beautiful streets and advanced civic infrastructure during the 1960s at a time when many major regional capitals even lacked basic amenities. It was years ahead of various Gulf cities such as Dubai and Doha. This ancient seaport continues to enjoy strategic importance in the region.
In 1967, it was seen as the future center of the so-called capital of the Middle East free zone. Simply put, Aden had more potential than Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait City and Doha put together to become the regional trade hub. Aden was destined to be the Hong Kong of the Middle East. But, communism took over and instability became the second name of South Yemen.
North Yemen was, however, different. There was no strong central government. Only the capital Sanaa, Taaz and Hudaidah had some traces of a government. The rest of the country remained beyond the control of any authority. Tribal infighting and bloody coups cost Yemen thousands of lives. North Yemen also had the potential to emerge as a prosperous country due to its rich and fertile land and easily accessible Gulf markets. It just needed construction of three major highways. Instead of utilizing its historical dam and rich soil, they grew Qat.
People grew poorer and as time passed got more desperate. Unfortunately, Yemen never utilized the billions of dollars of financial aid that they received from the Gulf states especially from Saudi Arabia and the US, Japan, Europe and many other countries. North and South Yemenis are considered the most skilled and hardworking people in the region. It was the Yemenis who built most of the infrastructures in Gulf countries but they simply forgot to build their own. They were busy chewing Qat and fighting each other. South and North Yemen got united in 1990 and later on a brief but bloody civil war erupted in 1994.
Whatever happening in Yemen is a result of years of instability and turmoil. Truth be told, Saudi Arabia and other friends of Yemen had been making all-out efforts to help Yemen but Yemenis don’t appear to pull themselves out of this bottomless pit of violence and instability.
Despite the availability of various raw materials and fertile land, Yemenis are unable to cooperate with each other to develop their country. As long as Yemenis belonging to different hues from across the country don’t sit together and iron out their differences, no foreign power can help restore stability in Yemen. The uplift of Yemen depends on the Yemenis. The money they waste on chewing Qat in one year can help build hospitals, schools and road networks. Yemenis could make hundreds of millions every year by just opening their archaeological treasures.