Concessions are crucial to peace in Yemen

Concessions are crucial to peace in Yemen
5 min read
22 Nov, 2016
Comment: Yemen's 20-month conflict has already claimed thousands of lives. It's high time concessions were made on both sides, if lasting peace is to be agreed, writes Khalid Al-Karimi
A fragile 48-hour ceasefire ended yesterday after failing to stem violence across Yemen [AFP]

Peace prospects in Yemen are still dim.

The recently proposed UN peace plan has collided with disapproval from the legitimate government and intensifying battles in several front lines.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry declared a ceasefire in Yemen to begin on November 17th. Kerry said this ceasefire would be accompanied by efforts towards forming a unity government. This declaration aroused the ire of the legitimate government of Yemen.

Yemen's foreign minister, Abdulmalik al-Mikhlafi described Kerry's declaration as "an agreement between Kerry and the Houthis". Previously, President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi described this proposal as a reward for the Houthi militants and allied forces.

Accordingly, the Saudi-allied Yemen government seems unwilling to drop one single item of the UN Security Council Resolutions, the Gulf Initiative and National Dialogue Conference outcomes. Indeed the exiled government has many justifications for this:

"We want a comprehensive and lasting peace that is grounded on ending the coup and resuming the political process through discussing the bill and holding elections," president Hadi stated in a meeting with Yemeni government officials in Riyadh earlier this month.

This statement is a strong indicator that the legitimate government is insisting on not offering any political concessions, a matter which will complicate the mission of the UN in Yemen.

It is a crisis of trust that has led these agreements to collapse repeatedly.

The UN has endeavored to persuade the warring sides of the practicality of this tool for peace, which could guide Yemen out of the dark tunnel. However, neither of the two sides is in a hurry to resolve the crisis.

Both are seeking the lion's share in any peace agreement, and this will inevitably take its toll on the continuity of the outcome of this unsettled conflict. It is worrying that this proposal may turn into another failed peace effort.

Why is this peace plan contentious?

The plan appears to dwarf the power of president Hadi and shrink his role in the political scene of Yemen. It proposes that President Hadi would appoint a new vice president, and stipulates that current vice president, Ali Mohsen Al-Amhar resign.

Hadi would then relinquish his power to a new vice president who would appoint a new prime minister, responsible for beginning the formation of the unity government. According to the plan, this power shift will happen only "After the completion of the withdrawal from Sanaa and the handing over heavy and medium weapons (including ballistic missiles)."

The handing over of weapons has been a stumbling block to the progress of peace negotiations

Though the plan underlines the withdrawal of the Houthi group from cities and the handover of heavy weapons, the legitimate government still has a dubious view of its effectiveness. It is a crisis of trust that has led these agreements to collapse repeatedly.

In essence, this peace proposal does not appear to favour the Houthi group. It stipulated an end of their seizure of cities as well as disarming them. If it is properly implemented, this would pave the way for peace prevalence.

Fighting is currently at its peak in Yemen and the recent surge in violence followed the release of the peace proposal. Each time diplomacy falls apart, the rivals flex their muscles on the battle ground.

Concessions or opportunity seizing?

The Houthis and the former president have shown their readiness to stop the war and resume the political process. This signals a positive development after 20 months of war.

The two allies have engaged in several strings of negotiations and share common goals on the battlefield. Among their major endeavours is detaching the word presidency from Hadi. Now, they sense that this peace proposal has fulfilled one of their goals.

Unfortunately, the UN's calls fall on deaf ears and inconsiderate minds

Their agreement to the peace proposal which requires them to hand over weapons seems like a concession. However, it remains uncertain whether the Houthi-Saleh coalition would honor this agreement and fully abide by it.

When the plan was declared last month, the Houthis and Saleh aired divided stances. But as the days passed, the two unanimously expressed their approval of the plan. Despite this, the handing over of weapons has been a stumbling block to the progress of peace negotiations.  

The Houthis' latest reaction to the UN plan could be counted as a concession, provided they are willing to keep their word. It may also prove the Houthi group and its allies intend to bow little in order to wipe out Hadi's role through this peace proposal. 

Politicians' attempts to save face

Yemen's politicians are seemingly unmoved by the prospect of razing the entire nation, for their predominant concern appears to be to save face. This retaliation-controlled mindset has brought the country to where it stands today. The power race will not end, but the prioritisation of the people's interests is crucial. 

Repeatedly, the UN envoy to Yemen has urged the parties to the conflict in Yemen to make concessions and not to think about who wins or loses. Unfortunately, such calls fall on deaf ears and inconsiderate minds.

The 20-month conflict has already claimed thousands of lives. Three million have been left homeless, and several million are incapable of resisting the brutality of starvation.

Despite these harrowing numbers, neither side has shown any genuine remorse. Now, one party is fighting for "legitimacy" as the other resists "aggression". Sadly, the people have no one to care for their interests, and no party is whole-heartedly keen to allay their sorrows.
It is high time that concessions for the sake of people are made. Yemen's rivals must abandon the pursuit of personal or partisan interests, so that the bloodshed ceases and lives are saved. A one-party victory would be too time-consuming, yet if rivals make concessions, the triumph will be swift for all the people of Yemen.


Khalid Al-Karimi is a freelance reporter and translator. He is a staff member of the Sanaa-based Yemeni Media Center and previously worked as a full-time editor and reporter for the Yemen Times newspaper.

Follow him on Twitter: @Khalidkarimi205

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.