Yemen's apathetic diplomacy leaves civilians living in misery

Yemen's apathetic diplomacy leaves civilians living in misery
Comment: If the warring sides in Yemen continue to turn a deaf ear to UN resolutions, the country will simply slide further towards anarchy and fragmentation, writes Khalid Al-Karimi.
5 min read
09 Oct, 2016
The futility of faltering peace talks contributes to the misery of the people [Getty]

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen's latest statement concerning an upcoming ceasefire in the war-torn country, created a torrent of news stories last week. 

Talk of a ceasefire does indeed come as good news. But its value can be only measured against the difference it will make in the lives of Yemenis, who have paid the price dearly since the breakout of the 18-month ferocious war in the country.

In a statement to the state-run Oman news agency - ONA on Friday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the Houthi representatives and the representatives of the General People's Congress (GPC) had agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire. He also stated that the truce could be extended.

"An agreement over a 72-hour extendable ceasefire will be declared in the coming days," he said.   

However, on the second day after his speech about the forthcoming ceasefire in Yemen, airstrikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition obliterated a funeral hall in Sanaa, leaving hundreds of people dead and injured. This development dashed the hopes of the fragile and temporary peace. 

Meanwhile, the UN's Mauritanian diplomat has been globetrotting ardently. On Thursday, he landed in Muscat, coming from Riyadh. And on Friday, he said he would need to return to Riyadh to meet Yemen's exiled president Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. But with these travels and debates yet to draw to a close, the daily bloodshed in Yemen has not ceased.

Ceasefires have proved unhelpful for Yemenis. Over the course of previously declared ceasefires, clashes intensified and civilians were left dead and wounded. A truce declaration is usually followed by a rise of civilian casualties.

Yemenis have lost hope in political debates that have led to nowhere

Jamal Al-Ghurab, the editor-in-chief of Sanaa-based Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed online newspaper, has confirmed that violence usually escalates further when a truce is declared. "In one of the previous 72-hour declared ceasefires in Yemen, 72 civilians were killed, which means one civilian life was taken per hour."

"Is this the meaning of truce in Yemen?" asks Al-Ghurab.

Seeing this situation, Yemenis have lost hope in political debates that have led to nowhere. They feel their country is a battleground, and they must either stay and await their destiny, or cross the border in search of a safer place.

Genuine zeal for peace is missing

The UN envoy to Yemen expressed hope that the ceasefire would be in effect within the next few days, hailing the meeting with the representatives of the Houthi group and their ally - the GPC, as "long and positive". 

Common sense says that hope is not enough to bring peace to Yemen. Talks alone are ineffective in bringing the current chapter of the country's chaos to a close. International influence and well-thought out solutions are necessary for bringing the parties to the conflict under control.

If the warring sides in Yemen continue to turn a deaf ear to the UN resolutions and solution proposals, the country will simply slide further towards anarchy and fragmentation.

Common sense says that hope is not enough to bring peace to Yemen

Houthi political representatives have been headstrong, and Mohammed Abdusalam, the Houthi spokesperson made an unequivocal demand this week, insisting that "[exiled President] Hadi must go, and agreement must be reached on presidency".

For Saudi-backed Yemen's internationally recognised government, such a demand is far-fetched. This gulf between the two sides has made the system almost impossible to resolve, and the UN-sponsored peace talks have remained stuck in a vicious cycle.

In April of 2015, the UN Security Council adopted the 2216 resolution on Yemen. The resolution stipulated the withdrawal of the Houthi group from areas they seized by force of weapons, as well as handing over arms to the state. Given the fact that this resolution has not been enforced, adopting it was disastrous as the Houthis are not the sole militants in the country. There has been a proliferation of mutinous, violent armed groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS in Yemen.

Accordingly, the UN Security Council resolutions have thus far, proved useless to Yemen. Today, the war continues to rage, though the ink of those resolutions dried up many months ago.

Yemenis have no need for rash resolutions and biased stances. Instead, they require a show of genuine will from the international community to push the leading elites in the country to come closer, and bridge the gulf between them.

Sympathy for Yemen will not last forever

The world appears to be powerless to act in the face of the crisis in Yemen. Though there is some sympathy for this war-ravaged nation, it will not last forever. As long as the UN's stance on Yemen continues to waver, and Yemen's rivals remain committed to playing hardball, this sympathy risks turning to apathy.

Today, the war continues to rage, though the ink of those resolutions dried up many months ago

Yemen is dying a slow death, and the futility of faltering peace talks contributes to the misery of people. On September 22, Ahmed Bin Daghr, the Prime Minister of Yemen's internationally recognised government returned from exile to Aden, where the Central Bank of Yemen has been relocated at the request of president Hadi.

Following this, a counter development took place in Sanaa, as Houthi-GPC Supreme Political Committee appointed Abdulaziz bin Habtoor, former governor of Aden, to form a government. Amid these political manoeuvers and war games, the only ones to lose out are the civilians who die every day in crossfire, airstrikes or who are starving to death.

The UN has put the figure of casualties in Yemen since the breakout of war last year at 10,000. Despite the horrific numbers of victims and the heartbreaking humanitarian situation, peace is still illusory in Yemen, and diplomacy has done nothing to save the lives of civilians.

For peace to prevail and dialogue to pay off, binding agreements must be put in place. This all hinges on the will of the influential international community, and the warring sides' genuine zeal for peace. For Yemen, diplomacy without solemn commitment to peace will prove squarely impotent.

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