How can Yemeni negotiations produce enduring peace?

Written by : Tawakkol Karman

Most of Yemenis view the Kuwait negotiations as last chance to stop war and achieve a sustainable peace. Here, I do stress that Kuwait is very appropriate and helpful venue to bring about peace based on what Yemenis have already agreed upon and stipulated by the international legitimacy. It had happened earlier that we made a Yemeni peace in Kuwait and we can do it once again. 

I can also say that many Yemenis voice justifiable concerns about what these talks may produce. They fear that the Houthi militia possibly seeks to obtain some gains for their own benefits that have nothing to do with re-establishing peace in the country. Such concerns lie in any agreement to form a government in which the Houthi militias share power before they hand over weapons and leave areas seized by them. Actually, this is what Houthi militias and their regional supporters ask for. If that happened, then we will have a Yemeni Hezbollah that would be more totalitarian and autocrat than the Lebanese Hezbollah which has seized control over the state of Lebanon. 

We should be careful that the Houthis' vows to hand over weapons and evacuate cities following the formation of a government would never be genuine commitments. They will be nothing more than promises as there is no truly guarantee to fulfil them. All what may happen later will play into the hands of the militias whose influence will be growing while the State's sovereignty is set to further decline. Consequently, establishing government before relinquishing weapons and evacuating the regions by the militia serves as a recognition of the coup d'état’s legitimacy and legalization of their continuing control over the Yemeni state until another notice.  

Nobody would like to eliminate the Houthis, nor even exclude them or deprive them of participating in both political and public life. None also is against the idea that the militia turns into a political party. We are not warmongers. All we want is to stop this war as soon as possible and enduring peace finally prevails, but not a temporary truce that perpetuates the underlying causes of strife in the region. We want a national partnership and consensus between political groups and parties having no faith in force to achieve their own objectives. Let us raise some questions! Which should come first: partnership and consensus in government, or handing over weapons and evacuating regions? Before answering the question, we will have to ask one more question: did the coup d'état and invasion of cities by the militia happen due to lacking partnership? Was not that because this militia has weapons being equivalent to the weapons of Yemeni army, and has challenged the state's sovereignty and authority over large parts of the Yemeni territory?

Had not Khalid Bahah become a Prime Minister at the suggestion of it, and then it acted to oust him and topple his government? Did not the militia accept the president Hadi and agreed to assign one of its senior figures as one of his advisors, yet they finally carried out a coup against him? Did not they contribute to the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, then they acted rebelliously against Yemeni peoples' consensus and the overall political transitional process?

Everything saysa sustainable peace process in Yemen could be only achieved through handing over weapon and leaving all seized areas as first stage that should not be preceded by anything else. Then the militia ought to be transformed into political party and afterwards participates in a consensus government, which will undertake supervision on the referendum of the constitution, conduct the elections and get the remaining transitional tasks done. The peace in this form and sequence is set to put the foundation of a state that could include all Yemenis, establish partnership that brings all political constituencies and parties together in political process in which none of them may control each other by force, dominion and oppression. 

On the contrary, embarking on the path of peace in a reversed way starting from a consensus government including the militia in the false hope that disarming and evacuating will be done later would only give rise to the legitimization of the coup d'état and the militia’s predominance inside the state. Not to mention the fact that this is in stark contrast with the plain articles of the UN Security Council resolution 2216, and it is against what has been agreed upon earlier in the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference

Generally, it will only generate a durable conflict and never-ending warfare! Once the Houthis are engaged in the government before relinquishing weapons, they would never do it later or leave seized areas. The opposite is perfectly true, such power-sharing will ensure them retaining their weapons and control over the regions they have taken over!

The political parties, on the other hand, that may participate along with the Houthis in the government will be powerless and merely nominal partner legitimizing the militia's control and takeover! The Houthis backed by Iran understand that as they insist on their demand that a consensus government must be established first, they can replicate the Hezbollah experiment that is discouraging as the Lebanese state's ultimate job now is to lend the Hezbollah's decisions the needed legitimacy. This is set to happen in Yemen but with more aggressive form. 

Whoever doesn’t clearly realize this matter is unworthy of participating in making and sponsoring peace, and engaging themselves in peace talks and nations-building. Going to creating consensual government with the militia before the latter gets transformed into a political party and before delivering weapons to the legitimate government and evacuating all regions they took over, will never lead to peace, a state or partnership. It rather will empower the militia to take over everything by brute force. 

The Houthis ask: who may ensure us to participate in a consensual government that is to be established following giving up the weapons? What are the guarantees that we are going to be allowed to contribute to political activity without deprivation, exclusion, revenge and vengeance?  These are their most solid arguments, which are not lacking logic. However, they provide an answer that is devoid of neither deception nor circumvention. 

They ask for establishing a government dominated by them given that they keep holding weapons. Then nobody may dare to ask them to meet commitments, otherwise he/she will be self-doomed to imprisonment, exile or killing. Moreover, their participation in the government will enable them to neutralize any measure or decision the government may take to disarm the militia. It is very legitimate and justifiable that the Houthis demand guarantees that they won't be excluded and there will be no revenge-oriented measures against them. That, however, should not be a justification to retain weapons in their possession nor to keep on their control over regions.

The key point and the most significant of all phases lay in handing over weapons and leaving from all areas.Otherwise, we hand over the Yemeni state and give them legitimacy without any rightful reason. The Houthis may get any regional and international guarantees they want, but they must relinquish weapons and evacuate regions. This is the clear path towards building a sustainable peace in Yemen. Besides relinquishing arms and pulling out of the regions, the Houthis ought to give Yemenis additional assurances that they would never do it anymore in the future, never carry out a coup against the Yemeni state and takeover through brute military force. 

It is true that the main guarantee now is that is of utmost priority is implied in handing over the weapons and evacuating all regions so that the Yemeni state becomes the only sovereign authority that has the exclusive right to possess weapons and exercise the sovereignty and power over all Yemeni territories. Yet the majority of Yemenis need additional guarantees to be reassured that war won't come back again. Hence, the countries involved in sponsoring the peace-building process in Yemen need to realize that Yemenis' concerns are deep and understandable, so the regional and international powers should provide more guarantees, commitments and assurances that peace the process which started in Kuwait is not warrior rest but a genuine peace process. 

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