Yemenis have not lost hope

Yemen could have been spared all this misery if armed groups weren’t blinded by their greed and ego.

A boy with an umbrella hat walks in an old quarter of Yemen''s capital Sanaa [REUTERS]
A boy with an umbrella hat walks in an old quarter of Yemen's capital Sanaa [Reuters]

I was heading to the Yemeni peace talks in Kuwait last week when I received a message from a young lady that read: “Please don’t come back without peace.”

Later, this demand became a trend on social media that Yemenis launched to demonstrate their need to end the war. It is about time that we Yemenis realised how much we have lost in this terrible war. People have been suffering in silence for more than a year now; some lost their lives, some lost their homes, some lost their prospects, but they didn’t lose hope.

Yemen talks: Useful start or doomed to fail?

For hope, good faith and strong will is what brought us here. It is about time that we, Yemenis, realise how much we have lost and will lose if this war continues.

In a little over a year, this war has managed to unravel a massive humanitarian catastrophe. It killed thousands of people and forced roughly 1.5 million people to flee their homes and embark on a journey of misery and despair.

The vulnerable groups are the ones paying the heaviest price; women and children. Damages to infrastructure, water supply systems, health facilities, electricity and schools are beyond recognition and beyond any common sense.

A golden opportunity

The peace talks that commenced this week in Kuwait offer a golden opportunity for all parties to end the people’s struggle and end the cirsis. This could be achieved by the return to the agreed mechanisms: the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, the National Dialogue outcomes and the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 (2015).

READ MORE: US-GCC summit – What’s next?

All of which have provided the guiding principles for the Yemeni transition and the restoration of a functioning state.

The peace talks that commenced this week in Kuwait offer a golden opportunity for all parties to end the people's struggle and end the crisis.


The Security Council Resolution laid out the plan for the new solution, namely an end to the use of violence, withdrawal of Houthi forces from all areas they have seized, including the capital Sanaa, relinquishing all arms seized from military and security institutions, including missile systems, halting all actions that are exclusively within the authority of the legitimate government of Yemen and the safe release of all political prisoners, and all individuals under house arrest or arbitrarily detained.

Before the coup that spiralled into a full-fledged war and triggered the regional intervention, Yemenis had come very close to successfully completing the political transition.

The constitution drafting process had completed its first phase by submitting a draft constitution to the national body which was supposed to convene and revise it.

The draft constitution was exclusively based on the National Dialogue outcomes. It included progressive texts on rights and freedoms and ground-breaking provisions for the reinforcement of democracy and good governance.

Indeed, it was a true victory for all the advocates of human rights and participatory and engaging government. The draft empowered women and the youth and set out guarantees to bring the government closer to the people through the federal system.

Armed Houthi followers rally against Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen [Reuters]
Armed Houthi followers rally against Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen [Reuters]

But this came to the dissatisfaction of certain parties that sought not to maintain the status quo, but to drag Yemen backwards and throw it in the abyss instead of fulfilling the people’s aspirations for change.

Force and intimidation

The Houthi movement was engaged in all the political processes since 2011 although it is not a formal party. Indeed, it had endorsed the outcomes like everyone else. But all of a sudden, it decided that an inclusive government was not its thing and a peaceful approach was not the means.

So it stormed the capital and forced the president to once again opt for peace and sign an agreement that gave Houthis a share in government and state institutions.

READ MORE: Yemen – is a political deal on the horizon?

They didn’t stop there and they continued to march south and west, conquering one province at a time until they swallowed half the country by force and intimidation.


Looking back at the choices the government of Yemen was forced to make to address this enormous predicament, it seems that it was left with no option but to act. The decision was to stop a bloodthirsty militia from undermining the state and suppressing rights and freedoms.

The decision was to prevent Yemen from sliding back half a century in time just to please a group that thought it had a divine right to rule. This is a group that had no problem blowing up homes, shelling heavily populated areas, kidnapping people, shutting down the media and putting cities under siege.

Nevertheless, the government continued to show willingness to engage in peaceful solutions. It sent high-level delegations to Switzerland in June 2015 and then again in December 2015. It was agreed that a number of confidence-building measures will be applied to pave the way for future talks.

Delegates meeting in Kuwait City from Yemen's government and Houthis and their allies [AP]
Delegates meeting in Kuwait City from Yemen’s government and Houthis and their allies [AP]

These measures included the release of prisoners, the end of siege and the implementation of a ceasefire. Weeks and months went by and the Houthis/Saleh loyalists showed no sign of positivity.

Today, the Yemeni government goes to another round of dialogue without any true guarantees regarding the Houthis/Saleh positions. It goes armed with only good intentions and determination to end the people’s sufferings.

Many things have changed since the last round, including major developments on the ground in favour of the government, beside the successful military campaign against AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) in Lahj, Abyan and Al Mukalla.

There have been notable understandings on the borders between the Houthis and the Saudis that may mark the beginning of a series of other understandings.

The government is the Yemeni people's tool to achieve what they want.


An elusive peace

What does the government want? The government is the Yemeni people’s tool to achieve what they want. It is the end of war, the safety and stability, the respect for human rights and the implementation of the National Dialogue outcomes.

We can’t afford to let the people down once again. But we can’t also afford to trick them with an elusive peace or an unfair settlement. For that, we need guarantees that whatever is agreed in Kuwait will be implemented fully and comprehensively.

We also need to reach a comprehensive negotiated agreement on a number of issues, listed in the UNSCR 2216, in the correct sequence so as to prevent the process from collapsing because of delays or poorly planned transition.

If these peace talks ended with an agreement on a future plan, Yemenis will still have much work to do. Internally, the Yemeni communities will need to learn how to forgive and move forward.

The damage to the social fabric has been unprecedented, so the healing process will take time and we hope it won’t consume Yemenis and frustrate them even more. There is, of course, the reconstruction and recovery processes that will require the support of our friends in the international community.

With hindsight, Yemen could have been spared all this misery if armed groups weren’t blinded by their greed and ego. Yemen is a beautiful country that deserves a strong, responsive and inclusive government – and that is what we will always work for.

Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak is Yemen’s ambassador to Washington DC. He is also the secretary general of the National Dialogue Conference on Yemen.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.