Yemen: Defusing the Saada Time Bomb
Crisis Group Middle East Report N°86, 27 May 2009Page 29
never stop”.174 Accordingly, less than a week after he officially “ended” the war on 17 July 2008, President Salih created the Saada Committee for Peace and Reconstruction. In parallel, he formed a local committee comprising notable Saada figures, such as Faris Manaa (a tribal sheikh, prominent businessman and brother of Hasan Manaa, Saada’s governor) and members of elected local councils. The presence in both committees of individuals perceived as close to the rebels, such as Sheikh Ali Nassir al-Qirsha, mollified Huthi leaders.175 The committees appeared to work cooperatively and were given access to a $55 million special fund under the prime minister’s authority – a sum far less than anticipated or needed, but a start nonetheless.176 Their goal was to survey the destruction, start reconstruction and dispense compensation in war-affected areas.177 They also were mandated to solve disputes between the various parties.
By late December 2008, the committees reportedly had completed 80 per cent of the survey in the affected districts; they assessed that 7,180 houses, 1,412 farms, 267 mosques, 94 schools, eight medical centres, four police stations, three court buildings, three other government facilities and two religious centres had been destroyed in the fighting or by air bombardments.178 By mid-March 2009, the government claimed it has rebuilt 960 private homes
174 Crisis Group interview, Aydarus al-Naqib, Yemeni Socialist Party parliament member, Sanaa, 21 January 2009.
175 Crisis Group interview, Hasan Zayd, secretary general of al-Haqq party, Sanaa, 9 January 2009.
176 Nabil al-Shayban, a planning ministry official, said, “as an initial requirement the reconstruction fund would need $190 million for immediate needs. The government has contributed $55 million. The rest will need to be provided by the donor community”. IRIN News, 18 September 2008. The planning ministry also projected that the plan should be completed with a four-year (2009-2012) special development effort in Saada costing an additional $500 million. Al-Nida, 12 November 2008.
177 Crisis Group interview, Rashad al-Alimi, vice-prime minister for security and defence, Sanaa, 11 March 2009. The committees’ work and creation of the fund were designed to avoid the experience of a previous reconstruction effort. In November 2007, a committee surveyed damage in nine of Saada’s fifteen districts. According to Rashad al-Alimi, much of the money allocated to residents ended up in rebel hands and was used to rearm. “This time the people are given 25 per cent of the sum needed to rebuild their homes. Only once they have started, they receive the rest of the money”. Crisis Group interview, Faiz al-Awjari, parliament member from Saada governorate for the General Congress Party, Sanaa, 12 January 2009.
178 Saba News, 23 December 2008.
during the first reconstruction phase (focusing on Sahar and Razih districts)179 and completed the damage survey in Harf Sufyan and Bani Hushaysh.180
Local and international organisations simultaneously launched a humanitarian assistance drive in Saada immediately after the end of the fifth round. UN agencies and international NGOs carried out a joint rapid-needs assessment in August-September 2008, covering a range of sectors (including sanitation, health, education and civilian protection) and budgeting $4.6 million to various implementing agencies to deal with the emergency between October and December 2008.181 The Qatari Red Crescent Society, as well as the presidentially-established Salih foundation, distributed goods to refugees, while Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières, Médecins du Monde, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Islamic Relief pursued their own relief programs, including in zones that remained under rebel control.182 The government encouraged displaced persons to go home, providing cash incentives, transportation, food and other commodities to families willing to return to their villages,183 albeit with mixed results.184
Although reconstruction officially is proceeding apace,185 it faces severe challenges that could jeopardise efforts to avert another round of warfare. Funding became an issue immediately after the fifth round in the context of the global economic meltdown and plummeting oil prices that forced the government to revise its
179 Saba News, 15 March 2009.
180 Crisis Group interview, Muhammad Thabit, executive director, Saada reconstruction fund, Sanaa, 21 March 2009.
181 Crisis Group interview, international development worker, Sanaa, 9 January 2009.
182 Crisis Group interview, country director, international humanitarian NGO, Sanaa, 4 January 2009.
183 World Food Programme, bi-weekly report on Saada emergency operation, 30 August 2008.
184 Many displaced persons balked either because their original areas of residence had been mined or out of fear of insurgent reprisals for allegedly supporting the government. Crisis Group interviews, international development expert, Sanaa, 4 January 2009; tribal sheikh from Saada governorate, Sanaa, 9 January 2009. The question of the internally displaced has continued to vex the government and relief agencies. Crisis Group interview, international humanitarian NGO official, Paris, 28 January 2009.
185 26 September, 27 November 2008.