Federalism, conflict and fragmentation in Yemen
The current crisis unfolding in Yemen has roots in a political culture that promoted corruption and patronage among the country's political elites at the expense of the country's wider population, which experienced shortages in basic services, including water, healthcare, education, security and justice. The 2011 uprising made it clear that the way the country was run was no longer acceptable to the majority of the populace.
During the subsequent 2013–14 National Dialogue Conference, a contentious proposal was pushed through by President Hadi for a six-region federal model. As a governance model, federalism has become a popular tool for policymakers working on peacebuilding processes in post-conflict states because it ostensibly provides voice to all parties to conflict, and can promote more accountable and inclusive governance. However, federalism is also a complex process fraught with difficulty, and one that is often extremely politicised.
In this report, Peter Salisbury argues that the focus on federalism as a solution to Yemen’s many problems was emblematic of the wasted opportunity of Yemen’s transitional period. Diplomats, foreign advisers and Yemeni politicians devoted more energy to selling utopian long-term solutions than to addressing a deteriorating political, economic, security and humanitarian environment. Unless future administrations prioritise much-needed basic services for the entire population, no governance model can provide a peaceful future for the country. Failure to address these concerns will continue to lead those disillusioned with the transitional process to give up on the state and turn to non-state actors.
Date: October 2015
Author: Peter Salisbury
Region: Middle East and North Africa
With federalism once again being touted as a confidence-building measure for a post-conflict Yemen, any future peace process must be coupled with a genuine attempt to address needs and grievances at a local level.