On September 18th, the bumpy road toward democracy in Yemen was supposed to have arrived at a critical juncture. The day marked the end of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), a six-month long discussion among 565 delegates representing rival factions and marginalized groups. However, the Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi recently announced that the national reconciliation talks could be delayed by “one, two or three months” due to unresolved political issues.
If the bloody carnage in Kenya’s Westgate mall points to the devastating consequences of state failure in neighboring Somalia, the possibility of a failed state in Yemen is all the more chilling. With the potential resurgence of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, considered the most dangerous branch of the global terrorist network, Yemen’s future hinges on whether the delegates can reconcile the deep political divides and look beyond the years of mutual distrust.
However, there is also a growing disconnect between the political talks going on inside the luxurious Movenpick hotel and the socioeconomic realities on the ground. In the capital, Sana’a, the pothole-ridden streets serve as a daily reminder that Yemen’s transition still has a long way to go. In August, heavy rainfall swept through the parched capital and killed scores of people in various governorates. Despite an estimated $4.7 million set aside for improving the capital’s roads, the lack of proper drainage systems turned rainwater into flash floods that ripped open paved streets. As contractors dug up roads to install water pipes and telephone wires, the streets were left in worsened condition. Unfortunately, the digging does not stop there.