Partners for Democratic Change International AISBL
205 Rue Belliard, B-1040 Brussels Tel. +32 2 230 7110
and Partners for Democratic Change –Yemen
PO Box 16302, Sanaa, Yemen, Tel: +967-1423385
Yemen Community-Based Conflict Mitigation Program
Support of the Conflict Prevention Pool at FCO, UK
and the Delegation of the EU in the Republic of Yemen
Baseline Conflict Assessment Report
PDCI - Partners for Democratic Change International AISBL
Partners for Democratic Change International is a global partnership of twenty independent, local organizations in Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East that work to advance civil society, good governance and a culture of change and conflict management worldwide.
PDCI is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation.
Yemen Community-Based Conflict Mitigation Program (Y-CCM)
PDCI and Partners Yemen
Baseline Conflict Assessment
Executive Summary 2
Baseline Assessment Methodology 4
Main Findings 6
Structures of Conflict 6
Conflict in Yemen 6
Conflict Profile of each Governorate 7
Conflicts with Corporations 10
Analysis of Existing Resources 16
Development Programs 16
Changes to Tribal Customary Law 17
Women and Conflict Resolution in Yemen 19
Strategies for Reducing Conflict with Corporations 22
Lessons Learned and Recommendations from Donors,
INGOs and NGOs 22
Strategies and Ways Forward for the Y-CCM Program 24
Annex I: Interview and Focus Group Participants 27
Annex II: Major Steps in Tribal Mediation 32
Annex III: Questionnaire 37
Annex IV: Baseline Assessment Research Methodology for
Training of Local Staff 39
The Community-Based Conflict Mitigation Program (Y-CCM), a project run by Partners Yemen and Partners for Democratic Change International (PDCI) and supported by the British Embassy and the Delegation of the European Union in the Republic of Yemen, will assist the Yemeni government including security sector actors, local authorities including councils and tribal and community leaders, and community-based organizations (CBOs) in establishing sustainable structures for short- and long-term interventions addressing conflict over land, natural resources, health services, education, and conflict between corporations and local communities in four governorates: Mareb, Al-Jawf, Shabwah and Al-Bayda.
As part of start-up project activities, PDCI and Partners Yemen designed and conducted a baseline assessment to understand the current context, the actors involved, and the underlying factors that reinforce conflict and a lack of development in Yemen. The assessment determines more clearly the challenges and opportunities available in order to support a realistic approach to conflict and change management in the four targeted governorates of Mareb, Al-Jawf, Shabwah and Al-Bayda. These four governorates have been classified by the Yemeni government as having complex conflicts.
This report is based on interviews and focus groups conducted with internationals, local officials, corporate employees and tribal leaders in Sana’a as well as interviews and focus groups conducted by a Partners Yemen research team in the four governorates. Research was conducted over twenty days in December 2010. In each governorate, two districts were targeted based on Partners Yemen’s knowledge of local conflicts and the absence of existing programs on conflict resolution. Some districts were chosen because of the presence of oil and gas companies operating in the area, and the final list of districts was agreed upon with local authorities. Interviews in each district were conducted with senior and influential members of these communities including sheikhs, members of local councils, and influential women. Focus group participants were chosen from local councils, NGOs, women and youth groups, different tribes and different social classes. A total of one hundred fifty-seven (157) people were interviewed in the four governorates, of whom seventy-five (75) were women. In total, one hundred eighty-eight (188) people were interviewed for this assessment.
The assessment begins with an analysis of conflict structures, including a conflict profile of each of the four governorates. This is followed by a section outlining key actors, including tribes, the Yemeni government, and development actors. The third section provides an analysis of existing resources, including what programs are already being implemented on the ground, what existing mechanisms deal with conflict and how these are changing, and potential and existing roles of women in conflict resolution in Yemen.
The assessment concludes with three sets of recommendations: strategies for reducing conflict with corporations; lessons learned and recommendations from donors, INGOs and NGOs; and finally, strategies and ways forward for the Y-CCM program.
Recommendations for corporations include increasing communication with communities and expanding social responsibility and sustainable development programs in order to mitigate potential conflict in the areas in which corporations operate. Corporations should also increase employment of local staff, especially youth, who experience high levels of unemployment and are increasingly likely to engage in violence.
Recommendations from donors, international NGOs and local NGOs operating in Yemen include: encouraging local ownership of development programs; consulting stakeholders at all levels when designing and implementing programs; engaging youth and women as key groups in conflict resolution programming; spending more time up-front getting to know the local context and building relationships in target communities; preparing to deal with spoilers; and performing conflict-sensitive analysis to understand how programs have the potential to both mitigate and create conflict.
In the final section titled “Strategies and Ways Forward”, it is recommended that PDCI and Partners Yemen consider the potential impact their proposed community mediation committees may have on the delicate power relations in each district and be prepared to monitor the changes as a result of the establishment of these committees. The program team should also increase their focus on target groups, including women and youth; assist in building channels of communication between corporations and communities; and ensure training manuals take into account existing traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution and are properly adapted to the local Yemeni context. It is also recommended that donors, PY and other NGOs operating in Yemen improve on their long-term planning and plan for sustained interventions beyond the two-year funding cycle.
On the whole, this assessment found that the overall and specific objectives of the Y-CCM project are still appropriate. The assessment reaffirms the urgent need for sustainable structures for short-and long-term interventions addressing conflict. The deterioration of tribal customary law and the absence or inefficiency of government strategies to address conflict have left a gap in conflict mitigation that PDCI and Partners Yemen are well-positioned to focus on.
The Community-Based Conflict Mitigation Program (Y-CCM), a project run by Partners Yemen and PDCI, will assist the Yemeni government including security sector actors, local authorities including councils and tribal and community leaders, and community-based organizations (CBOs) in establishing sustainable structures for short- and long-term interventions addressing conflict over land, natural resources, health services, education, and conflict between corporations and local communities in four areas: Mareb, Al-Jawf, Shabwah and Al-Bayda. A 2009 country assessment conducted by Partners Yemen noted the gaps and opportunities for conflict management and development programming in Yemen, particularly in tribal areas, where most INGOs avoid working due to security concerns. Tribal conflicts constitute a significant challenge to development and democratic reform in Yemen and threaten the stability of Yemen and the wider region. There is a critical gap between the ability of emerging state institutions to manage conflict and the deterioration of traditional conflict resolution systems. Partners Yemen and PDCI’s Community-Based Conflict Mitigation Program will address this gap through a program of capacity building and institutional strengthening that will create sustainable mechanisms to address conflict and foster indigenous skills for conflict prevention and peace.
BASELINE ASSESSMENT METHODOLOGY
As part of start-up project activities, PDCI and Partners Yemen designed and conducted a baseline assessment to understand the current context, the actors involved, and the underlying factors that reinforce conflict and a lack of development in Yemen. The assessment determines more clearly the challenges and opportunities available in order to support a realistic approach to conflict and change management in the four targeted governorates of Al-Jawf, Shabwah, Mareb and Al-Bayda. The assessment was designed to serve as a tool to promote understanding of the nature of conflict over resources and development in these target areas, and to inform the project team how to develop best project implementation strategies, considering existing and potential efforts to address conflict issues. The assessment was also designed to pay close attention to traditional conflict resolution systems, especially tribal customary law, and whether the existing mechanisms for dealing with conflict are changing.
PDCI and Partners Yemen developed the baseline assessment methodology based on international conflict assessment templates as well as knowledge from Partners Yemen and PDC (USA) regarding conflict over natural resources, development and corporations in Yemen. Questionnaires were designed in advance for the focus groups and interviews conducted in Yemen in December 2010. The assessment methodology and questionnaires were finalized through discussions between staff of Partners Yemen, PDCI and PDC (USA), who modified both documents to reflect more closely the particular context of the four targeted governorates in Yemen.
In preparation for the field research in Sana’a and the four governorates in December 2010, Partners Yemen staff identified key stakeholders from the capital and the four governorates. These included tribal leaders, community leaders, government employees, international NGO staff, national NGO staff and employees of oil and gas companies. Special effort was made to ensure that women and youth were interviewed in Sana’a and all four governorates.
In December Jennifer Pedersen, Program Manager from PDCI, and Monalisa Salib, Senior Program Manager from PDC, conducted stakeholder consultations, including focus groups and semi-structured interviews, in Sana’a over seven days. Together they spoke to a total of thirty-one (31) people. Following training in Sana’a a team of eight researchers conducted additional interviews and focus groups in the four governorates where tribal customary law is implemented. Research focused on two districts in each governorate. Districts were targeted based on Partners Yemen’s knowledge of local conflicts and the absence of existing programs on conflict resolution. Some districts were chosen because of the presence of oil and gas companies operating in the area. The final list of districts was agreed upon with local authorities. In each district research teams conducted two focus groups (one of which was women-only) and four interviews with community leaders. Interviews were conducted with senior and influential members of these communities including sheikhs, members of local councils, and influential women. Focus group participants were chosen from local councils, NGOs, women and youth groups, different tribes and different social classes. A total of one hundred fifty-seven (157) people were interviewed in the four governorates, of whom seventy-five (75) were women. In total, one hundred eighty-eight (188) people were interviewed for this assessment. (Please see Annex I for the list of participants.)
I. Structures of Conflict
Conflict in Yemen
The Y-CCM program focuses on conflict in the four governorates of Al-Jawf, Shabwah, Mareb and Al-Bayda. These areas are characterized by high poverty and illiteracy rates, poor access to health and education services, and weak presence of state and law enforcement institutions. Further, the deterioration of traditional tribal conflict mitigation systems – including tribal customary law – has created a gap in conflict mitigation that the government is unable to fill because of the weak and ineffective presence of state institutions in those areas. Conflict in these four governorates occurs over natural resources such as water and grazing land; health, education and development projects; and the presence of corporations working in the oil, gas and mining sectors.
In many communities tribal customary law still dominates. Tribal customary law is a traditional way of dealing with criminal cases. It involves a specific set of procedures for arbitrating a dispute between individuals or tribes.1 (Changes to tribal customary law will be discussed in more detail later in the report). In some communities there is a tension between the formal state law and the tribal customary law practiced in the four governorates. Research conducted by Partners Yemen in the four governorates of Al-Jawf, Shabwah, Mareb and Al-Bayda revealed that some communities rely on tribal customary law more than others. In certain parts of the country, such as in Al-Jawf, the absence of a robust state judicial system and the weakness of police means that tribal customary law remains the dominant form of conflict resolution. However, in other governorates, especially Al-Bayda, the state and tribal laws are practiced alongside one another. Further, in Shabwah there is clear demand for stronger state and rule of law institutions, although tribal customary law is still practiced.
Some tribal areas are experiencing a rapid deterioration in the traditional tribal system. This can be attributed to several factors, including sheikhs moving to urban areas, perceived corruption, and vulnerable and disengaged youth. An additional factor is the patronage network, where elites including sheikhs are appointed to key positions based on patronage. One international development expert suggested that the deterioration in the traditional system has left a vacuum at the community level “in terms of power, resources, (and) development.”
In the absence of effective mechanisms to deal with conflict, many disputes can quickly escalate. What begins as a minor misunderstanding can become a full-blown violent conflict featuring gun violence, road blocks and long-term disputes. For example, in Radaa, Al-Bayda, competition that began over local council seats in 2006 sparked a conflict between the tribes of the two candidates who were running for elections. This conflict, which has since resulted in over 40 killings, is not yet resolved. There are both inter-tribal conflicts and intra-tribal conflicts;2 in conflicts between two tribes, additional tribes may be brought in to encourage arbitration proceedings. The most common causes of conflict between tribes include border disputes, where two tribes disagree on the borders of their land; disputes over the use of land, including grazing land and water distribution; and disputes over water management and access, usually over wells or other water sources such as wadis (the dry riverbeds that are important during flood season). Disputes over development projects have also caused conflict in the four governorates, as has the presence of oil and gas companies.
Revenge killing is a feature of many (but not all) conflicts in tribal areas and is the most likely outcome when a conflict becomes violent. In many cases it is a shame not to seek blood revenge or to take blood money as a compensation, which makes resolving these conflicts extremely complicated. In the past there were rules about who could and could not be targeted for revenge killing; however, these rules are increasingly disrespected. For example, the tradition of hijra, or safe havens, means that certain areas such as mosques, marketplaces and sometimes cities are considered off-limits to violence. While the hijra principle is still respected in some areas, in other areas this principle is no longer effective. “Value killings” are a new kind of revenge killing where a person of equal value (teacher for teacher, brother for brother) is targeted regardless of his connection to the conflict. Sometimes people go after the most educated and distinct members of the other tribe in order to achieve more significant revenge. Value killing is on the rise in some communities and is not a traditional custom. Some conflicts continue for decades, punctuated by temporary arranged ceasefires. In the words of one female focus group participant, revenge killings are “just hostility inherited through generations.” Revenge killings have significant impacts beyond the death toll: people caught up in these cycles may be unable to leave their homes, attend work, travel outside their district, or provide for their families. Revenge killings are more likely to happen in areas where the state’s presence is weak, such as the four governorates of Mareb, Shabwah, Al-Jawf and Al-Bayda.
Conflict Profile of each Governorate
Map of Yemen (OCHA)
In each of the four governorates participants were asked about the root causes, nature and effects of conflict in their communities.
In the Walad Rabei and Al-Arsh districts of Al-Bayda, many conflicts occur over water scarcity. Sheikhs and owners of water wells consume the most water, which causes resentment and conflict in the community. The relationship between qat growing and water scarcity is a key cause of conflict in Al-Bayda: Qat is one of the main cash crops in Al-Bayda and qat farmers distribute the crop to different parts of Yemen. Qat is a crop that requires large amounts of water for irrigation, which contributes to the rapid d
“Qat is the top of all troubles, and water is not enough for farming qat and food together. The district is threatened by drought because of the massive usage of water to irrigate qat.”
– A sheikh in Al-Bayda
epletion of ground water resources. As one sheikh in Al-Arsh district said, “Qat… is the top of all troubles, and water is not enough for farming qat and food together. The district is threatened by drought because of the massive usage of water to irrigate qat.” Conflicts also occur as a result of a shortage of grazing lands.
Water scarcity is illustrated by the changing depths of wells. In Al-Arsh district, wells dug in 1990 were only 100 metres deep. Ground water was depleted so rapidly by 1997 that wells were dug 500 metres deep. Today, some wells are 700 metres deep. By agreement, wells are not to be dug within 300 metres of another well, but water scarcity now causes people to dig wells closer to existing wells, breaking the 300-metre rule, and this causes conflict. In Al-Arsh disputes over water wells have left more than 50 people dead and more than 80 injured. Given that ground water is not a renewable resource and Yemen is facing severe water shortages, further conflicts over water are extremely likely.
In Weld Rabei district of Al-Bayda disputes between neighboring tribal communities have become violent. Some of these disputes occur over the shortage of grazing land, or over issues such as land inheritance, which can divide a family. In the case of women inheriting land in Bayda, some conflicts result from women not receiving their share of land, or not having documentation to prove ownership. The widespread carrying of arms in Weld Rabei district is also a key factor in the outbreak of violent conflict.
Health services are completely unavailable in Weld Rabei district, and poor access to education is a problem. Some children cannot go to school for fear of violence, and some children are taken out of school in order to help their families fetch water. Revenge killings are hindering development and access to education and are a key cause of instability in Al-Bayda.
In Al-Jawf poverty, unemployment, a lack of resources for education and a shortage of teachers were named as some of the root causes of conflict in the community. People in Al-Jawf have to go to neighboring governorates to access health services. Unemployment leads some people to block access to facilities with demands for jobs. Participants in Al-Jawf also noted that unemployment led many young people to join the Houthi movement in the North that is spreading rapidly in Al-Jawf. In Al-Khalaq district there are few violent disputes; conflicts more often lead to roadblocks of construction and operations. This is due to the fact that Arrawdh, the main village in Al-Khalaq district, is considered a safe haven by the tribes and is home to a prominent tribal maragha sheikh.
Conflicts also arise due to mismanagement and corruption associated with development projects; one participant described conflict as caused by “jealousy, partisanship and giving priority to personal interests.” Corruption was repeatedly mentioned as a cause of conflict, as was a lack of confidence in officials; said one participant in Al-Hazem, “officials take the projects for themselves.” In Al-Khalaq district, one focus group described new government jobs as being “for sale”, and noted that “some graduates sell their gold jewelry” in order to “buy” a job.
Al-Jawf also has conflicts over water; the only clean source of drinking water for Al-Hazem district is in neighboring Al-Ghail district. Sometimes conflicts have led to residents of Al-Ghail blocking access to water from residents in Al-Hazem. The absence of effective water irrigation systems exacerbates this problem.
“(The revenge killings) affect the entire community: houses are destroyed, children are turned orphans, young women turned widows, and the blood of the killed is more than the water (in) Al-Jawf.”
- Female interviewed in Al-Jawf
n Al-Jawf, as in Al-Bayda, many of the conflicts are long-lasting (or in the words of one participant, “since the time of Adam.”) The wide availability of arms adds to this problem. A focus group of women in Al-Hazem district estimated that 90% of people own arms. Children as young as twelve carry guns. While they noted that the prevalence of weapons increases the potential for violence, they also emphasized that weapons are considered necessary for self-defense.
It is clear that in Jawf violence affects people of all ages in all communities. As one participant in Al-Hazem district said, “people fear because of the lack of security.” Some conflicts escalate because no one steps in to mediate them. Some of these conflicts are minor misunderstandings. An analysis of conflict in Al-Jawf reveals multiple causes of conflict; high levels of violence; and desperate need for health, education and development services. It also reveals a need to address minor conflicts that may escalate into more serious misunderstandings.
In Mareb, “the water problem is the problem of the future… The future is grim, and it requires serious consideration.”
- Male participant from Mareb
he key issues in Mareb are resource shortages, especially of water and grazing lands. Increasing water scarcity over the last ten years has led to conflict over water. There is insufficient water to grow both food and qat, and inequality in water distribution. Half of Sarwah district lacks water networks, and in some areas there is no ground water. Flood water is the only source of water for many in Sarwah. Disputes over dam construction and water projects have also caused violence in the governorate; in the words of one participant, “the water problem is the problem of the future… The future is grim, and it requires serious consideration.” Water shortages have already caused displacement in an area adjacent to Al-Bayda and led to tribal violence that killed nine people and injured ten others.
In the urban district of Harib in Mareb, unemployment was described as a major cause of conflict. Likewise, in Sarwah district youth unemployment was described as the greatest problem facing residents, as it leads to road blocks, sectarianism, revenge killings, excessive qat use, general violence and vandalism, as well as gang membership. Participants in one focus group in Sarwah estimated that 80% of youth in their community were unemployed. The lack of teachers is also a serious problem, as is the lack of health workers, medicine and medical equipment despite there being empty health buildings in the district. In both the Harib and Sarwah districts, participants noted there was inequality in water distribution. As one woman in Harib district said, “the strong and rich get more (water) than others.”
Revenge killings in Mareb are also a significant problem. They prevent many people in Sarwah district from being able to reach the governorate capital. Youth are unable to enroll in school; locals can not follow up on projects. Residents of Sarwah district have been deprived of electricity by a neighboring tribe. Many of these disputes are over land.
“Qat is killing us. It consumes our efforts and works, and destroys our children.”
- Female focus group participant in Shabwah
n Shabwah, participants highlighted the state’s weak control over conflict in the region. Poverty and a lack of education are key issues at the root of conflict in this governorate. Participants were particularly concerned about patronage and distribution of jobs without any standards. They also noted excessive qat use as a serious impediment to development. As in the other governorates, in Shabwah revenge killings are a feature of many tribal conflicts.
“Conflicts have disintegrated the society (in Shabwah.) We lack the mechanisms to solve these conflicts.”
- Focus group participant in Shabwah
habwah has also experienced conflict as a result of oil and gas companies operating in Rudhum district. One gas company’s operations in the coastal district of Rudhum have caused fishermen to lose jobs and access to valuable fishing areas. The gas company in question has participated in a compensation program where payments are made to fishermen who have been impacted by the company’s presence in the area and includes fisheries as one of the eight themes in its sustainable development program. Despite these payments and programs, residents of Rudhum district in Shabwah, where this gas company operates, are desperate for work. While the gas company meets with residents, in the words of one focus group in Rudhum, “in the end it is all talk and no action.”
As in the other governorates, participants in Shabwah emphasized the great need for development and infrastructure, as well as programming that addresses the many conflicts in their communities.
Conflicts with Corporations
Continuous conflict in tribal dominated areas poses a threat to the current and future oil and gas sector which is the primary industrial base in these areas. There is significant risk of losing existing oil and gas businesses and attracting new companies to work in these tribal areas.
The governorates of Shabwah and Mareb are both locations of significant investment by oil and gas companies. As with other development projects, the presence of oil and gas companies in the governorates has the potential to cause conflict.
Oil and gas companies in these governorates have reported violence against their employees and installations, resulting in shutting down of operations. Extortion and corruption are also major problems, as companies operating in some regions receive demands from local leaders for jobs and sometimes for payment. There are also conflicts over contracts for services and construction, where individuals (usually within the same tribe) fight over contracts with the company.
Some oil companies operating in Yemen are known to make payments to key people such as sheikhs, community leaders, and individuals who ask the company for money in exchange for allowing them to operate in the region. In some cases production may be shut down until compromises are reached, occasionally with the intervention of the Yemeni government. Often when payments are made threats and actions against a company will end, at least temporarily. Paying certain people in a community, however, does not always guarantee that a company’s operations will not be threatened by others; further, it can create a climate whereby other companies operating in the area are also targeted for money, sometimes by the same people who are paid by the first company.
Some companies operating in these governorates have strict policies on refusing to pay money to people who are not legitimate employees. The refusal to make payments can make operations very difficult: truck shipments of oil are stopped on roads; letters threatening violence are received; surveys and other operations are disrupted. One oil company operating in Yemen has indicated it is prepared to leave Shabwah because of ongoing violence, corruption and lack of government authority. Corporations complained that there are no consequences for bad behavior. When production is halted due to threats, the government and military rarely intervene. Many of the worst perpetrators are known to the companies, but without a robust judicial system and government intervention, extortion and corruption goes unpunished. Companies have few methods of conflict resolution at their disposal. Further, because of the presence of small arms in the community, the oil companies are, in the words of one employee of an oil company, reluctant to “push back.”
The causes of this violence and disruption can be traced to a lack of infrastructure and support from the government and endemic poverty. Without access to electricity, water, and infrastructure, communities turn to the companies to provide these things. A lack of work opportunities mean that the corporations are seen as one of the few sources of employment and training. Unfortunately corporations are unlikely to hire unskilled workers, resulting in few jobs available to local people. One company representative noted that employing local people is a challenge given the lack of education and skills training. A further challenge to employing local people is the lack of actual jobs. For example, one company that built a gas pipeline in Shabwah required manpower in excess of ten thousand people who were brought from across Yemen. Once this pipeline was constructed, however, the permanent workforce in the port city of Belhaf went down to 1000 from across Yemen, and along the pipeline there are few workers needed other than security staff. In Al-Jawf, where an oil exploration company from Mareb has only recently begun surveying, members of the community reported that there are already conflicts over employment, and these conflicts sometimes halt company operations. Residents of Al-Jawf are also concerned that companies are employing people only from the tribal class and not recruiting equally from other social groups.
Operations of oil and gas companies can also have negative effects on neighboring districts. Respondents in Ayin district in Shabwah, where there is no oil company presence, report having health problems including asthma because of the operation of oil companies in the neighbouring district. The governorate is obliged to issue risk and pollution stipends to compensate for the damage to community health.
While it appears that most oil and gas companies operating in Yemen make little investment in the development of local communities, some oil and gas companies have initiated community projects. One oil company operating in Shabwah built a hospital and trained and paid the salaries of doctors and nurses with the expectation that the government would take over the payments after two years. In this case, however, the government stopped paying the hospital staff and the project failed. Since this failure the company has been reluctant to invest in other community projects.
Another gas company3 operating in Shabwah and Mareb has a more extensive sustainable development program spanning education, agriculture, gender, water, electricity, fisheries, aviculture, and small enterprise. The company funds projects implemented with NGO partners, and make choices based on assessments of their community relations teams, who consult with the community about their most pressing needs. In Mareb, the company funds a major youth association and brings youth together for training on conflict planning. The company makes payments to compensate local people for the loss of land due to company operations. The company also tries to compensate for the lack of local employment opportunities by providing training and scholarship programs for local youth, such as a scholarship program for students in Shabwah, trainee programs at the marine institute in Aden, or micro-enterprise programs for people to start their own businesses. One training program has a special quota for students from Mareb and Shabwah, two of the governorates in which it operates. In Shabwah, this company also funds trainings for midwives, doctors, nurses and lab technicians, as well as teachers, and emphasizes training people rather than building infrastructure such as buildings.
According to employees, this company experiences less violence and trouble than other oil and gas companies operating in the same region because they “realized we had to be a good neighbor” and encourage good community relations. This was partly confirmed by what we heard on the ground in Shabwah. Respondents in Rudhum district noted what the gas company had provided to them: “The gas company gave us lectures in health, and training courses in manual crafts for women. It gave donations in the form of, for example, furniture, for the women coastal assembly. It also supported some families with food and recoup the fishermen for the shops they were prevented from working in.”
“Every five months the companies gather the men with the women but the promises they give us are just lies (power, water, schools). They are not honest.”
- Woman in Rudhum district, Shabwah
t the same time, community members in Rudhum district told us that land disputes with a gas company operating in the area were ongoing, and despite the extensive sustainable development program, the company’s actions were insufficient, especially in providing local jobs. There was a broad perception among residents interviewed in Rudhum that the corporations acting in their area were not sufficiently engaging with the local population, and often made promises that were not kept. As one woman in Rudhum district suggested, “Every five months the companies gather the men with the women but the promises they give us are just lies (power, water, schools). They are not honest.” In the words of another focus group participant in the district, “as for the gas company around fifty (50) meetings have been held, but they did not execute or achieve anything for us yet.” Others complained that aside from payments made directly to fishermen, compensation money (for land or pollution) given by the companies to the governorate never reached the residents.
In the absence of the rule of law and a functioning judicial system, many people rely on tribes, more specifically tribal leaders, to resolve conflict. In tribal communities in Yemen there are specific people who may interpret tribal customary law. This list may differ from community to community, but generally it is as follows:
Maragha – the highest of all who interpret tribal customary law. There are very few Maragha; in Jawf, respondents noted that there was one Maragha for the entire governorate.
Sheikhs – There are several levels of sheikhs, including senior sheikhs, some of whom have moved to the urban centres, and middle sheikhs. Sheikhs are the typical actors who interpret tribal customary law and make rulings. Sheikhs interpret the law either through experience or by inheriting the role from their father; people interviewed in the four governorates noted that sheikhs with vast experience in resolving conflicts were most respected and sought after as mediators. While disputes involving killing are usually dealt with by sheikhs only, less serious disputes may sometimes be dealt with by people at lower levels.
The third group who interpret tribal customary law are social activists in conflict resolution – community leaders who may or may not have the title of “sheikh”, but who know tribal law and are respected in their communities.
In some communities, such as Al Bayda, many people can interpret the tribal law themselves in informal situations, especially in regards to very minor disputes.
In some communities, such as Al-Jawf, sheikhs are still widely respected and their interpretations of the customary law generally go unchallenged. However, in some cases the long-standing respect for sheikhs is deteriorating. Reasons for this include the belief that sheikhs and senior tribal leaders exploit and maintain the revenge killing system in order to maintain control over the tribe. While many sheikhs are respected mediators, some sheikhs and tribal leaders may also intervene in conflicts for financial and political gain, including demanding large A’ddall (guarantee) payments in exchange for their mediation services. (Traditionally, A’ddall was returned to the tribes once a conflict was solved; now, many sheikhs are keeping the payments.) One respected leading Yemeni figure interviewed indicated that this is mainly a problem of power and control; tribal leaders’ and sheikhs’ “political and economic interests are very much connected to their ability to control the tribe.” As mentioned in the first section of this report, the patronage network, where sheikhs and some other senior community members are appointed to key positions, encourages partisan agendas and can lead some sheikhs to exploit revenge killings, as “the tribe will not remain under the full grip of the leaders unless it’s in conflict with another.” The patronage network has also encouraged many sheikhs to move from the tribal areas to urban areas, including the capital Sana’a. This has created a gap in leadership as senior sheikhs are no longer a daily presence in their communities.
Political parties also factor in to conflict resolution in Yemen. In Al-Jawf the opposition party Islah runs a conflict resolution committee that offers services to the community. However, the wider picture resulting from our research indicated that across Yemen political interference at the local council and parliamentary elections levels was a recurring cause of conflict in the community, and that political parties do little to solve conflict. Political parties have been known to exploit conflict over land and revenge killings for partisan agendas. In Mareb, Al-Jawf, and Al-Baidha competition over elections for local council seats has triggered some tribal conflicts.
In terms of conflict resolution, the Yemeni government sometimes gets involved only when two tribes are in open war, or when a conflict affects the safety of people or crucial infrastructure. In some cases a tribe may request government involvement, but in many cases requesting help from the government can be considered a shame.
The government is unable to enforce law in some areas. People are often discouraged from going to the government because of perceived corruption, nepotism, lack of integrity, inefficiency, and the length of judicial processes. The government has also been criticized for making payments to individuals who create conflict (spoilers) in an effort to convince them not to block roads or cause other trouble for corporations or development actors. As one participant in a women’s focus group in Al-Jawf noted, “The state is not executing its duties in protecting people.”
Most conflicts in the four governorates are between and among tribes and not with the government. However, when problems do occur with the government it is usually in relation to demands for services. Many participants reported that communities feel neglected and expect the government to provide services, when in fact the government does not appear to have the capacity to provide those services. When they are involved in development projects, they are often criticized for not consulting communities before and during project implementation. The government can also be suspicious of development activities in the governorates, although in other cases it is clear that the government prefers INGOs or arms-length national NGOs4 to implement development and conflict resolution programs because it is too political and risky for the ministries to engage in it. Some INGOs interviewed noted very positive changes in regards to the government’s attitude towards development.
Donors and the Development Community: The major donors for development projects in Yemen are the American, British, Dutch, Japanese and German governments and the European Commission. INGOs and NGOs operating in Yemen conduct development projects in the water, agriculture, health, education sectors.