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Société civile, associations et pouvoir local au Yémen

Sarah Ben Nefissa
Maggy Grabundzija
Jean Lambert


Civil Society, Citizenship and Local Authorities (abstract)

Mohammed al‑Mutawakkil

Entrées d'index

Keywords :

civil society

Texte intégral

1In the preamble, the author states (in the Conference) that the alliance of the opposition parties, those of ‘the Joint Meeting’ decided to present an independent candidate for the presidential elections in September 2006. This fact, in his opinion, is a turning point in the struggle for freedom, democracy, and a legal state in Yemen.

2According to him, the concept of civil society should integrate all non-commercial organizations, which democratically elect their leaders and authorized representatives. The organizations attain their objectives by peaceful means.

3The case of the tribe is a particular one: the tribe is a social institution established by a group of people who live in a well-defined geographic locality which enables them to mutually resolve their problems, especially those concerning their defense. According to its traditions, the tribe elects its leaders in a democratic manner. The members of the tribe refer mainly to their traditions and the principle of honor. On the other hand, it is not necessary that there be blood links within the tribe. In addition to this, the tribe does not have a particular religious doctrine: in the same tribe, there can coexist both Muslims and Jews.

4Therefore, the tribe is an integral part of a civil society. There is, however, a great difference between the tribe and the rest of the civil society: in order to carry out its objectives, the tribe can use weapon.

5The political figures and the intellectuals usually deny the positive aspects of the Yemeni tribe; nevertheless, the tribe played a dominating role in the society in the time of the weakness of the state, which allowed withstanding foreign invasion. The tribes protected the roads, the women, the pious, the craftsmen and the non-Muslim minorities. In certain regions, they still continue doing this.

6The experience of the South Yemen (with the re-emergence of tribal solidarity during and after the conflict of 1986), has clearly shown that one cannot easily reject a cultural fact of such antiquity. The problem is not in the tribe itself, for the tribe undergoes constant transformation according to different economic, cultural and social changes. On the other hand, there is a real social problem concerning the migration from the countryside.

7If the experience of the cooperatives of development had been successful in the 1970’s, the tribe would have been, doubtless, its main support. Unfortunately, this experience failed because the 4th Congress of the Cooperative Committees placed itself into the political dependence on Ibrāhīm al‑Hamdī, who had just been elected president of the Republic. In this way, the cooperative movement lost its independence.

8After the Reunification of Yemen, the authorities, because this was in their economic interests, left certain independence for the associations of development. On the other hand, the authorities provided for a strict control of the trade unions, neglecting their corporative raison d’être, as they considered them to be dangerous. The same control was established over certain political parties and too independently minded newspapers.

9The crucial question is the ways of financing the non-governmental organizations: the financial support from the state is always self-interested and influential; financing from the private sector is uncertain because it is afraid of displeasing the authorities; only foreign financing can presently help the civil society in Yemen, under certain conditions. A few difficulties to mention:

10In principle, the law does not allow financing non-governmental political organizations or political parties.

11The lack of coordination (between foreign non-governmental organizations and those in Yemen) often produces redundancy in certain fields. On the other hand, it can also lead to some fields being out of concern, whereas they should have had priority.

12The lack of transparency in the relations between local non-governmental organizations and foreign investors can make an impression of favoritism and corruption and this, in its turn, gives the authorities an opportunity to invalidate this external aid.

13It is necessary, therefore, to respect some conditions of coordination between the foreign non-governmental organizations and the local ones, of transparency and of precise evaluation. However, the Yemeni non-governmental organizations should organize themselves in order to obtain more autonomy.

14Why do we need a vibrant civil society in Yemen?

15We live in a poor country, without unbiased transparent state institutions. Moreover, the political structure is based upon military structures and, to a certain extent, upon the tribal structure. These structures do not have democratic culture, but the one of violence and coercion.

16For this reason, the civil society which we wish to build should represent the moral model of a modern state, unbiased and democratic. This is our final goal. The forces which can favor this change are an educated middle class who, along with enlightened religious figures could direct the population away from extremism and obscurantism (always used by the authorities on their behalf), together with businessmen of the private sector, who would conduct their activities within the limits of the law and loyal competition, far away from corruption and political clientelism.


Political Advisor, Professor at Sanaa University, Faculty or Political Sciences

© Centre français de recherche de la péninsule Arabique, 2008

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