Jane Novak: revolutionary mechanisms in Yemen should begin locally

After three months of bloody protests, millions of Yemenis remain steadfast—and on the streets—throughout the nation. They want Saleh and his entire regime gone. In Sanaa, skirmishes have broken out between opposing tribes and military factions. President Saleh initiated the hostilities after locking down one set of mediators, including the US Ambassador, and shelling another. Saleh’s refusal to accept the golden parachute provided by the GCC is no surprise. He will fight to the bitter end and use any tactic necessary to remain in power. The protesters understood this from day one.

The Yemeni people will succeed in overthrowing Saleh. The day after Saleh, this generation of Yemeni revolutionaries must begin the arduous work of building the civil democratic Yemen of their demands. Once the revolution has succeeded, it must be protected. One way is to disperse power at the local level.

The following is a twelve month timetable for the period following the removal of President Saleh from power. This proposal aims at creating mechanism that fulfill the demands of the Yemeni revolutionary youth. This structural proposal is guided by the principle of equal rights for all Yemenis. The proposal assumes that the structure of the interim government must be built from the ground up with constant focus on the needs of individual Yemenis. The re-balancing of power that is required is not among various groups and power players, but between the people and all their institutions. Self-determination on the national level can only be accomplished by empowerment on the local level.

Community Organizing

The estimated cost of this Interim Transition Mechanism (ITM) over three years is $2.4 billion dollars, drawn from donor funds pledged at the 2006 donors’ conference. The ITM requires a nationwide biometric census. The census will be one stop procedure for families and individuals that includes issuing birth certificates, voter registration cards, school registration including adult literacy programs, and job applications. Perhaps the most essential requirement in post-revolutionary Yemen is credible elections. Early parliamentary and presidential elections must be built on accurate voter rolls. Equally important, President Saleh has sucked the nation dry and many citizens are on the verge of starvation. The census will also identify the most vulnerable Yemenis and urgent community needs.

The ITM requires Yemeni activists and residents to establish Community Centers (CC) in every district and village. The CC will also accept work applications from adult Yemenis, male and female, willing to reconstruct the nation at low pay following the disaster of Saleh’s tenure. The Community Centers will also process applications for micro loans and community grants.

Micro-loans are small loans to individuals to start their own businesses. Micro loans are the most practical way to kick-start the economy. Grants for community reconstruction should become available after local communities assess the most urgent needs in each village and district. Mass corruption is systemic at all levels of the Saleh administration and pervades the norms of business and civil society. Micro-reconstruction limits the potential of mass theft by disbursing donor funds in small increments. All community reconstruction projects must publish their budgets and maintain a high level of transparency. Thus the ITM also requires nationwide internet broadband service and standardized national accounting practices as well as a help center in each community.

The CC will establish Community Medical Centers (CMS) to assess immediate and long term medical needs. CMS will provide oversight on the distribution international medical aid and provide medical education programs. An emphasis will be placed on establishing clinics, dialysis centers and providing reproductive services. As a further check on corruption, a Community Media Center will be established to aid in the formation of news outlets for local and national news and independent broadcast ventures and newspapers.

Provincial and regional organization

The ITM places a moratorium on all political activity for three months, including the southern independence movement. The ITM is not an effort to undercut the Southern Movement or deny the legitimate right of southerners to seek independence. The ITM is a party-neutral, apolitical structure that seeks to provide basic services to all Yemenis before political activity resumes. The GPC will be disbanded for two years, after which it may reorganize. The JMP and other established parties may resume activity after three months; however, the development of new political parties is strongly encouraged, should be facilitated at the CCC and may begin immediately after Saleh’s departure. Female quotas are required for the first two election cycles.

Six months after Saleh’s departure, governors and local council elections will be held based on accurate voter rolls. Elections will operate on a proportional basis (the list system). The “winner takes all” or “first past the post” system discriminates heavily against small parties and independents and will be discarded. Judges and citizen-run School Boards will also be elected in each district at this time. Recall petitions for elected officials including judges can be filed by any citizen at the Community Center. Local elections will be held every two years to encourage representatives accountability to the communities they serve.

Governors will each nominate an individual of high integrity that will act in the national, not provincial, interest to form the Supreme Commission on Elections and Referendums (SCER) that will oversee parliamentary and presidential elections. Nominees can be rejected by 75% of the governors.

The elected local councils (LC) will partner with the Community Centers and Community Medical Centers. Local Councils administrative role will include oversight of the police, local finances and elections. Parliamentary and presidential elections will be held six month after local council elections, -ie, one year after the fall of Saleh and the GPC will be ineligible for the first election. A referendum on southern independence will be held at the same time, with the options of independence, unity or a vote again at the next election. The referendum will be part of every election until such time as 75% of southerners have reached a consensus.

Security and counter-terror

The Yemen Revolutionaries demand the “rebuilding of the National and Political Security apparatuses and the Intelligence Agency to merge all of them into a single national security apparatus.” Counter-terror concerns are a high priority of the international community. The US designated and then froze a multi-million dollar security package for Yemen. These funds should be released and directed toward the development of a new intelligence service, restructuring military and training local police.

The southern army shall be recalled under their existing rank to fill the counter-terror void in the interim period as well as aid in restructuring the Yemeni military services. The Retired Southern Military organization has Russian military training and is disconnected from the corrupt ventures of the current military including the trafficking of oil, persons and weapons. The RTM has demonstrated a greater respect for civil rights and civilian immunity than the existing security services. The RSM is also familiar with the terrain the al Qaeda is using to plan mass murder of civilians abroad. Abdelmalidk al Houthi is encouraged to designate liaisons, at a minimum, to the military and counter-terror units. The insertion of the RSM and the Houthi commanders will act as a double- check against al Qaeda penetration which is quite substantial in the existing forces.

Reconciliation

All tribal wars will be deemed to have an honorable resolution and will end. Tribesmen will endeavor to utilize the court system to resolve disputes. The ITM relies on tribesmen and all citizens to create Community Centers according to local norms and within national parameters.

Reconciliation between the GPC and the revolutionary youth is a high priority. While iit is important to establish a war crimes tribunal regarding crimes against Yemeni citizens, quick trials and death sentences should be avoided, except perhaps for those with the highest levels of guilt who may also be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Those tried and found guilty of low level corruption should perform community service instead of prison time.

Southern demands for equal rights, respect for southern identity and history, and a referendum shall be fulfilled. Southern independence representatives have a duty to their local constituents including non-supporters to place medical needs ahead of political demands in the interim period.

Special efforts will be made locally and nationally toward marginalized groups and vulnerable minorities such as the Akhdaam, Somalis, Bahais, Jews and Christians. With a foundation of equal rights for all Yemenis, the ITM requires equal protections for all races and religions without institutionalized or normative discrimination by the majority.

The Day after Saleh

The Yemeni Revolutionary Youth demand a nine person interim trustee council of virtuous persons to oversee the interim period until parliamentary and presidential elections are held. As the protesters state, major interest groups must sign off on the members, but the council should be apolitical and act in the best interest of the nation not individual groups or identity. Large constituencies of Yemenis are already organized through the JMP. National Dialog Committee, Southern Movement, Houthis and tribal coalitions. Each of these organizations is required to approve credible candidates within 48 hours of Saleh’s departure and to support, not undermine, the Interim National Council’s efforts.
The trustees will immediately establish nationwide standards and procedures for the Community Centers. Upon receipt of community assessments, trustees will designate areas of rehabilitation including health, electricity, economic development, civil rights and prisons. They will select the most qualified managers to oversee the work force identified through the applications received at the Community Centers during the census period. While different provinces and communities have varying needs, all procedures must be applied uniformly until such point that the Community Medical Center in Dhamar is identically equipped to that in Taiz, for example.

The National Trustees will organize and oversee many important tasks like an audit of the government budget. A review of the constitution should be performed to identify and suspend discriminatory and dangerous articles, like those pertaining to the media, but constitutional revisions should be undertaken by a duly elected parliament. However, the primary function of the National Trustees should be to retain focus on building and empowering bureaucratic, administrative and representative structures at the most local level. This work cannot be done without the participation of millions of Yemenis. And it is this participation precisely that will prevent a new tyranny from emerging in Yemen.

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