Saturday, September 1, 2012

On Ancient Grounds : My Visit Home in Pictures

The iconic Dar Al Hajar

Dar Al Hajar - Famous as the residence of the Imam Yahya

Dar Al Hajar

The Yemen Flag at a Military Checkpoint on the way to Wadi Dahr

Children at Souq Al Melh in Old Sanaa

Old Sanaa

A busy time two days before Eid at Bab Al Yemen

Grapes from our land in Bani Hushaish.  Yemen's agricultural advantage is being wiped out by the growth of Qat replacing crops that can make Yemen the Fruit Basket of the region

A tree over 50 years old still providing the most delicious grapes

Yemen's forgotten children - a young girl from Al Rawda area which is one of the poorest areas in Sanaa 

Yemen's forgotten Children - These children live in a state which is alarmingly below the poverty line. Their tales of hunger and struggle brought sadness to my heart

A peak through a window on the 3rd floor of Dar Al Hajar

Souq Al Melh is famous for its Sliver and Jewelry 

A man witha cheek full of Qat selling 3aseebs / Jambiyas in Souq Al Melh

Fabrics Market deep into the Souq's alleys

Friday, August 3, 2012

Playground Politics: A Brief Look at the Syrian Conflict

The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s resignation from his post as special envoy to Syria confirmed what everyone in the political arena was thinking but didn’t want to say: the situation in Syria is beyond help.
Mr. Annan finally realized that he (like the United Nations) is as influential in world affairs as a fly trying to blow out a candle. With the UN peacekeepers’ role being reduced to on-the-ground reporters, there was nothing left for Annan to do but step down and admit that without a unified decision of all the permanent members of the Security Council, the situation in Syria will continue to be a stalemate.
But if we stop talking in the tone of politicians for a second and look at what is really happening on the ground, we’d realize that this little chess game between East and West has allowed and justified yet another act of institutionalized, state-mandated genocide. This edition’s dictator: Bashar Al Assad. The victims: the Syrian people.
And while we are used to seeing the number of casualties scroll through the news reels on our TV screens, it’s worth it to stop and think of the millions that have been displaced, the 15,000+ innocent civilians that have been killed, not to mention the 65,000 missing and the 212,000 incarcerated.
Why is the world standing by while all this is happening? Well, let’s go back to the tone of politics as it is the only way one can get through explaining a human tragedy through a dispassionate analysis of governance in practice.
As always, it boils down to super powers using the Third World as their battleground for power, control, access and superiority. With Russia and China getting the short end of the straw with the regime changes in Iraq and Libya, they simply cannot accept any further losses or cancelled contracts of arms and oil deals in this region. They will do whatever is possible to retain their economic, military and political stronghold in Syria and Iran. On the other side, we have the United States and Israel with their European cheerleaders (the UK, France, Germany, and for some reason Portugal) all fixated on installing another friendly regime to control Iranian activity, secure Israel’s safety, and profit off the unlimited resources the region hides below its soil.
And while both sides continue flirting with each other through threats of economic sanctions and calls for renewal of the UN Peacekeeper missions, a deadly ground battle is unfolding and edging closer to the Syrian regime’s strongholds, Aleppo and the capital Damascus.
The Syrian Freedom Fighters’ recent successes may soon put President/War Criminal Bashar Al Assad in a very peculiar situation. Should Aleppo fall to the rebels and the battle of Damascus commence, Assad will be put between a rock and a hard place. His two options would be to 1) use the familiar tactic of heavy bombing, shelling and airborne strikes or 2) engage in an all out street war.
As effective as the first option could be in denying the rebels, the disadvantages would be the inevitable large count of innocent human casualties which may increase the risk of defections from the military and economic collapse.
As for the second option, Al Assad should be prepared for a long and deadly fight that may drag on for a long time, time he simply doesn’t have, not to mention the costs and potentially large body count of the thousands of mercenaries he may have to rely on.
A sane person may present a third option to Assad: Step down and let the people live. But as we have learned through time and history, in politics, sanity is a relative term in a world of mad men.

Mohammed Khamis

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Monday, April 30, 2012

The Last Stretch with an Etch-A-Sketch: Why Obama will Crush Romney in the Fall Elections !

As we wind down through the last stretch of a long and boring Republican Primary race, we are slowly reaching the same conclusions that were predicted at the onset: 1) The Republicans will nominate someone with less substance than a strawberry milkshake, 2) Mitt Romney will be that nominee, and 3) Ron Paul will always be ignored by the main stream media.

These conclusions were all but confirmed after Rick Santorum dropped out of the race earlier this month, leaving Romney with a very easy path to clinch the nomination and focus on defeating Barack Obama in the November General Election.

And whilst presidential, senatorial, congressional and gubernatorial election campaigns are usually a source of comedy and entertainment for me, I am afraid (and I hope I’m wrong) this particular contest is promising to be a very predictable and uneventful one.

If we compare the sitting President with his likely opponent, we will find that President Obama would win hands down in all categories:

Charisma and appeal:

Let’s begin with the obvious: Romney has none. Despite over twenty primary debates and countless stump speeches, town hall meetings and television appearances, Willard Mitt Romney still looks and talks like an awkward aristocratic robot who is desperately trying to pose as the average Joe. With a painfully uncomfortable hey-look-I’m-an-average-guy moment after a hey-look-I’m-an-average-guy moment, Romney is comically failing.

The most comical failure to date was when Romney attended the Daytona 500 NASCAR race in February, an event which was most likely organized by his campaign staff specifically as a photo-op to exhibit their candidate as “a regular American” attending one of the country’s traditional sporting events. But when asked by an AP reporter if he follows NASCAR, Romney replied, “Not as closely as some of the most ardent fans. But I have some great friends who are NASCAR team owners.” A simple answer through which Romney has successfully alienated the middle class, lower class and every other class that has never seen the inside of a corporate board room.

And whilst I would like to compare this with Obama’s charisma and appeal, I believe the video below would sum it up better.

Consistency (Flip Flopping with an Etch-A-Sketch):

On a CNN interview last month, Eric Ferhnstrom (Romney’s Senior Advisor) was asked whether Romney has alienated moderate voters by competing with Gingrich and Santorum for the Republican base. His answer:

“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again”

This unfortunate analogy almost confirmed what every voter felt about Mitt Romney: the man simply has no ideological convictions.

With a history of flip-flopping like a gold fish out of its tank, Romney seems to have many masks and is willing to wear whichever one best suits the costume party he is attending.

Romney is both a Conservative and a Moderate. Unlike Gingrich and Santorum, who operate on a more traditional and consistent political dial, you are never certain which version of Mitt Romney will turn up on any given day. What comes out of Romney’s mouth can never be expressed in terms of certainty. His views right now are never certain to be his views at a future point in time.

And while President Obama has little to no political baggage and closeted skeletons due to his relatively young political life, it would very easy for Obama to go fishing in Romney’s lake and bring out as many flip-flopping fishes as possible during the presidential debates.

After all, Obama would only have to answer to his actions during his last four years as President, and judging by the campaign ad below, it seems he is prepared:


Most candidates running for anything, be it a student council election or a nationwide campaign, follow the simple law of Cause and Effect when it comes to electability. Usually the candidate’s views, accomplishments, and campaigns would cause getting more votes. The effect of getting these votes is being considered the most electable.

Romney, however, has shockingly been able to reverse this law by being the last and reluctantly the only choice for the Republican Party. This is the cause of him being the most electable and resulting in the effect of him getting the votes.

For Barack Obama, the campaign trail is where he shines. Some say that in 2008, Obama “campaigned with poetry, and governed with prose.” Had he actually governed with the same poetry he ran with, he may have very well had his face engraved on Mount Rushmore by now. That being said, it is no secret that Obama’s war chest of campaign finances, coupled with the presidential seal on his podiums and his charisma as the icing will result in one of the most decisive presidential campaign wins in recent history. One hopes, however, that it is not so decisive that it resembles a fixed election in a third world country.

But as they say in politics, scandals to politicians are the same as the iceberg to the Titanic: it can sink the unsinkable.

If I was Romney, I would start looking for an iceberg very soon…


Mohamed Khamis

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Saleh, One last Dance for a Power Hungry Egomaniac

He terrorized. He stole. He murdered. Then he got a deal that simply stated, “All is forgiven, keep your money, worry not about prosecution and lead a trouble-free life as long as you step down and let your country be.”

After ruling Yemen for 33 years, Ali Abdulla Saleh, like his fellow Arab dictators, faced an uprising from a nation that simply had enough, and while he saw Tunisia chase away their leader like a rabid dog, Egypt imprisoning theirs in a little box, and Libya slaughtering one of the most loony personalities of the century, it would have been normal for Saleh to believe that he was going meet a similar fate and that he should look for a plan to escape with the least damage.

What followed shocked the Arab World but was accepted as the best possible solution for Yemen: the political angels, in the form of six GCC Foreign Affairs Ministers, descended from the skies and handed Saleh a gift that criminals fantasize about in their jail cells, The GCC Agreement.

One would think that Yemen’s ex-president would be currently relaxing in a luxury yacht drinking a nice fruit cocktail somewhere off a tropical island wondering how he was able to stage the world’s biggest escape and go unpunished despite the guilty verdict handed to him by over 25 million people. A unique escape that is unprecedented for any dictator since the beginning of mankind.

But, boy, were we wrong…

Famously describing his 33-year reign as “dancing on the heads of snakes,” Saleh is shockingly still in Yemen facing the music for what could be his last dance.

One month after officially handing power to his deputy Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi through last month’s elections, Saleh seems to be showing withdrawal symptoms similar to those of a drug addict. So, today, we’ll explore each of these emotional withdrawal symptoms and validate them with Saleh’s actions ever since he ran out of his favorite drug: Power.

1) Anxiety and Restlessness:

Since losing the title of President, Saleh assumed the role of leader of his political party, the General People’s Congress Party (Al Motamar), a position that has been attributed to the President of the country for the last three decades. In doing so, Saleh is not only undermining the legitimacy of President Hadi, but is clearly sending a signal that he will not exit the political arena and will continue meddling in the affairs of the country.

On the 10th of March 2012, Saleh gathered a handful of his remaining supporters at the infamous self-named Saleh Mosque and gave a speech against the revolution, branding it a conspiracy against him, in addition to launching a scathing attack against Qatar, which has been a key player in brokering the GCC Agreement.

It was evident, however, that Saleh (a sucker for media attention), wasn’t his usual charismatic self. His sentences in some occasions were incomplete, his voice fading and shaky, his posture nervous and his inability to say three consecutive words without stopping for breath resulted in awkward silences filled with sporadic applause.

2) Volatile Mood Swings and Denial:

Reports surfaced in the BBC a few days ago that Saleh had ordered President Hadi to arrest the country’s Prime Minister, Mohammad Salem Basendowa, for referring to him as an “elderly man” and accusing his supporters of causing last year’s unfortunate Karama Massacre. President Hadi was most certainly not going to entertain the orders of a nuisance, who may very well be suffering of old age, by thinking that he could order a sitting president to take such absurd actions.

This was followed by Saleh ordering government Ministers (loyal to his party) to boycott a weekly cabinet meeting convened by Basendowa. This included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Information and National Security.

President Hadi swiftly intervened to ensure that all members of the cabinet were present and the meeting went ahead as scheduled.

3) Hallucinations and Suicidal Thoughts:

It really does seem that Saleh, who is a self-branded master in political chess, still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that he has nothing but a few pawns left on his side of the table, and no longer has a place in the governing mechanism in Yemen (despite the fact that many of his relatives still temporarily control high military positions).

In the parallel universe his mind is living in, Saleh still truly believes that he is the supreme leader of Yemen, a hallucination that is not only disrupting the reconstruction of the country but also risks undoing all of the achievements of the revolution.

For one, his presence in the country could all but kill any chances of unity between the north and the south, the latter of which will not be convinced of Hadi’s intentions towards their inclusion in the governing system as long as Saleh is freely coming in and out of the presidential palace, not to mention delaying the reconstruction of the armed forces.

But most importantly, Saleh’s current position as the party leader raises the most critical question: Is Saleh trying to pave the way to return to power?

If so, then he is definitely suicidal!

If Saleh has any fantasies of implementing a Putinesque plan to return to power, then he is undoubtedly throwing away any guarantees for his safety. The GCC Agreement which granted him protection is only valid for crimes committed in the past. Any actions Saleh takes to inflate the threat of Al Qaeda, or cause tribal disputes, or even attempt to cause the disunity or failure of the existing government through his Ministers, will make the immunity he currently holds null and void.

This would naturally open the floodgates for those who want justice against him and would figuratively  result in the upgrading of Mubarak’s hospital bed to a queen size mattress just to make sure it’s cozy for the two of them as they face concurrent trials.

This man’s ego may have propelled him to the top, but it seems like his gift is also a curse as it is preventing him from walking away with a deal of a lifetime or at least being domesticated into a regular citizen.

And so fades the music of the snake charmers, and the dancing comes to an end…

Mohammed Khamis

Saturday, March 17, 2012

DeQatifying a Nation: A Ten Step Program for a Qat Free Yemen

A lot of controversy surrounded last week’s episode of the popular and controversial Al Jazeera talk show “The Opposite Direction المعاكس الاتجاه” which focused on the Yemeni Revolution.

Social networks were flooding with angry comments and demands for a public apology from the show’s host, Dr. Faisal al Qassem, who frustratingly described Yemen as a “drunk nation,” when he said to one of his guests:

“How do you expect your nation to rise when your people are drunk [drugged] 24 hours a day [on Qat]?”

The anger on Twitter and Facebook wasn’t just restricted to Dr. Al Qassem but was also directed at Dubai Police Chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim who criticized the Yemenis in his speech at the GCC National and Regional Security Conference in Bahrain in late January 2012, when he said:

If you go to Yemen during work hours, you will see that the people do not work… As long as they use Qat, Yemen will continue to be a burden on the Gulf States. Do not give them aid, unless they declare a revolution against Qat. Otherwise, our money will be going down the drain.”

After watching the video clips, I found myself embarrassed but not the least bit offended by the comments because they were, very simply, true.

While some might argue that better words may have been used by Dr. AlQassem in conveying his frustration, the essence of the message he was trying to get across pretty much flew over the heads of a majority of Yemenis, who took this as a personal attack on their identity and heritage.

The core of the message is simple: Qat is a national plague, chewing away at Yemen’s limited resources and causing alarming regression and systematic disintegration of the economy – not to mention the average citizen’s declining productivity, mentality, and work ethic.

Qat and Yemen’s Water Supply:

According to a report released by McKinsey & Company, an international management consulting firm, it is estimated that the capital city Sana’a will run out of water by 2025. It is also estimated that Yemen as a country could be the very first in the world to run out of water in 15-50 years as water consumption is four times the amount of water being fed back into the country’s aquifers. Currently, tap water is supplied to homes only once every four days in Sana’a and once every 20 days in cities like Taiz.

So where is our limited water going? It is estimated that over 40% of Yemen’s water supply is going towards the irrigation of Qat, a shocking figure which is, believe it or not, a conservative one.

Qat as an Economy and Social Practice:

Chewing Qat, due to its social participatory structure, has created a multimillion riyal economy of its own. The prices of Qat tend to increase during the winter, when the cold weather destroys many crops, and decreases during the summer. It is not unusual to find a case whereby a citizen, living on less than the equivalent of $3 a day, is spending the majority of his income on Qat for himself and for his nine children, instead of food, education, etc.

Qat has become an integral part of the Yemeni culture and identity, consumed daily in social gatherings, weddings and funerals by the majority of the country. Due to the long hours spent chewing, most Yemenis spend the majority of their day being unproductive in social gatherings, while Qat chews away at their mentalities leaf by leaf.

A common excuse you hear from Yemenis is, “Every country needs a drug. At least we are not all Hashish addicts,” a premise I totally reject. This sounds like what an alcoholic, yet to admit they have an addiction, would say, and is evidenced by a decaying mentality represented by pouches the size of tennis balls resting in the cheeks of Yemeni citizens.

The Health Risks:

Consuming Qat causes mild euphoria, an effect which is similar to that of having a few cups of coffee preceded by a sense of relaxation.  Studies have shown that whilst being a relatively mild drug, less harmful and addictive than tobacco and alcohol, Qat can cause many diseases in the long term including gum and stomach cancer, liver disease, diabetes, urinary tract infections, etc. Yet many Yemeni don’t believe that Qat has any effect on their health.

The Solution - 10 Steps for Gradual Eradication:

Eradicating Qat is necessary, but it’s certainly not going to be an easy job. Therefore, it is natural to say that eradicating Qat will have to be done in a gradual manner rather than an immediate “prohibition era” style discontinuation. So here are the key steps I believe should be undertaken in the short- to medium-timeframe to gradually rid our country of this terrible poison:

1. Introducing high taxes on the farmers growing Qat as well as distributors of Qat. This would cause an immediate rise in the prices making it less affordable.

2. Introducing financial incentives for farmers growing non-Qat crops such as fruits and vegetables, including easy long-term loan facilities (interest free of course).

3. Collaborative campaigns lead by the Ministries of Agriculture, Trade & Manufacturing to provide government-sponsored farming equipment and aid to farmers growing non-Qat crops.

4. Establishing quasi-governmental and private institutions mandated with marketing Yemeni fruits and vegetables in local and foreign markets, boosting Yemen’s agricultural exports.

5. Creating new local and foreign markets for Yemeni harvests through inter-governmental trade agreements. The perfect clients would be the GCC countries and the rest of the Arab world. This is a guaranteed way to increase profitability and create jobs. It also doesn’t hurt that many GCC countries have already expressed their interest in creating such markets as well as assisting in combating Qat.

6. An immediate ban on the sale of Qat within all the major cities in Yemen, restricting the sale of Qat to designated markets situated on the outskirts of the cities. This should be coupled with hefty fines for anyone selling Qat outside the designated areas or to anyone under the age of 18.

7. Enforcing strict working hours in government and private institutions (8 am to 3 pm). This would not allow the average employee enough time to travel to the outskirts of the city to purchase Qat and be home for lunch and prayers. Consequently, the consumption of Qat will be postponed to the weekends.

8. Providing social alternatives to Qat. This requires investments in sports centers, youth centers, cultural programs, extracurricular activities and campaigns, etc.

 9. Aggressive nationwide media awareness campaigns highlighting the health effects of Qat. This should run parallel to intensive awareness programs embedded in school and university curriculums.

 10.Banning the consumption of Qat in all civil, military and governmental institutions, clinics, hospitals, airports, private companies and public areas with hefty fines for non-compliance enforced by a dedicated task force.

These steps will undoubtedly face a lot of resistance and rejection, as they demand a cultural and societal change. However, it is important for us Yemenis to realize that unless the population goes into collective rehab using the above steps as their guidelines, we risk undoing all the achievements we have gained through our most recent revolution.

If the last year has proved anything, it’s that the youth of our country are capable of fighting through social norms and habits to demand and achieve change. We need a fresh revolution on Qat and for the first time in decades, we have the soldiers to implement it.

Let’s get to work…


Mohammed Khamis

Friday, March 9, 2012

KONY 2012, Shining a Light on the Invisible Children...Redefining Fame!

In the past few days I have become quite fascinated by the various responses flooding into the online community on the Kony 2012 video, which has gone viral with over 55 million YouTube views in less than four days.

The video has definitely tugged on the heartstrings of many people who instantly and full heartedly joined the #stopkony movement. Others have questioned the validity of the argument made by the Invisible Children Organization, claiming that by stopping Joseph Kony, the problem in Uganda would not be solved as this is a much bigger problem that requires intervention at much larger scales, including the restructuring of Governance systems in the affected African Nations.

Now I’m not nearly informed enough on the topic at hand to weigh in with an opinion on the solutions to the Human Rights tragedy taking place in Africa. I did however find myself stunned by the method in which a simple 30 minute video not only put a serious issue under the microscope on a global scale, but has used an auto-recruitment mechanism to increase the support base by millions of people from all around the world, who would normally not be the least bit interested … That’s genius!

What I found most interesting however, is how this 30 minute video might completely revolutionize how we look at the concept of fame and celebrities forever.
As we look back through history for “famous” criminals, we would be able to establish that there are three types of criminals: those who wanted to be famous, those who didn’t but were made famous, and those who wanted to be anonymously famous.
Those who wanted to be famous did so with various motives. For instance, there are those who chased fame to feed their own egos (much in the same way the Kardashian sisters have), like the Kray twins who even gave TV interviews. Then there are those who wanted to be famous to encourage people to join their cause, in the same way Charles Manson notoriously did with his cult, or even Hitler with the Nazis, (or Robin Hood, if you want to consider fictional characters).
The next type of criminals are those who did not intend to become famous, but were forced to by either getting captured or simply to make an example of them. This includes many war criminals such as Slobodan Milosevic, serial killers like BTK Dennis Rader and the Son of Sam, and even convicted celebrities like OJ Simpson, all of whom were publicly tried and convicted.
Which brings me to the third category of criminals: those who wanted to remain anonymously famous. That might seem like an oxymoron, but most serial killers had wanted this kind of fame rather than the one discussed above. They wanted to remain hidden from the law, whilst gaining respect or admiration for their work.  A good example of this kind of criminal is the Zodiac Killer, who succeeded in remaining anonymous to this day, or, to go back further in history, Jack the Ripper. These serial killers taunted the police and the public by sending letters to the newspapers claiming ownership of their crimes, signing the letters with their public nicknames.
You may be shocked to discover that many of these criminals, to this day, have significantly large fan bases comprised of normal citizens like me and you. But never do we find people driving around with Al Capone bumper stickers on their cars or John Gotti posters in their office cubicles.
People have instead opted for the safer option of expressing their admiration for fictional criminals like Tony Montana or Vito Corleone, where they can direct their admiration towards the actor or the movie rather than the values and beliefs of these fictional characters.
Which brings me back to the Kony 2012 campaign, where the general public for the first time is being asked to publicize a war criminal in the same fashion a presidential candidate would run for office, or a movie actor would promote his latest flick. For the very first time, it is socially acceptable for you to place a “Kony 2012” bumper sticker right next to your “Obama 2012” sticker, yet they would both represent completely different types of support.   
As a Yemeni, I wonder how effective this revolutionary method would be in raising awareness on key issues which aren’t getting the necessary attention nor is action being taken to resolve them, for example, the Qat problem, or the high child mortality rates in the rural areas, or the absence of access to clean water.
Would we be able to take the faces of the biggest Qat dealers in Yemen and make them celebrities in Yemen in the same way Kony has become famous around the world? Would this help in eradicating Qat from our country?
Please let me know what you think and leave a comment below.

Mohammed Khamis

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

7 Eleven: Seven Steps for the New Yemen President to Set Up Shop in the Next 11 Months

As Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi settles in and measures for new curtains at the presidential palace, a lot is expected of Yemen’s new president.  For one, he is under immense pressure to prove how different he can be from his predecessor. But with the size of the daunting task facing our new leader, he is most likely suffering from the classic dilemma of “Where do I start first?”

Well, today, I’ll be giving free-of-charge advice to our new president as I summarize 7 not-so-simple steps that President Hadi should undertake in the next 11 months, just in time for his first anniversary as Yemen’s new leader (no one said this would be easy):

1) The Party is Over !

 To send a real symbolic signal to the Yemeni people that he truly represents the youth’s demand for change, President Hadi has to immediately end his affiliation to the General People’s Congress Party (Al Motamar). This would be the first step in shaping his image as a credible and independent leader who is willing to serve the country as a whole and to engage all sides of the political spectrum in a healthy and constructive debate.

2) Point the Guns in the Right Direction

National Security without a doubt should be on the top of President Hadi’s agenda, as this would be the deciding and most crucial factor in his success/failure..

The first step to be undertaken is to commence genuine and material restructuring of Yemen’s armed forces. And yes, this does mean ensuring that all the figureheads of the previous regime (and most importantly Saleh’s son, Ali Mohsen & Co) are axed from their long held jobs as top commanders in the Yemeni Army. They should be replaced with new blood representing all of Yemen’s military ranks and regions. The spirit of inclusion is essential in the redefinition of the military institution as a national establishment, not a family business.

3) When You Can’t Compromise…Federalize!

One of the key threats to Yemen’s and the region’s stability at the moment is the unrest in the north Sa’ada province, caused by the Houthis as well as the growing separatist movement in the south.

President Hadi’s best strategy when it comes to the Houthis is to enter into dialogue to clearly understand their basic demands, and needs. He should offer them freedom to practice their religious beliefs, freedom to build their own mosques, a road map to minor political representation with very stern caveats and conditions…all in return for immediate ceasefire, and an end to all acts of violence and destruction. Once the Houthis feel they are getting a piece of the pie, they will in my opinion reintegrate into the Yemeni population.

As for the southern separatists, the answer should be simple: federalize! He should offer the south adequate representation in the governmental and political arena, a permanent seat at the negotiation table and a true role in the formation of national policies. The best way to do this is through redistricting Yemen into a group of partially self-governing states united under a federal government. The redistricting however cannot be categorized as North vs. South as this would be the first step towards separation. Yemen should be districted into 6 to 7 regions, each with their representatives and a guaranteed number of seats at the parliamentary, legislative and judicial branches.

4) Vice Versa:

Many have speculated and debated who Hadi should appoint as his Vice President. Should it be an old timer? A fresh face?  Young  or old? Motamar or Islah affiliated? A Northerner or a Southerner?

Appointing a Vice President is a constitutional requirement, but nowhere does it say that the President cannot appoint TWO Vice- Presidents. Yes, I know it sounds a little strange, but if we think about it… two patriotic, experienced Vice Presidents representing both sides of the regional coin? Sounds like a treat! Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce my nominees…

Vice President #1 – Dr. Abdul Karim Al Iryani: A patriot, a veteran, with a PHD from Yale University, a former Prime Minister and a well-credentialed and respected figure both locally and internationally. He was a key architect in the brokering of the end to Saleh’s Regime.

Vice President #2 – Yasin Saeed Noman: Also a Patriot, a veteran, and former Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Yemen prior to the unification, and a man who has the means to bring all the factions of Yemen to the table including the youth, southern Hirak, Huthies, the Liberal cluster, the Sons of Yemen League and the Justice bloc.

5) Power to the People (Water Too Please):

As shocking as this may sound, there is a large group of people in the capital Sanaa who didn’t hear about President Saleh stepping down until a few hours after the rest of the world got the news. Reason? They were in the dark with no light or electricity!

 In an age where mankind is competing to find faster ways of commuting and communicating, better ways to obtain knowledge and self advancement, the average Yemeni is still gleaming with happiness whenever the power comes back on and is blindly reaching for candles when it goes off.

President Hadi has what we call in the consulting business a “Quick Win.” Restoring the power grid of Yemen and the water supply will rapidly increase his job approval rates and popularity with the Yemeni people as this would be considered the essence of “change” in the average Yemeni citizen’s life in the short-term.

6) Shoot the Messengers:

The penultimate point on President Hadi’s checklist is focused on one particular Ministry within the government. The ministry which shapes our image to the rest of the world.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To date, this crucial Ministry is marred with corruption, preferential treatment (wasta) and is robbing qualified patriots from the opportunity to represent their country in the international arena.

It is unfortunate to see that the Ministry has become a playground for the ex-President’s friends and family to obtain extended vacations around the world by being appointed as Ambassadors, Consul Generals and Attaches in Yemen’s embassies. Something like a time-share club, you might say. Whilst hard working, qualified, true diplomats are stuck in the Ministry in Yemen obtaining wages equivalent to that of a bus driver in Dubai.

President Hadi’s immediate action plans should be nothing short of a complete cleanout of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as per the steps below:

·   All personnel appointed from outside the Ministry’s ranks (special appointments) should be recalled from all corners of the earth and resigned.

·   All Ambassadors and Counsel Generals who have been promoted to their positions without fulfilling the minimum requirements (due to wasta) shall be recalled and replaced with better-qualified personnel.

·   A Whistle Blowing Committee should be established to lead investigations into all cases of corruption and embezzlement of embassy funds around the world and the verdicts should be handed out to the full extent of the law.

·   A complete restructuring should take place into the manpower planning of the Ministry and the appointment, compensation & rotation process based on equal opportunity and credentials.

·   Plans and targets should be handed out to all appointed diplomats with clear expectations and requirements including the acquisition of projects and investments to Yemen from our allies.

 7) You Owe Me Some Flowers Mister

The last and final item on the presidential checklist is a somewhat delightful one. Now that we have an independent President, a restructured army, a unified federal system, two competent Vice Presidents, water and electricity and adequate representation around the world… How about a cosmetic makeover?

Yemen’s appearance over the last few years has become a sorry sight to see. Garbage is scattered, military check points equally dispersed, buildings destroyed, streets damaged and traffic lights non-functioning. An appearance which tells the story of what the country has gone through.

Now that we are in the New Yemen, we need the country to look like it!

 President Hadi should invest in a large scale beautification project where the streets are cleaned and restored, trees and flowers are planted and large scale renovation projects are undertaken in all of the country’s major cities.

And that wraps up the Presidential Checklist. That’s All, Folks!

Hope you enjoyed the read and I’ll be looking forward to hearing your comments…

Mohammed Khamis