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…