Monday, April 20, 2009

Yemen's Acute Predicament: Corruption

Abdulla Al-Baraddooni, a late famous literary personality, who was handicapped with blindness from the age of six years old, once said in the early 1990s, in 26 September, the mouthpiece of the Armed Forces in Yemen, that history will judge Yemen as hosting the "most corrupt regime in history" (For more on Baraddooni see this link: While this conclusion may be difficult to affirm, since only God can truly make such a precise adjudication, which includes, the past, present and future, as Baraddooni intended his conclusion to encompass. However, it is clear that as the days, weeks, months, years and decades proceed, we are slowly beginning to attest that the blind poet and observer of our political and literary world indeed had more vision and insight than most people with 10/10 vision. It is now so obvious that corruption has crept into every level of public service in Yemen. Even the outside world is beginning to detest such outright reliance on corruption, which Yemen has become characterized by, and through anyone who has arrived to any apparent semblance of political power or clout. With this in mind, there is a story that an old dear friend likes to often recite to give us some laughter and to soften our disgust at all the calamities one hears now – calamities that often accompany a government beset by chronic corruption. The story goes like this:
"Once upon a time, there was a king of some remote land, who married a beautiful lady, who had a somewhat imbecilic father. The father was not imbecilic enough to realize that he can certainly profit from this opportunity that came with this nuptial arrangement. A couple of years after the wedding, the King's father-in-law (FIL for short hereafter) began to notice how many of the senior officials at the top levels of authority were developing large estates and fortunes. He therefore whispered to the King: 'Your Majesty, why don't you assign me to a senior position, where I could be most helpful to you in running the affairs of state. Of course, the King saw in this an opportunity to have a laugh as well and assumed that this was one of the imbecilities of his father in law. Without any further ado, the King issued the Decree assigning his FIL as the Minister for Felus Catus Affairs . The FIL was not about to be outdone by this sarcasm of the King. Whenever the King was in public or at a meeting somewhere, he started to whisper jokes into the King's ear. The King was seen continuously laughing at the corny jokes of the King's FIL; without the King knowing this, eventually, this caught the eyes of many who wish to win the King's favor. They started to shower the FIL with gifts and money and within a very short while the FIL had amassed a great fortune, because everyone saw the FIL as the most influential person to the King. Wherever the FIL went people greeted him with generosity and humility, believing that if they ever wanted anything from the King, the FIL was the direct medium to go through.
Pretty soon the other government officials, who were once the King's closest advisors and functionaries, began to complain about how the King's FIL was reaping all the profits from their work. The King was not amused anymore by this affinity claimed by his FIL, and started to notice firsthand the many properties he has accumulated and to ask about the bank accounts the FIL had. He called his FIL and demanded an explanation. The FIL told the King: 'I never asked anyone to give me anything. Nor did I require any services from anyone. When the people saw how you were receiving me and acting so 'cozy' with me, whenever I told you a joke or two, they all rushed to send me gifts and gratuities. Most of these, I have no idea where they came from. When the King found that his FIL was telling the truth, he knew he was outdone by him and simply left him alone, but demanded that he should never come to whisper anything into his ears anymore. The King insisted that his FIL should start telling those tales he kept whispering to him to everyone and thus clear his stained record in the eyes of the disbelieving public. The FIL could not be pleased more by anything else. He did as the King ordered and went on to tell his stories to all those in attendance with the King. He only got to attract greater attention as the King had now allowed him to speak to all and as the King laughed so did everyone, even if only to please the King.
This only increased the wealth of the FIL; thus, he almost matched the King in material wealth. The King could not help but then appoint him as his Prime Minister as he continuously outwitted him and all the other officials. Hence, no one lived happily ever after, because the FIL never had any education to speak of and never had the faintest idea of what public service entailed. He always simply viewed it as the quick path to wealth and power."
For Yemen the rest is history, as only the insightful blind man once saw it, over a decade and a half ago, before it became ever so obvious to the entire world.

Friday, April 10, 2009

From Global Integrity Website: Journalists and Global Integrity

From link:
Hassan (Yemen) said...
I would think that GI should also encourage journalists to start working on systematic practical programs to combat corruptions in their countries.
This becomes more apparent when considering that the journalists may have contributed the crux of the material that went into the GI Annual Report, whether directly as researchers and note keepers or indirectly through the provision of a considerable amount of the sources relied upon by the GI researchers and reporters. Journalists tend to be the pioneers in exposing corruption in many societies, where corruption is rampant and often risk their lives, as the machinery of corruption is so well entrenched and empowered with the instruments of government at the full disposal (including unlimited and uncontrolled access to public funds, not to mention the control of the media, law enforcement and military apparatus of the government) of this machine of social destruction and its leading icons. In fact, in such societies, one would expect that civil society organizations, even if existing, are almost powerless and constrained severely from seeking to translate any drawn up agendas, which they may have in their planned activities against corruption, into physical actions that eventually lead to concrete results. The latter would be at the minimum manifested by the dismissal of known heretofore untouchable corrupt officials and more preferably the indictment and submission of the latter to the mercy of a liberated judiciary bound by a strict equitable due process in the execution of its mandate.
In addition, even civil society would have to rely on the support of the press to reveal and publicize their activities and to harness the essential public support that advocacy and watchdog civil society organizations need to achieve any measure of success in their pursuits for real and noticeable social and government reforms. This public support would be indispensible in any effort to challenge the entwined cobwebs of corruption, which have been built up over decades of encouraged misapplication of good governance systems (including lip service to demcoratic practices, the intentional objectives of which have been diverted beyond purposeful recognition) and non-transparent and uncontrolled misuse of public funds by careless and narrow-minded selfish public officials.
Fighting corruption, especially in most developing countries, would best be backed by a robust education process that impacts a sizable element of the citizenry. The components of this process could be, but not necessarily limited to: a) increasing grass roots public awareness of the elements of the social contract between government and the governed; b) the role of the public in directing the approaches to government and the mechanisms and resources available to the people, as individuals or as groups, in exercising this civil function; c) provision of easy access to the relevant laws regulating public service and a continuous campaign to instruct the public on the yardsticks for measuring and overseeing the performance of government officials; d) public awareness of the remedial actions open to the public, as civil society organizations individuals singly or organized as citizen's groups, to challenge any observed irresponsible actions by government officials, individually or collectively, regardless of their level of seniority and authority. Thus, the role of the journalist in this effort by GI to elaborate on the current activities beyond the research and reporting process needs to be reassessed and perhaps given further continuity by some measure of involvement in the follow up field activities that are geared to lead to additional practical ramifications in the fight against corruption, albeit through the GI generated tools.

April 3, 2009 4:07 PM


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Boring Arab Summits That Need a Big Bang!

It seems that Gaza is not on their minds:

By Hassan Al-Haifi
April 2, 2009

"We live in the great land of the Arab Nation" quipped Furdous to her father as he sat slurping his afternoon tea. He always had the bad habit of drinking the tea that spilt into the saucer of the cup. His logic for that was that it gave the remaining tea in the cup a chance to cool down to an agreeable temperature. This, Furdous simply could not stand, even if it was being done by her father: "Dad, if I told you a thousand times this must stop – once and for all!"
Her father also knew how to quip and beat around the bush: "What? Stop the Arab Summits! That would be unforgivable my Dear little flower! Where else would Yemen have a chance to throw around its barrage of initiatives for peace, unity, war, solidarity and the liberation of the imprisoned chimpanzees of the Sana'a Zoo from the dreadfully boring video speeches of Ayman Zawahiri and the infamous Osama Bin Laden!"
Furdous again felt her father was getting out of hand with good manners to speaking of the icons of Al-Qaeda like that: "You can't really be serious about mocking the Great Sheikhs of the Underground Salafi Genre like that. You know the whole world stops still in anticipation of the worst to come when any of these two has a word or two to state."
"Furdous, you know these two have not done anything that has advanced the cause of Islam or the Moslems of the world one bit. Personally, I think they are just puppets on strings being pulled by the Alliance of the Lowly of the Earth, who think that they can pull the legs of even the most educated people off the world, while these clowns speak with make up for the camera that would make Yves St. Laurent have a heart attack if he ever got a look at them on close up. Avon would have a profitable year if it could round up a good deal if only they could meet up with the studio that tapes these third class videos of the Dynamic Duo Bombardiers. Come on, Furdous, God forbid that any of my kids should ever find reason to admire these two clowns." The father was not beating around the bush about the kind of religious missionaries his kids should revere.
Furdous' elder brother, Zechariah walked in at the right time, as his sister heard the most surprising words that she never thought her father would say, considering how devout he was to the faith of Islam and how he always asked his kids to follow in the footsteps of those scholars that are in the limelight of the Islamic media: "Dad, you are hitting my sister at her weak nerve. She just enrolled to one of these Salafi Institutes, even after I have warned her that you would not be too happy about that".
"I say that this matter should be one of the highlighted topics of any summit held South and East of the Mediterranean Sea", The mother said this as she was bringing some cakes and cookies, desperately trying to lure her husband and kids away from the popular Qat Session conducted by their socialite neighbor, Member of Parliament and Paramount Chief of the Hoochi Koochi Tribal Confederation, as her husband likes to call him in jest. The latter barely made it through Intermediate School and his neighbors simply find his extravagance quite undeserved by any merits.
The brother had a comment about the summits: "I think that they should hold the Summit Meetings in the Comoros Islands. If all the people on the island are as articulate as the Sultan of the Islands is, we would have gone two-thirds of the way towards defeating Israel in the international media. Why he makes Osama and his Deputy seem like talking Barbie Dolls with a lot more resonance and power in the rhetoric. If you ask me, who are the most articulate speakers in the Arab World? I can tell you it is the Sultan of Comoros Island, Hassan Nasr-Allah of Hizb-Allah Dr. Bashar Al-Asad and the Yemeni Delegate to the Arab World, Mr. Abdul Malik Mansour, the Former Minister of Culture of Yemen. If you go back a little bit, while closing your eyes sometimes to the grammar, you might also add the First Vice President of the Republic of Yemen, Ali Salim Al-Beidh, not to mention the late Member of Parliament, Mr. Yousef Al-Shihary". I think that if a summit was held with just these people in attendance, they would come out with all the solutions that would enable the Arab Nation to confront all the perplexing issues faced by the people of this Holiest of all Holy Regions.
"I am sure that the latter would have no problems rejecting all the initiatives that do not have any real substance and would demand that anyone who suddenly walks away from any conferences will be forced to leave the place of the summit barefooted or with a shaven head and a return trip by camel" said Furdous.
The mother had the best suggestion: "Better yet, I would just put all the conference attendees on a spacecraft and send them off to Pluto to start looking for the Big Black Hole, which is said to be the origin of the Big Bang, out of which the Universe evolved. They might yet succeed there, since their mouths are big holes, which mostly breathe out a lot of hot gas any way, with or without initiatives".