Cleaning Day in Yemen as National Dialogue Preparation Continues
A government-sponsored cleaning day brought hundreds of thousands of Yemenis into the streets of Sana’a on Wednesday, one day after an intelligence officer was gunned down in the coastal city of Mukalla and battles over an oil pipeline claimed at least ten more lives. The cleaning initiative, dubbed “Yemen starts from here,” was organized by a youth group and supported by a concerted media campaign that included text messages and a catchy theme song. In a city that is suffering from increasing violence and insecurity, the day was generally hailed as a victory for civic values and civil society. Pictures from Sana’a showed thousands of residents sweeping streets and planting trees, but analyst Haykal Bafana viewed the event as a stunt meant to distract the population from corruption among the elite and underpaid street cleaners.
As President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi discussed final preparations for Yemen’s National Dialogue and Southerners prepared for an upcoming conference to discuss political unity, commentators sounded off on the difficult road ahead for the Dialogue and the country as a whole. Adam Baron noted the deep and lingering cleavages that divide the country, writing that the “post-Saleh government often appears to be at the mercy of various factions whose interests often seem to diverge from those of the nation as a whole. …Expectations are high, but a general sense of pessimism is widespread.” Farea al-Muslimi said that “the first few months of 2013 are crucial. If the National Dialogue Conference fails, the country will go from being a weak state to a failing one.” Peter Townson summarized Yemen’s polarized media landscape for the Doha Centre for Media Freedom, noting that the news from a new slate of satellite television channels with strong political or sectarian affiliations is “rarely balanced or based on anything more than opinion and rumour.” Writing in Al-Akhbar, Afrah Nasser said that the future is bleak for women in Yemen, epitomized by the courageous female activists who are ”deprived from decision-making power… [and] face an increase in aggression for their political stances.”