Being in the capital of a country on the verge of an all-out civil war is a strange experience.
The last 3 days in Sana’a, up to 20 protesters have been shot dead & many others injured while marching. Last night, 18 died & dozens were injured in artillery & rocket shelling during clashes between rival military units. But where I live, a bare 10km away in Hadda district, you cannot hear the gunfire. All the shops are open, kids go to schools & people go about their normal lives. In my garden, my kids still play “masak masak” with mud (& eat some of it when they think I’m not watching) while I still try to be a gardener. Life still seems insanely normal.
Once in a while, I hear a distant rumble, occasionally powerful enough to cause the walls of my house to vibrate. These rumbles of urban artillery in Sana’a remind me with a jolt that there is a war going on in Sana’a, and that the war is just on the other side of town.
Yemen is a living example of Mao’s theory that war is a natural extension of politics. For despite all the diplomatic hand-wringing at the United Nations & repeated calls for peaceful negotiations, the truth is that the Yemeni political crisis ended a while back, and in its place, a civil war is growing by stages.
Clashes between Yemeni soldiers loyal to President Saleh and renegade military units as well as tribal militiamen have been increasing in the last week, with many casualties on all sides. Weapons used are not just AK-47 assault rifles – 12.7 mm machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, mortars, air to ground missiles & even anti-aircraft guns are deployed, with devastating effect. In the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, opposing soldiers stand across the constantly shifting line which divides rebel-held & regime areas of the city.
The ruinous effect so far on the lives of ordinary Yemenis is manifold : a huge number of Yemenis have lost their jobs, while food prices keep spiraling upwards. Shortages of water, cooking gas, petrol & diesel and a completely capricious power grid which provides only 2 to 6 hours of electricity daily adds to the suffering of the average Yemeni. The crisis has spawned an economic catastrophe in Yemen which will take years to recover & rebuild.
But the economy is a dilemma to be addressed in a hazy future, presumably by the Pyrrhic victor of this conflict. Right now, Sanaa is busy with a civil war. And all of us are occupied in the hopelessly futile task of dodging rockets & artillery shells.
Haykal Bafana is a Hadhrami and a Yemeni and a citizen of Singapore. The Prophet Hud and his son Qahtan ais his ancestors, and he of the tribe of Nuwwah in Hadhramaut. Singapore, Hadhramaut & Yemen are all his homelands. His clan & tribe live in Yemen & Hadhramaut, in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Abu Dhabi, in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, and even in Kenya & Uganda. Visit his website here!