It definitely felt like the end of an era. Wednesday 25th September 2013 saw the last public meeting by Chatham House’s Yemen Forum. Held in the form of a workshop, it saw all the glitterati of Chatham House with special guests such as the governor of Taiz, Mr Showki Ahmed Hayel Saeed, his Excellency the Ambassador of Yemen, Abdullah al Radhi, Sheikh Mohammed Abulahoum via phonelink from Yemen, Sama’a al Hamdani of Yemeniaty, and Nabeel Khoury former US representative in Yemen. There were obviously quite a few more whom I haven’t named.
Ginny Hill, who set up the forum and has managed it so well, presented a piece and we hear that her book will be out in the next couple of months. Good luck to her with that and I look forward to getting my copy when it comes out. Maybe there’ll be a launch and book signing evening for her …
Sheikh Aboulahoum was remarkable for being so upbeat – inspiringly positive about the future “the ceiling is much higher”, “Yemenis expectations are much higher”, “Yemenis will never go back to their old way of thinking”. Such utterings were so positive as were those of Governor Showki who explained how over the past 30 or so years, businesses have faced enormous uphill struggles just to do business. They can’t take anything for granted such as the availability of water and electricity to power their factories and safe highways on which to transport their goods to their customers in other towns. “What does the local government do? Nothing. But that doesn’t stop them from demanding taxes from local businesses. What for? What services have they provided to justify this?” Although he said he felt he could do more good as a businessman than a politician, I’m sure that he will leave something of a legacy from his period as a governor as he understands the problems so well and at first hand.
The report itself was actually quite gloomy “Yemen and the Flight of Capital” but I have to confess that it’s difficult to write about Yemen without feeling a little glum. Only time will tell if the optimists were right to be upbeat about the future of our country or not.