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Tribal leaders call on all Yemenis to end fighting

Published on Monday, 3 January 2022

CMI – Martti Ahtisaari Peace Foundation and Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies hosted a forum on 5-6 December 2021 in Amman, Jordan, to further explore the role of tribes in peacemaking in Yemen. The group of participants comprised 43 tribal leaders and influential women from tribal communities. The tribal leaders agreed on a joint statement calling all parties to end violence and commit to restarting the peaceful political process.

Tribal leaders ratifying the joint statement together with Farae Al-Muslimi, co-founder of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. Photo: Maria Santto / CMI

Tribes have historically played an important role in peacemaking in Yemen. Tribes’ efforts in prisoner exchanges have been especially significant and successful.

However, the structures the tribes exist in have, over the course of the over seven year war, become fragmented and makeshift. Further efforts are needed to draw on the constructive potential of tribal leaders and structures for the broader peace process.

The conference was part of a broader goal of strengthening the role of tribes as peacemakers and guarantors of ceasefires and promoters of local de-escalation. Initially, the conference was planned to take place in Yemen, but due to the recent escalations on the ground the preparatory committee did not think it feasible.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grunberg, highlighted the positive role tribes can play in building peace in Yemen. “Passion for finding a solution is exactly what we need in Yemen,” Grunberg said.

Grundberg also expressed his deep concern at the length of the conflict and that the situation can potentially take a rapid turn for the worse, should the situation remain unchanged. He also emphasised  the need for the conflict parties to enforce peace, rather than placing high expectations on the UN for establishing peace among the conflict parties.

Concerning national level initiatives, many of the participants saw the role of tribal leaders as essential to helping implement what has already been agreed in the official peace process. Further to these existing agreements, the participants called for a creation of a mechanism to involve the tribal component as a part of the peace process.

The participants emphasised that in local communities their main role is to be local mediators, and in progressing the political agreements on the ground. The tribal leaders saw their role in local mediation particularly in terms of ending the recruitment of children  and detention of women.

The issue of coordinating efforts among tribes remained central when identifying the potential for future action. The participants stated that for the efforts of the forum to be successful, it is essential to first define the roles of actors, both internal and external, who want to be involved in the future of Yemen. This prompted further questions about how, for instance, to ensure a more balanced representation of tribal leaders from throughout the country.

At the end of the two-day conference, the tribal leaders agreed on a joint statement on the peace efforts and recommendations for and by the tribal leaders.

The participants agreed that the next steps should include garnering further support in the various governorates and agreeing on mechanisms for coordinating local de-escalation efforts and communication with the Office of the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, OSESGY.

The tribal engagement workshops are organised and facilitated by CMI and Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, an independent Yemeni think-tank focusing on Yemen and the surrounding region. The tribal initiative is part of an EU-funded project that aims to support an inclusive peace process to reach a negotiated solution to the conflict in Yemen.

CMI’s work in Yemen is funded by the European Union.