Is Peace Achievable In Yemen? Weapon Deals, Military Show And Child Soldiers

With the approaching of March, Yemen has been in the civil war between the previous Yemeni government and Houthi rebels for more than four years. Over the last year, it is estimated that over 685,000 people were forced to leave the country from Hodeidah, where it borders the Red Sea. Over 60 percent of its population is in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. As the war continues, 85,000 children under the age of five may have starved to death in the country. 

Last December, previous Yemeni government and Houthi rebels made an agreement to cease fire after two days of negotiation in Hodeidah. However, even though the agreement demanded both parties pull back by December 18, 2018, the deadline was dismissed and it was not until February 17, 2019 that the armed forces showed a sign of withdrawing. The United Nation announced that the withdrawal deal signals the two parties’ will to end the war. As a follow-up second phase, a demilitarization redevelopment is expected, but no exact date is set for such a change.  

Many believe it is the involvement of the United States and the United Kingdom that helped the war to carry on for such long period of time. The two counties continue to sell weapon to Yemen while other countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands and Norway have restricted such deals. There are criticisms around the profit gain from this crisis and the non-humanitarian behaviour. 

However, at this critical point, it is reported that the German Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunter suggests his government lift the ban on arms sale in Yemen. His main concern is the negative impact such regulation will have on the country’s economy. Hunter believes that what Britain was doing, selling a restricted number of weapons to Yemen, is the best way to help create peace among the parties in conflict for almost four years.

With the opening of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi on February 17, criticism follows the Middle East’s biggest arms fair. The Guardian describes the event as “a decadent and distasteful celebration of militarism and weaponry.” With over 100,000 people participating and 57 countries involved, the event will certainly have big impacts. Military supplies are traded through the event and huge profits are made by selling these roots of chaos. Many believe the display of powerful weapons leads to these ongoing crises in the Middle East. The ownership of weapons reflects the strength of a country, and as other countries try to compete the whole area enters into a vicious cycle. The process can hardly be stopped as countries will always argue for the right to defend themselves, however, the line between self-defence and a potential threat is difficult to determine. Amid such uncertainty, conflicts are bound to happen.

While countries compete for military and economic power, the people most severely harmed are the children. New York Times delivered a focus report on the rehabilitation of child soldiers in Marib, Yemen. In war, children cease to be innocent and start to carry arms around the age of 12. Over 200 children are accommodated in the rehabilitation and receive education, play sports, and participate in other age-appropriate activities, such as arts and crafts.

Among their drawings, there are pictures that reflect their cruel experience in the war, where they had to face violence, blood, and death. At the same time, the pictures show their deep imagination, their wishes to become teachers and to enter a profession other than that of a soldier show their desire for peace. The children in the rehabilitation only represent a small percentage of the large amount of minors in the war. Such rehabilitation projects can help foster the future generation of Yemen in limited ways, but the real solution to a better future still depends on the direction of the country itself.