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Tribal leaders envision paths out of Yemen’s conflict

A group of prominent tribal leaders from Yemen convened in Istanbul on January 20th and January 21st to discuss the role of tribes in local and national de-escalation and peacemaking to bring an end to the war in Yemen. Sheikhs and tribal women from key governorates identified recommendations for UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffith and agreed on a joint action plan to advance the role of tribes in the broader peace process. This work laid the foundation for, and represented the beginning of, a larger process aimed at exploring and capitalizing on the role of tribes as constituencies for peace.

“The tribes can be a force for good”, said EU Ambassador to Yemen Hans Grundberg during the two-day meeting, which shed light on the tribal leaders’ perspectives and valuable insight on local peacemaking. It also identified new roles tribes could play nationally, such as in ceasefire mechanisms.

“Yemen is a tribal society, and therefore, tribes cannot be ignored in a peace process,” stated Sheikh Abdulwahid A. Namran, a prominent tribal leader from the Marib governorate. Tribes are an integral part of the Yemeni society and thus entwined in the conflict in complex ways. Although tribes have also engaged in fighting, tribal leaders and women in tribal communities have historically been key in mediating local ceasefires and using their influence to negotiate prisoner exchanges.

“This workshop shows our deep belief in and recognition of the importance of local mediation mechanisms and the role tribes play in Yemen,” said Sana’a Center Executive Director Maged Al-Madhaji.

The workshop was organized and facilitated by the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), an independent Finnish conflict resolution organization, in close collaboration with the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. 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.