The War in Yemen and the OIC

June 20, 2018

On June 13, Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Dr. Yousef A. Al-Othaimeen issued a statement saying he “… extended his sincere congratulations and best wishes to the Islamic Ummah on the advent of the festive occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr and prayed that Allah may accept and bless the fasting and acts of worship of all Muslims and grant them His blessings and rewards… The Secretary General prayed to God that welfare, security and stability may prevail in the Islamic World and that Muslims may enjoy prosperous and serene living…”

The Secretary General can continue to pray but he also needs to remember that among the objectives of the Organization are enhancing and consolidating the bonds of fraternity and solidarity among the Member States; respect for their sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity; non-interference in domestic affairs; and, the settling of disputes through peaceful means and refraining from the use or threat of force. The OIC Charter says a lot more.

Yet, as the ongoing conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen show, not to mention others, the OIC has failed its fundamental mission of securing peace among its members. To put it more bluntly, it hasn’t even tried. The Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated because it is on the Islamic calendar but there was nothing festive about it.

Three years ago, on March 26, 2015, the Saudi-led coalition launched “Operation Decisive Storm” in Yemen. The title was probably inspired by “Operation Desert Storm”, a lightning speed US military operation which expelled the occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991. A month later, Saudi Arabia announced that the Operation had achieved its objective and priority would now shift to rebuilding Yemen and political dialogue. This new phase was to be called “Renewal of Hope”.  Hours later, however, air strikes were resumed as if to prove that the “Storm” was far from over. And last Wednesday the Saudi-led coalition launched “Operation Golden Victory” to wrest control of Yemen’s biggest port, Hodeida, from the Houthis. The coalition can keep glorifying its operations with ambitious titles, but while a decisive victory over the Houthis remains only a wish Yemen’s misery is a fact.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors last Thursday upon a call the UK. It called for restraint and “urged all sides to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law”, that is not to disrupt deliveries of vital food and humanitarian supplies to Hodeida. The Council was unable to support a call by Sweden for an immediate cease-fire. Apparently, the UK, France and the Trump White House are trying to buy time for the coalition to capture Hodeida. In the meantime, the OIC and its members remain in the shadows.

The OIC has a Contact Group on Yemen but it has been of no consequence. It should have done more for conflict prevention/resolution in the war-torn country. The Arab League is no different.

According to the UN, Yemen continues to be categorized within the least developed countries and lowest in the level of human development as indicated by the development local and international reports. UNICEF’s Yemen Humanitarian Situation Report of January 2018 said that an estimated 22.2 million people (including 11.3 million children) are currently in need of humanitarian assistance, an increase of 3.4 million from the beginning of 2017.

Lack of action by the OIC in the face of such catastrophe is a betrayal of its founding principles.

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