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SHIFTING LIGHT IN THE QAM ARIYYA: THE REINVENTION OF
PATRONAGE NETWORKS IN CONTEMPORARY YEMEN









A Dissertation
Submitted to the Faculty of the

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
of Georgetown University

in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree of

Doctor of Philosophy
In Government






By





April Longley Alley, M.A.





Washington, DC
September 23, 2008

Page 2

Copyright 2008 by April Longley Alley
All Rights Reserved



























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variable can reveal. His case further confirms the ambiguous nature of the combination

of: deeply included, political patronage, tribal elite, risk taker and ease of defection two.

This type seems to be unstable and could identify a pool of potential defectors in the

Yemeni political arena. From a policy perspective, this finding is particularly useful for

domestic or international organizations seeking to identify potential democratic

reformers. In the Yemeni context, it is relatively easy to identify a group of elites who fit

Muhammad and Yasser’s type and who could potentially defect individually or

collectively in the future.



A Narrative of Loyalty

Muhammad Abu Luhom is the son of a prominent sheikh from the Nihim tribe in

the Bakil confederation. Muhammad’s uncle, Sinan Abu Luhom, is one of the most

revered sheikhs in Yemen and is a prominent leader in Bakil. The Abu Luhoms have a

reputation as a special type of tribal family. They come from settled agricultural lands in

the governorate of Ibb and have a reputation for scholarship and openness to the outside

world. At a young age, Muhammad continued his family’s history of leadership and

learning. He graduated from George Washington University with a Bachelor of Arts in

Political Science and a Masters in International Relations. After graduating, he returned

to Yemen to work for the Ministry of Planning from 1983-1988. In 1988, he entered

national politics by joining North Yemen’s Shoura Council, where he served as the

chairman of the Development Committee. When North and South Yemen united in 1990,

and their respective legislatures were combined, Muhammad became part of Yemen’s

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first unified Parliament. In 1993 he maintained his seat by winning in the country’s first

parliamentary elections. His time as an MP however was cut short by the civil war of

1994.188

At unification, when political space opened for opposition parties, he and another

prominent sheikh, Sadik al-Ahmar, established the Republican Party. The brief period of

democratic competition however was short-lived. In early 1994, as hostilities between the

former southern and northern regimes began to flare, Muhammad aggressively mobilized

the Bakil tribal confederation against civil war. His actions placed him and his supporters

squarely at odds with the Saleh regime. He was accused of sympathizing with the

Socialists and immediately prior to the outbreak of violence, he left Yemen for the United

States. Muhammad remained in self-imposed exile for nearly a decade.189

In exile, Muhammad was an active leader in the ex-pat opposition. However he

realized that he could only have a limited impact on the political system from outside the

country.190As such, in 2004 he returned, without his family, to Yemen. While he and

Saleh had been bitter enemies in the past, the President welcomed Muhammad’s return to

political life. In fact, a deal was struck by which Muhammad was guaranteed an

appointed position on the GPC’s General Committee. Since that time, Muhammad has

played a prominent role in the GPC. He is currently the head of the party’s Foreign

Relations Committee and in this capacity he forms a critical link between the GPC and

the international community. He is also a prominent member of the reformist trend in the


188 Interview by the author with Muhammad Abu Luhom, Sana‘a, Yemen, February 5, 2006. Data also
taken from Muhammad’s Curriculum Vitiate.
189 Muhammad Abu Luhom, Interview by the author, Sana‘a, Yemen, July 31, 2007.
190 Muhammad Abu Luhom, Interview by the author, Sana‘a, Yemen, February 5, 2006.

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Newspapers:
Yemen Times
The Yemen Observer
al-ayyam
al-shaari‘
al-nass
al-wasat
NewsYemen on-line in English






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