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Last Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007, 21:56 GMT
Seeking Yemen's past and future
By Cameron Buttle
BBC Scotland

In a dirty, dusty park in a rundown suburb of Aden stands a huge monument to the glory days of the British Empire.

A regal Queen Victoria sternly looks out over the rubbish scattered all over the park, out over the broken railings and the crumbling walls.

For me, this small piece of Aden summed up Britain's legacy.

Hut on shore
The Yemen is struggling to secure its economic future

It is impossible to ignore this statue in the park, as it is impossible to ignore British influence on this ancient culture.

A wonderful piece of marble glorifying the British Empire, now ignored and neglected in a forgotten corner of a city heading for social and economic breakdown.

Decades of civil war followed Britain's withdrawal from Aden in 1967, the country is now one of the poorest in the world.

There is some oil and trade still flows through Aden port. The government is trying to promote tourism but the problems here became evident when night fell.

Most people expect civil war and most people believe it will happen when the oil runs out here
British Embassy Defence Attaché

Because when night fell in Aden, we were driven back to our hotel whether we liked it or not.

Our Yemeni government minders said the streets of Crater City in the heart of Aden were too dangerous for westerners, the fear of kidnap was far too great.

In the hotel bar we met the Defence Attaché from the British Embassy in Yemen.

His love for the country was evident but his fears for its future were sobering.

He said: "Most people expect civil disturbance and most people believe it will happen when the oil runs out here. When Yemen has to buy its first barrel of oil, economic breakdown will follow."

Some fear an upsurge in unrest if fundamentalism spreads

The security services believe that al-Qaeda is still very active in Yemen. Osama Bin Laden's father was from Yemen and tribal and family loyalties mean everything here.

The attaché added: "The Yemen security forces can deal with the home-grown threat.

"What we really fear is the Jihadists who return from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yemen will not be able to cope with this threat."

One of the most unexpected quotes we recorded in our time in Yemen was during an interview with Sheik Tariq Abdullah.

He was a young lawyer during the Aden Emergency in 1960s and, looking back, felt that life under British rule was not all bad.

He said: "In principal no matter how bad things become, one has to have independence...but almost any person would say, 'good gracious, we were better off before'."

Mad Mitch and The Last Battle of the British Empire was broadcast on BBC 2 Scotland on 26 November at 2000 GMT.

Soldiers remember the "Aden emergency"

Controversial legacy of Mad Mitch
26 Nov 07 |  Scotland
Country profile: Yemen
14 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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