By AHMED AL-HAJ
December 28, 2011
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Labor strikes spread through Yemen Wednesday as workers demanded reforms and dismissal of managers over alleged corruption linked to the country's outgoing president.
Corruption was one of the grievances that ignited mass protests against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in February. After months of stalling, Saleh last month signed an agreement to transfer power.
The deal includes immunity for prosecution for the longtime leader, but protesters reject that. They are also demanding that his relatives and associates, also suspected of corruption, be removed from their posts in the government and military and put on trial.
Months of political turmoil in Yemen, pitting tribes and army units against each other during mass demonstrations as Saleh fought to stay in power, have given the dangerous al-Qaida branch in Yemen more freedom of action. The Islamist militants have taken over territory in Yemen's south, including several towns.
The strikes are following a pattern. Workers lock the gates to an institution, and then they storm the offices of their supervisors, demanding their replacement with bosses who are not tainted with corruption allegations. So far the scenario has played out in 18 state agencies.
"This is the real revolution, the institutions revolution," said Mohammed Gabaal, an 40-year-old accountant who is on strike. "The president has appointed a ring of corrupt people all over government agencies."
The case of the Military Economic Institution stands out. Hundreds of workers demonstrated in front of the building on Wednesday.
The key agency hauls in significant revenues from naval transport and other investments, but its budget is kept secret. Striking workers are demanding dismissal of the agency manager, Hafez Mayad, who is from Saleh's tribe and is seen as one of the regime's most powerful and corrupt figures.
Opponents of the Saleh regime charge that armed civilians who attacked protesters in the capital of Sanaa got their funds from Mayad.
Other strikes are under way at the state TV, Sanaa police headquarters and another institution affiliated with the military.
The wave of strikes began last week when employees of the national airline, Yemenia Airways, walked off their jobs demanding dismissal of the director, Saleh's son-in-law, charging him with plundering the company's assets and driving it into bankruptcy. The government gave in to the demands.