By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 28, 2011
SANA, Yemen (AP) — Strikes spread through Yemen on Wednesday as workers demanded reforms and the dismissal of managers over accusations of corruption linked to the country’s departing president.
Corruption was one of the grievances that ignited mass protests against the long rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh last February. After months of stalling, Mr. Saleh last month signed an agreement to transfer power.
The agreement includes immunity from prosecution for Mr. Saleh, but the demonstrators reject that. They are demanding as well that his relatives and associates, also suspected of corruption, be removed from their posts in the government and the military and be put on trial.
The strikes are following a pattern. Workers lock the gates to an institution and then storm the offices of their supervisors, demanding new bosses who are not seen as tainted by connections to the old government. So far, the chain of events has played out in 18 state agencies.
“This is the real revolution, the institutions revolution,” said Mohammed Gabaal, 40, an 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 agency collects significant revenues from naval transport and other investments, but its budget is kept secret.
Striking workers are demanding the dismissal of the agency manager, Hafez Mayad, who is from Mr. Saleh’s tribe and is seen as one of the government’s most powerful and corrupt figures.
Opponents of the Saleh government charge that armed civilians who attacked protesters in Sana, the capital, got their funds from Mr. Mayad.
The wave of labor unrest began last week when employees of the national airline, Yemenia Airways, walked off their jobs, demanding dismissal of the director, a son-in-law of Mr. Saleh. The strikers accused him of plundering the company’s assets and driving it into bankruptcy. The government gave in to the demands.
Months of turmoil in Yemen have given Islamic militants more freedom of action.