Yemen's 'Parallel Revolution'

With less than two months to go before President Saleh is due to formally leave office, other members of his family are seeking toconsolidate their influence in Yemen. Saleh's son, Ahmed, has been purging the Republican Guard of members suspected of having opposition sympathies, while his nephew, Yahia, has done likewise with the Central Security forces.

But not everything is going their way. At the grass roots, something very interesting has been happening over the last two to three weeks. Yemenis have dubbed it the "Parallel Revolution" and it could become an example for protesters in other countries.

The goal of the Parallel Revolution is simple: the removal of corrupt officials (invariably Saleh appointees). It's also proving very popular since most Yemenis have some kind of grievance against them.

So far, at least 18 state institutions have been hit by protests demanding the dismissal of their bosses. It started with Yemenia, the national airline, where the director – who happened to be Saleh's son-in-law – has now been sacked. A report from the Associated Press explains:

"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."

Institutions affected so far include state TV, Sanaa police headquarters, the Military Economic Institution, the Armed Forces Moral Guidance Department (which publishes the "26 September" newspaper), the Thawrah hospital in Ta'izz, the Agriculture and Irrigation office, the coast guard, the naval academy and the traffic police.

At present, the Parallel Revolution seems to be enjoying a remarkable degree of success. Some officials have gone and other complaints are being investigated under the auspices of the new power-sharing government.

Even if Yemen's political transition leaves a lot to be desired, a general clean-up at the administrative level – which is what the Parallel Revolution is seeking – could make a huge difference to the way the country is run.

The anti-corruption protests are also a further sign that the Arab Spring is not just about getting rid of unpopular leaders but about developing a new relationship between governments and the people they govern. As the Yemen Observer puts it:

"These days, people feel they could express their anger against anything that goes against their welfare. They are now marching and protesting against anybody and anything and have learned to ask questions and hold people in charge accountable. They have come to realise that they have the right to know what is being done to them and for them."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 1 January 2012