SANAA — Thousands of soldiers continued sit-ins Jan. 24 for a second day in Yemen demanding the “official” ouster of the Air Force commander they accuse of corruption, AFP correspondents and military officials said.
They are demanding the dismissal of Gen. Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar, a half brother of President Ali Abdullah Saleh who left Yemen on Jan. 22 for the United States following a year-long uprising against his 33 years in power.
A military panel formed to restructure Yemeni forces based on a Gulf-brokered power transfer plan signed by Saleh has replaced Ahmar, appointing retired Gen. Abdullah al-Yadoumi in his place, the opposition said Jan. 24.
But the soldiers insist on continuing their protests until Ahmar is dismissed by an official decree.
“We want a republican decree appointing a new Air Force commander to ensure” Ahmar does not return, protesting officer Abdullah al-Harbani told AFP.
The soldiers gathered in Sanaa’s northern district, outside the residence of Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi — who will replace Saleh following Feb. 21 elections — AFP correspondents said.
Similar sit-ins took place at military bases in the provinces of Lahij in the south, Hadramawt in the east and in Taez — Yemen’s second-largest city located southwest of Sanaa, military officials said.
“We demand the departure of Mohammed Saleh al-Ahmar. We will not negotiate with anyone as long as this corrupt commander is in office,” said a soldiers’ spokesman, accusing him of having “transformed the army into a private institution.”
Dozens of soldiers who have participated in the protests were arrested Jan. 23 at the bases of Anad in Lahij and Tariq in Taez, military officials said.
Anti-corruption strikes have spread across several military and government departments in the impoverished country where the economy is on the brink of collapse after a year of protests.
Since Saleh took office in 1978, he has carefully chosen members of his regime, appointing his relatives to head the country’s military and security apparatus. In addition to his son and half brother, Saleh’s nephew Yehya commands the central security services and Tariq, another nephew, controls the presidential guard.