If you find yourself at the head of a public, or even a private institution in Yemen today, you are most likely having a hard time sleeping, owing to the fact that the nightmare of being kicked out the door by your own employees may be what you wake up to the next morning. As the media spotlight has moved on, Yemenis have been revolting against their officials all around the country in what is being tipped as Thawrat Al Muasasat, or the “Revolution of the Institutions”, better known as the revolution’s second phase. Public servants and private employees of all stripes and colors are rising up against their bosses, demanding they be replaced with “clean ones”.
Those taking part include military staff in the army and air force, staff at the national air carrier, employees of oil companies, factories, hospitals, universities, unions, radio stations and even middle school students fulfilling the High School dream of ousting their most loathed teachers. Perhaps fittingly, among the institutions experiencing these new rounds of protest is the Central Organization for Control and Auditing, the largest governmental authority in the country intended to fight corruption. The techniques being used include preventing the targeted boss from entering the building, forcing their resignation or pressuring those above them to issue them a pink slip.
Notable in these new uprisings is the fact that those carrying them out were largely silent before the dismissal of Yemen’s lord of corruption: former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. These movements are organic, unorganized and not driven by any political party. Indeed, deals devised by foreign interests — such as that which the Gulf Cooperation Council concocted to let Saleh off the legal hook — can do nothing to contain these movements or push them in a specific direction, as they did with the first revolution. This time the Yemeni people have shown that their revolution is much more than just a euphoric expression that dissipates once the dictator is no more.
Little, if anything, would have changed in Yemen if people just replaced a figurehead since the nizam, or system, would have continued to feed its “small-dictators” through the patronage systems and ensured that only those supporting the regime enjoyed ‘public’ services. Yemenis, who have lived with the malediction of Saleh’s business and family ties, know this all too well.
But as with anything in the country these days, there are voices of dissent. Even though these movements aim to purge the country’s institutions of the very people who maintained the networks of patronage and corruption, some still condemn them because they are contrary to the rule of law, disregarding due legal process, and thus contributing to chaos. One might question, however, the success of these skeptical intellectuals in steering the country away from the course it plotted for the past 33 years, compared to the protest movement which is only entering its second year.
The more pressing question perhaps is whether people would revolt against their leaders even if those very leaders were from the opposition? The answer is most likely ‘yes’. This new uprising that is spreading in the country against officials will most likely reach any public official in a position of power unless their priorities are centered on three major elements: employees, employees and employees.
The Revolution of the Institutions leads one to the logical deduction that, even though it may not make global headlines, the struggle in Yemen will be long, deep and institutional. Yemenis are all too aware that fear will take them nowhere, nor will the corrupted legal apparatus that acted as a cover for the former regime. This phase of the revolution is only the start of an effort to devise creative means of expressing dissent. By the time Yemenis come up with the next phase, they will have already altered their country’s concept of change.