By Ali Saeed
The youth in Yemen were the spark that lit up the 2011 revolution against former president Ali Abdallah Saleh’s 33-year rule. Yet, two years later, they still struggle to have the Yemen they dreamed of: a Yemen with no corruption and where its citizens have dignity.
The youth say that one of the key issues that ignited the revolution was the growing corruption, particularly in public institutions. However the same problem continues aching Yemen since corruption is still rampant, forcing the Youth to step in and focus on corruption fighting.
Akram, a 25 year-old Yemeni student who studies Medical equipment engineering, began an anti-corruption NGO known a year ago called Youth of Transparency and Building (YTB). The organization advocates for social accountability and responsibility towards controlling corruption in both governmental institutions and NGOs.
Al-Shawafi said that he and other youth began their anti-corruption activities after they realized that the 2011 revolution did not bring the change they had demanded.
“We went to the streets in 2011 because of corruption that fatigued the youth and the Yemeni people,” he said. “However it became worse than ever. Before officials used to practice corruption secretly, but now they do it publically,” he said with a grim look on his face.
A recent survey by Transparency International seems to confirm this feeling as 56 percent of respondents said the level of corruption in Yemen has increased over the past two years.
YTB documents and watches corruption cases especially in governmental apparatuses. Last month, they sued the administration of the Field Hospital, a medical NGO that used to provide medical care for the injured protesters in Change Square in Sana’a during the 2011 uprising, for looting medical equipment and ambulance vehicles that were given to the hospital, and disappeared when the facility closed down.
“Whatever was brought to the hospital during the revolution is a public property and must be submitted to the Health Ministry,” said Al-Shawafi.
Public employee demoted for anti-corruption activities
The NGO tries to make information on public corruption and to highlight injustices against those fighting corruption. On June 18, the organization also said on its Facebook page that Ahmed Saleh Saif, the Head of the General Corporation for Social Security (GCSS), a state-owned insurance company, ordered an investigation of a GCSS employee, Abdurrahman Al-Barakani, after he started an anti-corruption initiative inside the corporation.
Al-Barakani, who used to work as Manager of Controlling and Inspection Department at the GCSS, was demoted late last month after he hung a poster on the outer wall of the corporation’s building calling on its directors to publically disclose their funds.
“We first hung small posts inside the offices, but there was no response and they just took them out. So we hung a 8 meter-high poster on the wall of the corporation,” said Al-Barakani.
“Then, the security officer immediately called the Head of the corporation who instructed him to remove the poster,” he said. “So we reported that to the Supreme National Authority for Combating Corruption (SNACC) but it did not do anything.”
Ahmed Saif had also ordered Al-Barakani to be investigated by the Legal Affairs Department of the corporation for the poster he put up.
“Our objective is not personal, it is simply to end corruption at the corporation,” said Al-Barakani. “Our work is very social and humanitarian. Any corruption affects a large number of workers, their households and their future,” he added.
Al-Barakani was inspired to speak out against corruption during the 2011 youth revolution, which he says broke the wall of fear and empowered him to start his activities.
Like Al-Barakani, other youth employees at the corporation have been doing anti-corruption activities since 2010 but privately, because of fear of repression, but now more people are willing to speak out publically.
He addressed the youth employees in governmental offices by saying that the key requirement for building a civil state is to end corruption.
“If the corruption is controlled, the government would be able to do its job for citizens with no need to external loans and aid because our resources are sufficient to live in prosperity and safety,” he said. “But corruption hampers the use of these resources.”
Ineffective anti-corruption authority
Yemen ranks at the 156th position on 174 countries in the Transparency International World Corruption Index 2012.
According to Al-Shawafi, many of Yemen’s governmental anti-corruption agencies are fruitless, including the SNACC and the Central Organization for Controlling and Auditing (COCA).
“These apparatuses agencies were created to protect the regime. For instance the SNACC has not yet referred anyone to prosecution since its establishment (note: in 2007),” said Al-Shawafi.
Indeed, 68 percent of the population believe that public officials and civil servants are affected by corruption, according to the above survey by Transparency International.
Al-Shawafi explained that youth employees in the government’s offices are doing a great job in providing YTB with documents that reveal corruption cases. He hopes to stand soon in the court questioning officials involved in these cases.Français
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