Yemen’s military air force uprising
ColonelMohamed Saleh Mahyoub is one of thousands of Yemeni air force personnel who have been on strike for more than one month, demanding the removal of air force chief Gen. Mohamed Saleh Al-Ahmar, brother of outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Although he has commanded the air force for more than 22 years, his subordinates charge Al-Ahmar with bad management and corruption.
“Our rights as either air force soldiers or officers have been stolen,” said Mahyoub. “Even our food has not been given to us in a fair way, and personal arms have been distributed only to his loyal officers and members,” he charged.
Yemen has about 42,000 military air force members. In January, the nationwide air force uprising calling for Al-Ahmar’s ouster was triggered when an officer threw one of his boots at the general. According to Mahyoub, the demand for his resignation comes “because he doesn’t give us our rights.”
Some three thousand members of the air force have been protesting for the past three weeks in front of the home of Vice President Abd Rabo Mansour, who has assumed President Saleh’s duties since his incapacitation, demanding that he dismiss General Al-Ahmar.
But despite this massive protest, Al-Ahmar is still performing his duties while vowing not to leave until he is dead, according to a source at the Ministry of Defense.
It is the first time that members of Yemen’s air force have gone on strike and protested, calling for the removal of their leader. The action was apparently triggered by the Arab Spring, which has already seen four Arab leaders ousted from their respective regimes.
In Yemen, since December, employees of other state military and civil institutions have been rising up against their managers, some of whom have been in the same post for more than three decades.
Structure of the Yemeni army
Political researcher Aysh Awas told The Yemen Times that in Yemen, the air force, which is the focal point of the nation’s military infrastructure, is not structured like in other armies in the world. He explained that each commander a respective military unit is an independent power and is not connected to a hierarchal management answering to the defense ministry which presumably would run all military units. Rather, the ultimate power resides with the Saleh family. Outgoing President Saleh’s son is the chief commander of the Republican Guard which accounts for one-third of the nation’s military while Saleh’s nephew, Yahya Mohamed Abdullah Saleh, commands Yemen’s Central Security Forces. Air Force commander Gen. Mohamed Saleh Al-Ahmar is President Saleh’s half-brother.
Ironically, Gen. Ali Mohsen, the former head of the first armored division who defected from Saleh and sided with the popular revolution against his 33-year rule is also a Saleh kinsman.
If the GCC power transition plan, which stipulates the restructuring of Yemen’s army according to national and professional standards, is implemented, all of the Saleh-family officers will be removed from their commands.
Yemen’s air force
Yemen has around 375 military planes for different purposes including warplanes, martial shipment, training and terrorism fighting, according to the 2011 research report by the Abaad Studies and Research Center.
But only 60 percent of the existent planes are ready for use after several shutdown incidents of Yemen’s military planes have been reported during the past seven years in battles with the Houthi rebels in Sa’ada of the north and opposition tribesmen in Arhab, north of Sana’a.
At the moment the defected army is in control of two military airbases of Yemen’s ten airbases, one in Hodeida and the other is in Hadramout.