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Lebanon a lesson and a hope

By Kole Omotoso
16 August 2020   |   2:55 am
There was an election recently in Belarus. The incumbent had been president for 26 years and was seeking a 6th term to extend his life presidency. Everybody who had contested against him

There was an election recently in Belarus. The incumbent had been president for 26 years and was seeking a 6th term to extend his life presidency. Everybody who had contested against him was either dead or incapacitated in prison.

The last person who stood against him was a house wife whose husband is the latest occupant of a place of torture. She insisted she had won a landslide. She was advised, in the name of her injured husband, her available daughters, to look after her self and her house. She fled to Lithuania, shaven.

Beirut was known as the Paris of the Middle East. In January of 1971, out a desire to see the cedar trees of the poems of Khalil Gibran (1883 to 1931) author of THE PROPHET, THE THREE ANTS and many others, I flew from Cairo to Beirut. “Three ants met on the nose of a man sleeping in the sun…” After a week of Beirut, I took a bus to Damascus arriving on the Sunday the military took over power in Syria under the command of the father of the president of Syria.

For seventy years, Lebanon had been abused and cheated by so-called leaders made up of Arab Nationalist patriots, families who fed fat on the milk and honey of the land. They share the goodness of the earth of Lebanon with the Hezbollah, a party dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Two or three others eat the produce of Lebanon unto corruption. All together, some 18 parties or groups divide the country among themselves. Whatever parties participate in elections or fought civil wars the spoils divided into 18 and the people were excluded. Whatever the people wanted was ignored. Hezbullah (Allah’s party) fought the Israelites, the people of Lebanon suffered. Civil strife struck in Syria, the refugees headed for Beirut from Damascus to become the burden of the people of Lebanon.

People gather in front of the devastated port of Beirut as a car carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary drives during a procession marking the day of the Assumption on August 15, 2020, more than a week after a massive chemical explosion disfigured the Lebanese capital. (Photo by STR / AFP)

Sometime about six years ago, a cargo boat carrying tons of fertilizer to Zimbabwe arrived at the world class port of Beirut. Year in and year out, the cargo boat and it’s ambiguous and amphibian cargo remained at the port. Year in and year out, civil servant memos passed from one table to another calling attention to this cargo that could be dangerous since fertilizer could also build bombs of sheer destruction. The memos were ignored by the political powers that be.

The years counted themselves out. Power ignored the people in spite of protests on the streets. The owners of the fertilizers must have forgotten that they were going to Zimbabwe. They, in fact, forgot the boat and its cargo.

From time to time, some conscience would be aroused and change would be called for. This is what brought about the Harris family. Rafic Hariri was Prime Minister who was assassinated in 2005. He was a very wealth business baron credited with the Taif Agreement that ended the 15-year Lebanese Civil War and the rebuilding of the capital Beirut.

Rafic Hariri obtained a first degree in business management from Georgetown University. He was chairman of Telecom, chairman of Omnia Holdings and a board member of Oger International Entreprise, Saudi Investment Bank, Saudi Research and Marketing Group and Lebanese television channel, Future TV.

He was assassinated on February 2005 “by a suicide truck bomb in Beirut.” Four Hezbollah members have been on inconclusive trial for Hariri’s murder.

Hariri’s assassination caused the Cedar Revolution of civil, non-violent mass popular demonstrations of people on the streets, part of the Arab spring.

Changes did take place. The Syrian army was forced to leave Lebanon after 29 years presence. A Movement also emerged from the groups that constituted the Cedar Revolution. It was decided that Saad Hariri would succeed his father as Prime Minister as leader of the Future Movement. It was a Sunni movement created and led by Rafic Hariri his late father. He himself led the March 14 Alliance “a coalition of political groups born out of the Cedar Revolution. He is the second son of Rafic Hariri.

His first unity government fell in January 2011 when complications arose in the trial of the assassination of Rafic Hariri. Saad Hariri stepped down as Prime Minister and Najib Mikati took over. In December 2012, Syria issued a warrant for the arrest of Saad Hariri as leader of the Future Movement, his deputy and the Free Syrian Army official on charges of arming and providing financial support for Syrian opposition groups. It took two years of deadlock before Michel Aoun was elected president who then signed the decree appointing Saad Hariri as Prime Minister in 2016.

From here onwards it is dates and incidents cumulative, one incident following another until the fertilizers in the Beirut blew up in a massive bomb that killed 150 people, wounded five thousand and made 20,000 homeless. This was in August 2020. The outcome of the trail of those responsible for the assassination of Rafic Hariri was to be announced.

In November 2017, Saad Hariri announced his resignation from Saudi Arabia accusing Iran and their allies in Lebanon Hezbollah of “political over-extension” in the Middle East region and fear of assassination. Denials followed naturally. Iran and Hezbollah counted that Saudi Arabia was holding Saad Hariri as hostage. And his resignation was “part of a plot by the United States of America, Israel, and Saudi Arabia” to create havoc in the Middle East.

In November 2017, Saad Hariri travelled to France to consult with the French President Emmanuel Macron who advised him to bring his wife and children with him.

In October 2019, a popular protest began asking for accountability and transparency in the politics of Lebanon. At the end of December 2019, Saad Hariri resigned as “as in response to the will and demand of the thousands of Lebanese demanding change.”

The president accepted Hariri’s resignation but asked to stay on as acting president. The following day the former education minister Hassan Diab was appointed president.

It was he who offered his resignation after the explosion of Tuesday, August 4, 2020, saying that the corruption in Lebanon was bigger than Lebanon.