(The AEGIS Alliance) – LEBANON – Lebanon’s information minister resigned Sunday as the country deals with the aftermath of the devastating explosion that destroyed some of its capital and caused public anger to rise to new levels.
The resignation came after demonstrators protested against the elite who rule the country, and who takes the blame for the negligent corruption and mismanagement that is believed to be the cause of the blast in a warehouse in the Beirut Port. Hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate were being stored in the waterfront hangar. The explosion sent a shock wave that wounded nearly 6,000 people and killed at least 160, it also defaced Beirut’s coast and hundreds of buildings were destroyed.
In Manal Abdel-Samad’s resignation letter, she said changes are still “elusive” and regrets failing to fulfill the dreams and goals of the Lebanese people.
Her resignation came as around half a dozen lawmakers offered to resign in protest over the government failures. Lebanese media reported that a second minister and top advisor to Prime Minister Hassan Diab is also expected to resign. Diab reportedly held a meeting with his Cabinet on Sunday to talk about the resignations, but there weren’t any comments following the meeting.
“Given the magnitude of the catastrophe caused by the Beirut earthquake that shook the nation and hurt our hearts and minds, and in respect for the martyrs, and the pains of the wounded, missing and displaced, and in response to the public will for change, I resign from the government,” Abdel-Samad said.
The country’s civil war had raged for 15 years, but few or none were held accountable for it and most of the warlords are still in power or lead powerful political factions.
France’s ambassador to Lebanon stated on Sunday that his country is assisting with the investigation of the massive explosion on August 4. Bruno Foucher tweeted that 46 officers are operating as part of the judicial investigation. That probe was initiated by a French prosecutor after a France national named Jean-Marc Bonfils, was killed by the explosion and others were injured.
“It is a guarantee of impartiality and speed in the investigation,” Foucher tweeted.
The disaster caused angry protests on Saturday where demonstrators set up nooses and gallows in Beirut’s central areas, they also had mock hanging sessions of cut-out cardboard images of top officials in Lebanon.
Demonstrators held up signs that said, “resign or hang.” The protests became violent when demonstrators threw rocks at security forces that responded with using rubber bullets and tear gas. One police officer was killed and dozens of the demonstrators were injured in hours-long confrontations.
Protesters also spread further out in the city and they stormed into a couple of government ministries. The took over the Foreign Ministry for a short time and said it’d be their movement’s headquarters. In the energy and economy ministries, the protesters looted offices and seized public documents they claim will uncover how corruption has infiltrated successive governments.
Since Saturday, five of the parliament’s 128 members also made announcements about their resignation which includes three Christian Kataeb party legislators, an independent, and a member of the Socialist Progressive Party. The resignations add to the challenges Diab faces, who took power in January and has since been the center of crises.
The government is backed by a powerful militant group named Hezbollah and its allies that announced it’s defaulting on Lebanon’s sovereign debt and has been engaged in difficult, internally divisive negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for assistance ever since. The restrictions due to the coronavirus worsened the impact of the financial and economic crisis that fuels public anger against the new government. The Lebanese people criticize Diab’s government not being able to handle the challenges and say it represents the deep-seated political class that has had a grip on the country’s politics since the civil war ended in 1990.
Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti even resigned before the explosion and cited an absence of “effective will to achieve comprehensive structural reform and competing leadership.”
Diab said in a speech on Saturday that the only solution is to have early elections. He called on every political party to set aside their disagreements and said he is prepared to stay in his position for two months to give time for politicians to work on structural reforms.
The offer is unlikely to ease the increasing anger on the streets. It is also expected to cause lengthy talks over the election law amid calls to introduce changes to the country’s sectarian-based representation system.
The resignation of the information minister comes before an international conference hosted in part by French President Emmanuel Macron and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that aims to bring donors together to supply emergency equipment and aid to Lebanon. Offers of aid in the past have been contingent on carrying out significant government reforms that deal with corruption.
Germany and the United Kingdom have pledged $28 million to assist Lebanon in the aftermath of the explosion. The United Kingdom said the $26 million it’s pledging is going towards the World Food Program that will provide food and medicine to the most vulnerable people in Lebanon. The United Kingdom is also sending medical specialists and a Royal Navy survey ship to Beirut to analyze the damage from the explosion.
France will send a helicopter carrier and cargo ship carrying aid and supplies to Beirut, along with eight flights that will bring in rescue workers and experts and also other supplies. The helicopter carrier is equipped with a hospital and carries food aid, medical equipment, medical workers, engineering forces, and construction materials.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.