Lebanese government resigns six days after tragedy

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab announced the resignation of his government on Monday evening, after the departure of several members of his team under pressure from the streets who accuses the political class of being responsible for the devastating explosion at the port of Beirut.

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As head of government since January, Mr. Diab made the announcement in a speech to the nation six days after the explosion that devastated the port of the Lebanese capital and part of the city.

“Today I am announcing the resignation of this government”, he said, accusing the political class of being the cause of its failures and denouncing the “corruption” which led to “this earthquake which struck the country “.

Presenting himself as an independent, Mr. Diab was appointed prime minister in response to a popular uprising that prompted his predecessor Saad Hariri to resign.

During his speech, clashes took place in the city center on the outskirts of Parliament, for the third consecutive evening.

Protesters threw stones and firecrackers at security forces who responded with tear gas, according to an AFP photographer.

The demonstrators demand the renewal of the entire political class, accused for months of corruption and incompetence.

“Even with Hassan Diab’s resignation, there are still 128 thieves sitting in Parliament,” blasted Layal, a protester. “They too must resign, otherwise we will stay in the same cycle.”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian, reacting to Mr. Diab’s announcement, called on Lebanon to “rapidly form a government that will prove itself to the people”.

“It is now essential that the aspirations expressed by the Lebanese in terms of reforms and governance are heard,” he continued.

The explosion of August 4 – which left at least 160 dead and more than 6,000 injured – added to the suffering of a population already overwhelmed by an unprecedented economic crisis, aggravated by the Covid-19 epidemic.

It was a fire in the warehouse where 2,750 tonnes of nitrate had been stored for six years, without “precautionary measures” by Mr. Diab’s own admission, which caused the explosion.

President Michel Aoun, himself contested, rejected the possibility of an international investigation.

Faced with protests, four ministers had already submitted their resignations since Sunday.

Diab said on Saturday he was ready to stay in office for two months, until early elections were held in a country dominated by the Hezbollah armed movement, an ally of Iran and the regime. Syrian leader of Bashar al-Assad.

Early elections are not among the main demands of the street, with Parliament controlled by traditional political forces who have crafted an electoral law calibrated to serve their interests.

“All means all”, hammered the demonstrators, calling for the departure of all leaders. Effigies of many of them – including Michel Aoun and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah – were hung from nooses during rallies.

“Only one person controls this country, it is Hassan Nasrallah,” said Nadim Gemayel, one of the nine deputies who resigned. “To elect a president, appoint a prime minister (…) you need the green light and the authorization of Hassan Nasrallah.”

Rescuers have now lost all hope of finding survivors, to the dismay of the families of the missing – about twenty officially – who accuse the authorities of having delayed in organizing the search.

“We demand the continuation of research”, launched on social networks Emilie Hasrouty, whose brother would be buried under the rubble.

The drama relaunched the popular protest launched on October 17, 2019 to already denounce the corruption of leaders, but which had run out of steam with the new coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, the international community showed during a video conference co-organized by France and the UN that it no longer trusted Lebanese leaders.

She announced the distribution “directly” to the population of the 252.7 million euros in aid promised.

And she demanded a “transparent” investigation into the causes of the disaster, which also left nearly 300,000 homeless.

Janelle B. Smith

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