Bahaa Hariri looks back on the history of Lebanon, in particular on the independence day of Lebanon, which was recently celebrated.
Nov. 22 is not a date that conjures up much outside of Lebanon. But for the lebanese, it is Independence Day of Lebanon. On this day in 1943, Lebanon celebrated the end of the French Mandate and the beginning of a new era for the country. For the first time in centuries, the people of Lebanon had control over their own government and lives.
That celebration is tinged with more than a little tragedy this year. The destructive explosion that rocked Beirut on Aug. 4 underscored years of government mismanagement, corruption and sectarian strife that have led Lebanon to the precipice of chaos.
Voters have lost confidence in the political elite, and hold them accountable for Lebanon’s worsening political and economic crisis. Over the last year, interim prime ministers have come and gone, having been asked to form a government. But the result was the same — all have been unable or even unwilling to overcome the vested interests that have governed Lebanon for the last 30 years.
There is a clear reason for this failure. Many of the established parties have refused to budge from their demand to control certain ministries. By holding the country to ransom, they are blocking any chance for progress.
Obstruction by Hezbollah and its allies has been recognized by the US Treasury. In the last few months, a number of individuals accused of corruption and partisan interests have been sanctioned, including most recently Gebran Bassil, the son-in-law of the current president. This is a major step forward and shows that the international community is not blind to personal and political corruption.
We must learn from these failures. To save Lebanon, we must create a new reality and move away from the old system, the system that says Lebanon must be controlled by warlords, dynasties and armed militias; that says the tools of government must work for the corrupt, not the people; that says religion must be at the heart of how the country works.