Lebanon Faces a Political and Economic Abyss After the August 4th Explosion
On Tuesday, August 4th, an explosion in a warehouse filled with ammonium nitrate shook the city of Beirut. Currently, 6,000 have been wounded, 180 are dead, and hundreds of thousands have been left homeless. Overnight, a country seldom talked about in mainstream media has suddenly found itself in the spotlight.
The explosion has finally revealed to the international community the political corruption and economic disparity that plagues Lebanon.
For decades, greedy politicians in Lebanon have enriched themselves while the Lebanese people continue to suffer. The cause of Lebanon’s political corruption can be traced back as far as 1943. The three main political offices are divided among the three biggest religious communities, which is hindering cooperation. Lebanon’s religious diversity has made it impossible for politicians to act for the good of the people. The president is a Maronite Christian, the speaker of parliament is a Shia Muslim, and the prime minister is a Sunni Muslim. Political leaders often protect the interests of their own political and religious communities over those of the entire population.
In October 2019, hundreds of thousands of people across sectarian lines took to the streets to demand an end to corruption and economic instability. People were frustrated over daily electricity shortages, limited healthcare, and lack of safe drinking water. The protests eventually faded due to growing economic problems. The local currency, the Lebanese pound, lost 80 percent of its value that month.
However, after the explosion, protests reminiscent of those from last October erupted. Lebanon’s leaders have once again come under fire as protestors demand changes. Demonstrators, claiming government negligence caused the explosion, were met with tear gas. The state-run National News Agency claimed protesters set fires, vandalised stores, and threw stones at security forces.
As world leaders rush to help Lebanon in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, the international community has also called for major political reforms within the Lebanese government. French President Emmanuel Macron warned that Lebanon will “continue to sink” without reforms. Over 80% of the population is skeptical about the government’s investigation into the explosion, fearing that it will not punish those responsible. This skepticism prompted prosecutors in France to open their own investigation into the explosion.
At the moment, a staggering 57,000 Lebanese citizens have signed a petition for France to take control of Lebanon for 10 years. The petition reads, “With a failing system, corruption, terrorism and militia the country has just reached its last breath.” “We believe Lebanon should go back under the French mandate in order to establish a clean and durable governance.”
The explosion, although devastating and catastrophic, has created an opportunity for the international community to demand change within the Lebanese government, help restore political transparency, and end famine and economic devastation. However, it also creates an opportunity for countries like Iran and Russia to exert greater influence over the Lebanese military, and could even allow terrorist groups to make inroads.
The fate of the country and the region is uncertain. If Lebanon becomes a French mandate as desired by many Lebanese citizens, a new government with transparency and cooperation could be created, holding the best interests of the people at its core.