Witnessing the prevailing political paralyses of #Lebanon is a painful experience for someone like me who has a heartfelt love of the country and its cultured, entrepreneurial people. However, I can’t imagine how devastating it #must be for the Lebanese, who, for decades, have suffered on a rollercoaster of serial crises, conflicts and sectarian rifts that have split communities and sometimes even families.
The crucial questions are these: Why is #Lebanon seemingly in a permanent state of turmoil and what can be done to address the situation?
There are several factors at the problem’s root not least the archaic and divisive constitution inherited from the French, which demands a Maronite president, a Sunni prime minister and a Shiite parliamentary speaker.
Such division of responsibilities based on a candidate’s religious beliefs not only means the best person for the job is often excluded but also incites most Lebanese to identify themselves in terms of faith rather than as one people.
In my experience, Lebanese expatriates around the world don’t view themselves in the same way as those in the country. Rather than Christian, Sunni or Shiite they are simply ‘Lebanese’ who will tell you proudly that theirs is the most beautiful country on the planet and whose eyes often cloud over when listening to the patriotic strains of Fairouz.
In short, #Lebanon urgently needs a new constitution to replace the badly thought-out, anachronistic document that has caused so much harm.
Moreover, such sectarian self-identification has opened the door to #foreign powers, which over the years have ruthlessly used #Lebanon as a surrogate battleground to take on their foes and manipulated its politicians to further their own regional agendas. As long as foreigners are allowed to carelessly treat #Lebanon as a playground and exploit divisions there will never be peace and prosperity.
When the Israelis quit #Lebanon in 2000 followed by the Syrians in 2005, the country joyously celebrated. The Lebanese believed they were now masters of their own destiny, free to make their own decisions without outside interference.
Sadly, the euphoria was short-lived. It quickly became apparent that although #Lebanon was free of a physical #foreign presence it was still open to insidious and often malign #foreign influences via a minority of its own politicians and militia leaders, who some maintain are robotically controlled from outside.
Such influences are apparent now that the tenure of President Emile Lahoud is constitutionally at an end, which requires the Parliament to choose someone to replace him. The differences are so great that agreement on a suitable candidate was – and perhaps still is – in danger of ending in stalemate, triggering such scaremongering newspaper headlines as “A powder keg in #Lebanon”.
Indeed, some Western pundits are luridly warning that a new civil war could be in the offing, which could have repercussions throughout the region.
The stand-off is between the March 8 opposition coalition, which is backing the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, former General Michel Aoun for president and the March 14 parliamentary bloc.
No surprises there. But what I find particularly disturbing is the way Lebanese politicians from all sides of the spectrum are actively seeking a green light from #foreign powers and neighbours - including the US, Russia, Iran and Syria - when it comes to selecting their next president. Is there any other sovereign country in the World that does this?
As long as #Lebanon hangs onto a constitution that is based on sectarianism and encourages #foreign #influence there will be a continued absence of cohesive national pride, which I believe is the main crux of the issue.
A tiny sliver of a country covering only 10,452 square metres and with a population of less than four million, #Lebanon #must have a strong unified government with a powerful and fully-equipped army at its disposal if any kind of stability is to be achieved.
As long as there is government in-fighting, beset by divided loyalties, the country will remain at the mercy of #foreign funded militias, whose leaders often cite the inability of the army to protect the country as an excuse to retain their own weapons.
The international community, through such institutions as the United Nations or the Arab League, should help equip, fund and train the Lebanese military so that the nation has only one army that reports to a government of unity, which, in turn, #must be answerable to its people…all of its people.
‘United we stand and divided we fall’ should be #Lebanon’s motto. Sectarianism has no place in our modern world and with an economy in free fall, the sooner the Lebanese consign this antiquated concept to the dustbin of history and rally behind their one cedar flag the better.