Tuesday, January 2, 2024. I turn off my smartphone before the takeoff of flight MEA 252 / AF 594 Beirut-Paris, and let myself go to the bottom of my seat, thinking about the week and the unthinkable and unhoped-for 24 months that just passed.
The week in Beirut was intense. As every year, the holiday season is used to convene a special session of the bodies that have presided over Lebanon’s destiny since 2022. I participated as a member of the Executive Board of WoCRPOL: the World Council for Resistance and Progress of Lebanon . The main organizations that played a key role were there: Change Lebanon, Kulluna Irada, The Lebanese Diaspora Network, Comité des Libanais de France, Mejtemein Meghterbin, TMT, Our New Lebanon…
It was in February 2022 that things started to change. The meeting of the diaspora movements resulted in a broad coalition, and voted to create WoCRPOL.
Gradually, throughout the 4h25 flight, I remember all the events that marked the incredible epic that we and Lebanon have just lived for almost 2 years.
First,the 2022 elections. The opposition parties, formed into a single coalition modeled on the one formed in 2021 for the engineering elections, had done an outstanding job, under the title ” Coalition for the Renaissance of Lebanon”: elaboration of a common program, a unique list of candidates, actions in the field, intense communication campaign… The high point was the rallying of part of the supporters of the Amal and Hezbollah movements. The rare polls – they were rarely conducted at the time – had shown some very encouraging trends: 65% of the Shiites living in Lebanon wanted to put an end to Hezbollah’s hegemony, the CPL was in free fall… Gebran Bassil, Hassan Nasrallah and Nabih Berri had become the trinity of personalities most hated by the Lebanese.
The Diaspora was not left out. An online election simulation, organized with the help of the “Sawti” platform, had mobilized 2.8 million voters, many of whom had not been able to register to vote abroad before 20 November 2021 due to a lack of up-to-date papers, or of nationality since only their mother was Lebanese.
When the election results came in, the opposition was credited with 12 deputies, less than a quarter of the most pessimistic forecasts. But all the international observers had immediately reported a huge electoral fraud, with irrefutable evidence. The mobilization that followed was enormous: 800,000 demonstrators in Beirut, Tripoli, Saida, demonstrations in the main cities of countries with a large Lebanese community…. The joint delegation of the Coalition for the Renaissance of Lebanon and WoCRPOLIn the end, the United Nations held an extraordinary session and entrusted him with the reins of the country with the more or less voluntary consent of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council and the 3 regional powers (Iran, Turkey, Israel) for a transitional period of 18 months, until November 22, 2023, with an interim presidency entrusted to the Chief of Staff of the army, Joseph Aoun.
And then things started to happen at breakneck speed. The Shadow Government prepared by the Coalition for a Lebanese Renaissance, with the help of WoCRPOL, took office at the beginning of June 2022 and has been taking decisions one after another. This government was made up solely of people from Lebanon and the Diaspora, leading experts and civil society personalities who had previously carried out well-recognized actions in the public interest.
The Special Tribunal for the Judgment of Embezzlement of Public Funds was able to try 100 senior officials from the public and private sectors, including the Governor of the Central Bank, in a few months. With the agreement of banks in Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, he was able to recover $5 billion in embezzled funds and seize $12 billion in ill-gotten property. The agreement with the IMF, signed after two months of hard bargaining, made it possible to return deposits of less than $150,000 in their entirety, and to place the bulk of the deficit on bank shareholders and very large depositors ($500,000 and more).
The investigation into the port was completed in three months, and identified Hezbollah, allied with several Maronite, Sunni, Druze politicians, etc., as the culprits. The Global Fund for Lebanon’s Economic Development has succeeded in raising 5 billion dollars with people of Lebanese origin around the world, which have been progressively invested to develop sectors with potential: high-performance agriculture, high-value-added processing industries, digital services, high-end tourism, health and telemedicine, low-carbon construction (with large outlets in Syria and Iraq)… During the national referendum on the future of the still existing armed militias, a historic score of 81% voted in favour of integrating Hezbollah’s armed militias into the Lebanese Army, with immediate effect.
The good news has started to arrive: GDP growth of 12% in 2023, return to Lebanon of 200,000 emigrants between January and December 2023, 500,000 non-Lebanese tourists welcomed, stabilization of the Lebanese pound at the rate of LBP 4,000 to the dollar… The work of the electricity production station is halfway through, financed by Cedar Plan funds Lebanon has become a leading country in electricity generated by photovoltaic panels, and has become an exporter of energy solutions throughout the Middle East.
The descent to Roissy is announced by the pilot. I’m starting to think about the next steps. The mandate given by the UN and the G8 Sub-Conference in charge of Lebanon, extended the mandate of the transitional government until May 2024 to organize legislative elections.
In the taxi back to Paris, I think of all the things that still need to be done and all the subjects that still need to be dealt with: secularism, neutrality, regional diplomacy, the exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits, confessional representation outside the executive and legislative bodies, the reinforcement of women’s rights… Fortunately, we will be able to talk about this together with the members of the French chapter of WoCRPOL during our next weekly meeting.
Calling all Lebanese artists:
help us form a vision of what could,
should be Lebanon, by all means:
fiction, comics, short films… !