Lebanese Government Resigns in Wake of Explosion

 

Scene from 2019’s Beirut protests against the Lebanese government. Photo: Wikipedia, Shahen books – Own Work. CC BY-SA 4.0

The government of Lebanon stepped down on Monday evening, just seven says after the enormous explosion at the city’s port which leveled a large portion of the city, killing more than 160 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab spoke to the nation on television Monday night, telling his people that he was stepping down and acknowledging the fact that, according to Reuters, the blast was a “disaster beyond measure.”

Diab angrily took on the country’s ruling class, which has taken the brunt of public opinion in the last week, saying that they had become “an apparatus of corruption bigger than the state.”

The Prime Minister protested that he and the members of his cabinet had, in fact, urged change in the hidebound political framework of Lebanon, saying that “We have fought valiantly and with dignity. Between us and change is big, powerful barrier.”

However, three of his cabinet members had already resigned in the wake of the blast, along with seven members of Parliament. There have been sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent protests all week long in the streets of the demolished capital city, demanding change once and for all in the corrupt governing structure of the country.

CNN reported that tear gas, rubber bullets, and by some accounts, live fire was used by the Lebanese police, who faced bricks and Molotov cocktails thrown at them by protesters over the weekend. The recent protests were some of the most violent ever seen in the war-torn country with a history of political turbulence.

Diab, who came into office in December of 2019, had been elected as a reformer, just two months after previous antigovernment demonstrations had swept the nation. In his Monday evening speech, he likened last Tuesday’s blast to an “earthquake that rocked the country.” In acknowledging his responsibility in part for the blast, he said that “We have decided to stand with the people.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had traveled to the devastated city of Beirut on Thursday, also hosted an international donors’ conference on Sunday in an appeal for help for the beleaguered nation. Sixteen heads of state where present, including US President Donald Trump. A total of $300 million in aid was pledged to Lebanon to help it rebuild.

Approximately one-half of the city was damaged by the blast, which had the equivalent of one-tenth of the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The explosion occurred when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, which had been seized by the Lebanese government in 2013 and stored in a building at the port, somehow ignited.

Almost all of the city’s port area on the Mediterranean was obliterated in the gigantic explosion.