A total of 84 days have gone by since Saad Hariri resigned as Prime Minister last October. His resignation came after a wave of protests responding to Hariri mismanagement and corrupt behaviours in office. Since then Lebanese people have been at odds over how to move forward. In mid-December Hassan Diab, a former Minister of Education was favoured by Hezbollah and Amal to become the next Prime Minister. On December 19th, 2019 Diab was official designated to become prime minister. This, however ,was not a popular decision in the eyes of the general public, as many civilians are seeking a political overhaul with a cabinet unaffiliated with the existing political factions. The decision therefore provoked another series of protest which would captivate Lebanon going in to 2020.
The immediate aftermath of Diab’s designation was street protests and the erection of roadblocks in both Beirut and Tripoli. The masses that gathered in Martyrs’ Square in Beirut on December 22nd showcased the magnitude of unrest. In addition, Amnesty International reported a total of 527 arrests related to the protests since October 17th. Despite the accelerated mobilization in December the protests were put to a simmer until resuming in mid January. On January 14th, major roadways in Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, and Akkar were blocked by the protests. Protesters also gathered outside the central bank, and outside Hassan Diab’s place of residence. Reports have stated that banks in particular have become targets of vandalism, as well as widespread road blockades throughout the major cities. The violent turn in the protest culminated to around 460 people being injured in Beirut over the weekend of the 18th of January. Many of these injuries have been a result of the violent suppression of the riot police. Amnesty International has called upon Lebanese politicians to end the crackdown on civilians as a recent report details the excessive use of force by means of tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, and batons. The excessive use of force and the mistreatment of detainees are violations of international humanitarian law.
After a weekend of violent confrontations between protesters and police, Lebanon has formed a new government. The decision to form a government on January 21st was bolstered by Hezbollah and allies, who designed a new cabinet of 20 people. With Diab as the Prime Minister, the cabinet is made up of technocratic individuals aligned to varying degrees with Hezbollah. Furthermore, the protesters demanded a government which was independent of affiliation with political factions yet got just the opposite.
The creation of a nascent Lebanese government comes at a time of economic collapse. Furthermore, it is imperative that Diab makes active attempts to unite the fractioned country. In a televised address: “this is a government that represents the aspirations of the demonstrators who have been mobilized nationwide for more than three months.” Although the future of Lebanon is unclear the international community must continue to monitor the treatment of protesters, and ultimately the ability for this nascent government to deliver the minimum requirements to their civilians which have been neglected by a corrupt system for years.