Cooperation between Egypt and Tanzania    Grassroots politics: A story from Beheira    Eni reaches agreements with Egypt, Naturgy to restart operations at gas plant in Damietta    The end of the beginning    Biden administration    British troops protecting Saudi oil wells    19-year-old Jones sends Liverpool into last 16 with Ajax win    Atletico still not through as Mueller snatches draw for Bayern    Gana Hena play at Al-Ghad Theatre is a must go    A final battle    Euphoric Ahly edge close to treble after win over Ittihad in Egypt Cup semis    Upgrading transport    Italy reports 19,350 new coronavirus cases, 785 deaths: Health ministry    Free Devastation    Don't miss Britt Boutros Ghali's show at Picasso gallery    After 4.2 million COVID-19 cases in November, US pins hope on vaccine    France aiming for broader COVID-19 vaccination campaign in spring: Macron    Egypt's stock market indices close higher, EGX 30 hikes 0.89% on Tuesday    Moderna files for U.S. vaccine authorization, will seek EU nod    Pfizer, BioNTech apply for coronavirus vaccine approval in Europe    Egypt reports 370 new coronavirus cases, 14 deaths on Monday    Egypt to raise local components of locomotive industry to 45% – official    World Bank warns of 'prolonged depression' in Lebanon    Egypt's current account deficit jumps in April-June    Brexit unresolved, as EU, UK say big differences remain    Cairo International Book Fair suspended for five months over coronavirus concerns    US will reduce number of its troop in Iraq, Afghanistan    Asia forms world's biggest trade bloc, a China-backed group excluding U.S    Egypt unveils largest archaeological discovery in 2020 with over 100 intact sarcophagi    Trump says won't blame Egypt for being ‘upset' over GERD dispute with Ethiopia    1st stage of Egypt's parliamentary elections kicks off on Saturday    Global Finance: Egypt's Tarek Amer among the world's top 20 central bank governors    Legend footballer Lionel Messi says he is forced to stay with Barcelona    Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan to resume Nile dam talks today    Iraqi conglomerate eyes developing land that housed Mubarak-era ruling party HQ    Legend Messi officially wants to leave Barcelona, hands transfer request    The Facebook Preacher's Search for Fame, and Egypt's Economy    Egypt calls on UNSC to address oil spill risks off Yemen coast    Egypt economically strong in face of COVID-19, reforms ongoing: International Cooperation Minister    Arafa Holding reports $144,000 COVID-19-related losses in April    Egypt's efforts in Libya to activate free will of Libyan people: Al-Sisi    Hyksos campaigns were internal takeover, not foreign invaders: study    COVID-19 affects Egypt sporting clubs    COVID-19 will soon turn to seasonal like swine flu: Presidential Health Advisor    ‘Egypt's Support' coalition convenes to discuss its Senate election list    Robbery attempt leads to discovery of Ptolemaic monuments in Qena    Flouting international guidance, Ethiopia unilaterally starts filling its Nile dam    Zaha speaks out after online racial abuse    







Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.





After Lebanese revolt's fury, waning protests face long road
Published in Ahram Online on 17 - 10 - 2020

A year ago, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets protesting taxes and a rapidly deteriorating economic crisis. A spontaneous and hopeful nationwide movement was born, denouncing an entire political establishment that had for decades pushed Lebanon toward collapse.
Today, as crises multiply and the country dives deeper into uncertainty and poverty, protests seem to have petered out. Even widespread anger over a devastating explosion at Beirut's port on Aug. 4, blamed on government negligence, failed to re-ignite the movement.
It is both bewildering and frustrating for those who believe only a sustained popular uprising can bring change in Lebanon.
Some argue the protests lost momentum because of the political elite's moves to hijack and weaken the movement. Protesters have been met with violence, arrest and intimidation. Others say Lebanese have become numb to incompetence and corruption among the political class.
But Lebanon's confessional-based power-sharing system also proved difficult to bring down. A revolt against the status quo means breaking a sectarian patronage network cultivated by the ruling elite that many in the divided population benefit from. Even if dissatisfied, some blame other factions for the country's problems or fear change will give another sect power over them _ a fear politicians eagerly stoke.
``We don't have one head of state, it's a group of men, they have agreed to divide the spoils of the state at every level. It's a system that you can hardly topple,'' said Carmen Geha, associate professor in public administration and an activist. She compared the dismantling of Lebanon's system to the dismantling of Apartheid in South Africa, a long and arduous process.
For all its limitations, the protest movement that erupted on Oct. 17, 2019 had successes.
Even after street demonstrations dissipated, grassroots networks quickly mobilized following the Beirut explosion, which killed nearly 200 and wrecked tens of thousands of homes. Authorities almost completely left the public on its own to deal with the aftermath, with no government clean-up crews in the streets and little outreach to those whose homes or businesses were wrecked.
So activists stepped in and took charge of rebuilding.
``You find people more mobilized toward helping each other ... that is another face of the revolution,'' Geha said. ``We need to show people how inept politicians are and provide them with an alternative system, one focused on services.''
The protests showed Lebanese could march against politicians of their own sect. In unprecedented scenes, large crowds turned out even in cities like Tripoli, Sidon and Nabatiyeh, which have been strongly affiliated to traditional sectarian parties, including Hezbollah. Politicians considered untouchable gained something of a pariah status, named and shamed in public or even chased out of restaurants.
``We broke the sectarian barriers and the taboo of opposing these warlords, we broke their halo,'' said Taymour Jreissati, once a prominent protester, now living in France. Jreissati left in the summer, for the sake of his children, he said, and after being threatened by politicians and security agencies.
Two governments were toppled under the pressure of the streets -- one last October, the other right after the Beirut explosion.
Jad Chaaban, an economist and activist, says the protest movement was thwarted by the political elite.
``The politicians cemented their alliances again and distributed the roles to protect each other,'' he said. ``The counter-revolution was at the level of the economy, allowing it to deteriorate .. (and) on the streets through a fierce police crackdown.''
The political factions in power have generally claimed to support the protesters' goals of reform and an end to corruption. At the same time, they have made no move to enact reform, often depicting the protesters as agents of instability.
In a speech to his party faithful last week, former Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil -- who is the son-in-law of the president and who was particularly vilified in protesters' chants as a symbol of the ruling class -- called on ``the true, sincere movement'' to join his party in forming a program of change. But he also warned that Lebanese are threatened ``with being brainwashed by `revolutions' fabricated and financed from abroad.''
The protest movement also failed to offer solid leadership. From the start, protesters shunned calls to do so, worried leaders could be targeted or co-opted. With time, that absence became a constraint.
Some experts see the protesters' chief demand as unrealistic _ typified in the chant, ``All of them means all of them,'' meaning all politicians in the establishment must step down.
That addressed the wrong issue and was ``a dilution of the problem,'' said Nadim Shehadi, from the London-based think tank Chatham House.
``The problem in Lebanon is not the system of governance, it has its flaws but it is not the cause of the problem, Hezbollah is,'' said Shehadi, who is also executive director of the New York headquarters and academic center at the Lebanese American University.
At various protests, supporters of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its Shiite ally Amal attacked demonstrators. Hezbollah and its political allies have also snarled efforts to form a more reformist government since the port explosion _ wary, critics say, of changes that could impact its strength as an independent armed force and support system for its Shiite community.
The uprising tripped over a myriad of crises. The coronavirus pandemic undermined turnout. The breakdown of the economy _ and then the port explosion _ threw people into survival mode, drained by their inability to make ends meet.
People may eventually go back to street protests. The Central Bank is expected to end subsidies of basic goods in coming weeks, throwing more people into poverty.
But many activists now focus on the grassroots level, building an alternative to the patronage system to deliver basic needs. With time, they hope more people will break with their traditional leadership.
``It's a long road,'' says activist Lina Boubess, a 60-year-old mother who has not missed one protest since October.
``I am the civil war generation, but this new generation gives me hope. I believe in a tomorrow, I don't want to give up.''


Clic here to read the story from its source.