Nearly 60,000 people have signed a petition calling for their country to be placed under a French mandate for the next 10 years. The move follows the massive explosion that rocked the capital Beirut on Tuesday.
The petition calls for the imposition of a French mandate because of the current political and economic crisis, for which the ruling elite is being blamed.
“Lebanon’s officials have clearly shown a total inability to secure and manage the country,” says the petition. “With a failing system, corruption, terrorism and militia the country just reached its last breath. We believe Lebanon should go back under the French mandate in order to establish a clean and durable governance.”
The popular petition was started after French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beirut yesterday and walked along some of the most damaged streets close to the site of the explosion. He was accompanied by his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Aoun.
Hundreds of people gathered to greet the French president, denounce the government and plead with Macron to send aid directly to NGOs such as the Lebanese Red Cross rather than through politicians, who they believe are corrupt. Protests in downtown Beirut saw demonstrators clash with security forces while calling on the government to resign.
Lebanon is suffering from its worst economic crisis in the country’s history and is struggling to combat the coronavirus pandemic. For many people, Tuesday’s explosion was the final straw. When 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate blew up — having been stored unsafely in Beirut’s port for six years — the blast devastated the city, killing at least 145 people and injuring thousands more.
The ammonium nitrate arrived in Beirut in 2013 on board a Moldavan-flagged cargo ship which made an unscheduled stop because of technical problems. The head of the port customs later pleaded with a “judge of urgent matters” to re-export or sell the explosive substance, according to Associated Press (AP), but the pleas fell on deaf ears.
As far as many Lebanese are concerned, the chain of administrative mistakes which led to such volatile material being stored improperly within 100 metres of residential buildings is emblematic of the government’s failings. Moreover, a report by France24 said that locals have taken to the streets voluntarily in their hundreds carrying brooms and dustpans in a community driven effort to clear debris. The authorities and officials have been noticeable by their absence.