The Lebanese mark the 1st anniversary of their "revolution"

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Several hundred Lebanese marched on Saturday in Beirut to mark the first anniversary of an unprecedented popular uprising, unleashed against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence without however bringing about real changes in a country in the midst of economic collapse.

In the evening, clashes erupted in the city center on the outskirts of Martyrs Square and Parliament, a handful of demonstrators throwing stones at the police who fired tear gas, reported a photographer from the 'AFP.

Two governments have resigned since the start of the protest on October 17, 2019. But the same politicians, often former civil war lords (1975-1990), the same parties and the same patrician families still monopolize power.

All means all, chanted the protesters for weeks, demanding the departure of the entire political class, before their rallies run out of steam.

View from above of a demonstration where protesters face the police.

The monster gatherings of the beginnings became over the months sporadic and were violently dispersed.

Photo: Reuters / Mohamed Azakir

For weeks, the protest, which mobilized hundreds of thousands of people on certain days, demanded the departure of the entire political class. Before the gatherings, often violently repressed, run out of steam over the months, in a Lebanon exhausted by the economic crisis.

On Saturday, a few hundred demonstrators waving Lebanese flags began to rally the center of Beirut and the emblematic Place des Martyrs, epicenter of the protest where patriotic songs resounded through loudspeakers, noted an AFP photographer. .

Waving Lebanese flags and lighted torches, they converged in the evening at the port to commemorate the cataclysmic explosion of August 4 that left more than 200 dead and 6,500 injured. On the way, they observed a minute of silence.

A metal sculpture of a torch, on which was engraved in Arabic October 17 revolution was then lit at 6:07 p.m., the exact time at which, on August 4, Beirut fell into hell.

October 17, 2020, the day the spark became a flame that will not go out. We will continue until the last breath (…) we will continue the revolution.

Sami Saab, one of the organizers

For a year, we have been in the streets to raise social and economic demands, and nothing has changed, loose the septuagenarian Abed Sabagh, met on the Place des Martyrs. Our demand is the change of the corrupt political class, which continues to compete for positions and seats, he hammers.

The roots of anger

The dispute had arisen due to a government tax on the use of the WhatsApp application. If the authorities quickly removed this measure, the uprising had spread throughout the country, illustrating a generalized fed up with a sclerotic system and almost non-existent public services.

For a year, the country has been going through a serious economic crisis marked by a collapse of the national currency and draconian banking restrictions on withdrawals and transfers abroad.

Added to this are tens of thousands of layoffs and wage cuts in a country where now half of the population lives in poverty.

The difficulties have also been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout a catastrophic year, the grievances and legitimate demands of the Lebanese were not heard (…) All of this further aggravated the lack of confidence of the Lebanese in their leaders.

Jan Kubis, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon

Change in continuity?

But the political class is still there, absorbed in endless bargaining to form a government and ignoring calls from the international community for reform.

The government of Hassan Diab resigned in the wake of the explosion, the responsibility of which is attributed by a large part of the public to the carelessness of the leaders.

By the authorities' own admission, the explosion was caused by a huge amount of ammonium nitrate, stored for more than six years without precautionary measures.

Initially scheduled for Thursday, parliamentary consultations to designate the future head of government have been postponed for a week.

My hand is always extended to work together and make the calls for reform a realityPresident Michel Aoun reiterated on Twitter on Saturday, protesters having often rejected his invitations.

As for Saad Hariri, a former prime minister who resigned in the fall of 2019 when the protests were in full swing, he now says he is ready to take the head of a new government.

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