Protesters' roadblocks cleared in Lebanon amid army warnings

Roadblocks cleared in Lebanon as army chiefs slam political inertia
3 min read
10 March, 2021
Two days after the president's call, the army removed road blocks erected by protestors, but warned that soldiers are feeling the strain of the economic crisis.
General Joseph Aoun addressed officers on Monday. [Getty]
Lebanon's army and security forces have removed roadblocks set up by protestors during a week of demonstrations, as signs of fatigue and frustration with the ongoing crisis in the country start to show among the country's military’s ranks. 

Protesters had blocked a number of main roads leading into the capital Beirut, as well as in the northern city of Tripoli and the southern city of Tyre, angered by a collapsing economy and a paralysed government

The national currency has lost 85 percent of its value since the start of the crisis. 

The initial call to reopen roads was made by President Michel Aoun at noon on Monday, after a meeting with top officials, but by the evening, the army had not moved to act, and inaction on their part continued throughout Tuesday. 

However, following a number of accidents, the army made the decision to dismantle the obstacles and clear the roads on Wednesday.

“As a result of the tragic accidents and violations that took place, units of the army started this morning opening closed roads,” the army said in a statement on Twitter. 

Three people were killed on Monday in car accidents related to the roadblocks.

As the president held a meeting with officials on Monday, army chief General Joseph Aoun also held a meeting on Monday with military commanders, where he lambasted the political elite for their handling of the current crisis. 

“The officer also is suffering and is hungry, to the officials I say, where are you going? What are you waiting for? What are you planning to do?” asked Gen. Aoun in a statement. 

The speech was one of the first instances of a senior military figure openly criticising the ruling political elite since the start of the crisis in 2019. 

“The fragmentation of the army means the end of the entity, this is impossible to let happen. The army is holding together and the experience of ‘75 will not be repeated,” said Gen. Aoun, asserting that they army must not be split along sectarian lines, as happened when civil war broke out in 1975. 

Read more: Impact Lebanon: How a former WhatsApp group evolved into leading the global appeal for Beirut

Seemingly in response to the general’s speech, parliament announced today that they would meet on Friday to discuss an urgent draft law to compensate security forces for the increased cost of living.

Amid bickering among the political elites, Gen. Aoun may yet emerge as potential national leader, with the term of the current president set to come to an end in 2022. 

Aoun is viewed as an effective leader of the Lebanese army by foreign allies and either viewed favourably or at least tolerated by a majority of the political elites in the country. 

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