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University of Balamand > News > Archive > Between Chaos and Collapse

Between Chaos and Collapse

Former Minister of Justice Charles Rizk is not surprised that the Lebanese have not been able to elect a new president of the republic. In fact, Rizk told a Balamand audience of Political Science students and faculty, on March 12, that the Lebanese have never been able to do so in the past. “All of our presidents have been appointed by powers outside our borders.”

At present, these powers cannot agree on a new name, and members of Parliament, unaccustomed to do it on their own, find the task too daunting.

The former minister of justice was invited on campus by Political Science Associate Professor Nawaf Kabbara to discuss his recent book, whose title in Arabic translates, roughly, into Between Lebanese Anarchy and the Syrian Collapse – a work which Rizk said was based on his own personal recollections of years serving in public office.

“I first entered public service when President Fouad Chehab asked me to join his team as an aide while I was still a university student in France.” Rizk credits Chehab with being the only president of the republic who actively sought to strengthen the institutions of the state. During his mandate, says Rizk, political parties rallied around political programs, independent of sectarian affiliations. Since then, “politicians have worked to rally their sects to further their own ends,” thus neglecting national objectives to serve their own interests. “Since Chehab,” said Rizk, most if not all presidents have been a disappointment in this regard.”

Rizk believes that the failure of Lebanon to coalesce as a nation is in part due to the fact that it never had the opportunity to rally its citizens around a common cause. Lebanese independence, he points out, was the result of an agreement during World War II, and not as a result of a national struggle.

“The French, who enjoyed a mandate over Lebanon, were practically forced out of Lebanon by the British, and so the Lebanese were gifted independence.” They did not have to fight for it, says Rizk, and therefore never had the opportunity to unite as a people against an occupier, nor were there opportunities for Lebanon to define itself as a nation.

The 1988 Taef Accord, while designed in theory to dismantle the sectarian nature of the state, in practice consolidated sectarianism, Rizk told his audience. “All in all, were Lebanon to draw a balance sheet since its creation, it would not spell success.”

Nevertheless, Rizk is not pessimistic about the future of the country and believes there is now a real opportunity for its citizens to take advantage of the chaos around them to start building the nation, independent of outside influences. Whether they will do so or not will depend entirely on the will of its current leaders, he argues. ​​​​
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