Rear View – Lebanon in review (03 October 2021)

Rear View – Lebanon in review (03 October 2021)

27 September: Another hiccup in Beirut explosion investigation

The investigation into the August 2020 Beirut explosion has been derailed yet again after a politician wanted for questioning filed a complaint against the lead investigator’s impartiality. This follows a smear campaign launched against Judge Tarek Bitar by Lebanese lawmakers.

Bitar wanted to question former interior minister Nohad Machnouk on suspicions of negligence. Machnouk’s complaint has now halted the investigation until the court of cassation can decide whether to accept or reject it.

Families of the victims of the explosion are accusing Lebanon’s politically-entrenched leaders of impunity. They are demanding an international investigation, claiming that there are too many obstacles to an effective domestic inquiry.

After more than a year since the blast, attempts to bring any senior official to account for the more than 200 lives lost and thousands injured have made no progress.

29 September: Lebanese stand in solidarity with Bitar

Lebanese have taken to the street to oppose the complaint filed against Judge Bitar. Protestors have gathered outside the house of Judge Nassib Elia, who will decide whether to dismiss or continue with the lawsuit, and also outside the Justice Palace.

The Lebanese public have been outraged by the politicisation of the inquiry, including the continued obstruction of the investigation by politicians.

Protestors carried signs with statements such as, “Judge Bitar is not alone.” One group, led by activist and lawyer Wassef Al Harakeh, managed to enter the Justice Palace and hang a large banner bearing the message “You will not kill us twice.”

29 September: Lebanon forms team to negotiate with IMF

A ministerial team has been formed to negotiate an IMF loan of funds for the purchase of essential fuel supplies. The team consists of the Lebanese Deputy Premier, Saadeh Shami, the Finance Minister, Youssef Khalil, the Economy Minister, Amin Salam, and two of President Aoun’s advisers, Charbel Kardahi and Rafik Haddad.

According to the state-run National News Agency, the Cabinet is seeking a $200 million loan to purchase fuel for the state-run Electricite du Liban. The country has been plagued by chronic power cuts for decades.

After a successful confidence vote last week, the Cabinet formed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati began addressing 11 items on an agenda of more than 500 items.

30 September: Jordan PM discusses supplying Lebanon with electricity, gas

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh has arrived in Lebanon to discuss easing the nation’s chronic power outages. The ministerial talks will build on a previously negotiated plan to give Lebanon access to Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas.

In separate meetings with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri, Khasawneh discussed several topics involving the two countries, including urgent issues requiring Jordan’s help such as energy and security.

01 October: Turkish company stops electricity supply to Lebanon 

Turkish company Karpowership has announced it will shut down its Lebanese operations. Karpowership has supplied one quarter of Lebanon’s electricity without payment for the past 18 months, and now claims that “no company can operate in an environment with such direct and undue risk.”

Karpowership uses two floating barges to provide Lebanon with about 370 megawatts of electricity. A source claimed that these generators were powered down from around 8am local time on October 1st, the day the corporation’s contract with the Lebanese government expired.

The anonymous source disclosed that the company was owed more than $100 million in payment arrears by the Lebanese government, and that its vessels are under a legal threat over corruption charges relating to the government contract.

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