Gutted houses, angry residents and suddenly “Long live France” and applause: President Emmanuel Macron appears as a savior Thursday in the devastated district of Gemmayzé in Beirut, promising the angry Lebanese to hold their people to account. responsible.
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No Lebanese leader has yet done so. In shirt sleeves, face masked, the French head of state offered himself a real walkabout, despite the coronavirus pandemic which is worsening in Lebanon, going to neighborhoods blown away by the terrible explosions at the port from Beirut on Tuesday.
” Long live France! Help us! You are the only hope! », Repeat the Lebanese to the French president in this predominantly Christian district, which was the vibrant heart of nightlife, bars and restaurants in Beirut.
Walking among the broken glass, among the blown building entrances, Emmanuel Macron was able to take the measure of the anger of the Lebanese, who have lost all hope in their leaders, after this accidental explosion due according to the authorities to a fire, in a warehouse housing several tonnes of ammonium nitrate.
Emmanuel Macron is caught in the fray, gives himself time to speak to one or the other, waves to the crowd, in the street or massed on the balconies, which applauds as it passes.
Mask on the face, wearing construction gloves, a woman calls out to him in French, holding him firmly by both hands. The president then leans for an embrace that goes on forever, to the cheers and whistles of onlookers.
“Revolution! The people want the fall of the regime ”, chanted a group gathered in front of a devastated pharmacy, where the French president entered, using the flagship slogan of the Arab Spring, before shouting at President Michel Aoun.
Some give free rein to their rage directed against the authorities. ” Where were you yesterday? Why don’t you help us? A woman from the neighborhood yells at the police.
“I understand your anger”
On Twitter, the Lebanese playwright and actor Ziad Itani, who lives in the district of Gemmayzé, hailed a “historic” visit, criticizing the negligence of the Lebanese leaders.
“I no longer have a home in Gemmayzé, and the first to visit the neighborhood is a foreign president. Shame on you! “, He launched.
In front of the crowd, Mr. Macron assures us that he is not there to “endorse (..) the regime”.
“I understand your anger,” he said. “I am here and it is my duty to help you as a people, to bring you the medicines, the food”, he adds.
To people who tell him not to trust the authorities, he replies: “I guarantee you that this aid will not go into the hands of corruption”.
“Above all, do not give money to our corrupt government,” calls out a passerby in French. “We can’t take it anymore, we’re at the end of the line. It is a bruised people, Mr. President, ”she continues with a trembling voice.
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Macron calmly replies.
“Free us from the authorities, rid us of corruption, you are our only hope,” chanted the Lebanese.
And it is during this walkabout that the Head of State announces that he will “speak to all the political forces to ask them for a new political pact”.
The French president will ask those responsible “to carry out reforms (…) to change the system, to stop the division of Lebanon, to fight against corruption”.
“I’ll talk to them. I am obliged to sit down with them (..) I will tell them the truth, I will hold them accountable, ”he solemnly promises.
For nearly an hour, the Head of State experienced a strong diplomatic moment of his five-year term, like Jacques Chirac in Jerusalem in 1996 or François Hollande in 2013 in Timbuktu.
Emmanuel Macron rushes into an official car. Direction: the presidential palace, on the heights of Beirut for official talks.