Lebanon relieved by Hariri’s calm declarations on live TV

Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Updated 14 November 2017

Lebanon relieved by Hariri’s calm declarations on live TV

BEIRUT: The live TV appearance and on Sunday night of Saad Hariri, who resigned as Lebanon’s prime minister on Nov. 4, has put the Lebanese people at ease.
After the interview, statements made by Hariri’s adversaries about his being under “house arrest” were refuted and replaced by statements welcoming his stances and anticipating his return, which he promised would be “in two days.”
“They tried to disparage Hariri’s resignation by focusing on the way he resigned and distracting everyone from his demand to maintain Lebanon’s self-distancing policy and keep the country out of Arab conflicts,” Antoine Zahra, member of the Lebanese Forces’ parliamentary bloc, told Arab News.
“They also slammed the Lebanese Forces for supporting Hariri,” he added.
“It turned out that Hariri, who tolerated the intolerable, is looking for ways to ensure the political settlement’s success while his adversaries exploit it to get Lebanon further involved in the region’s conflicts.”
Zahra described what happened through the campaign against Saudi Arabia as “burying one’s head in the sand.”
He said: “In a tone different from the one he used in his resignation statement, Hariri said he was keen to achieve a settlement but it required two parties, and that he had put personal efforts into it and endured continuous personal attacks as well as on the settlement which would lead Lebanon to a deadly phase. How can Hezbollah’s hostility toward the rest of the Arab world be coated? Hezbollah is punishing the Lebanese people by measures that are, at the least, choking the country’s economy.”
“There are no constitutional restrictions on Al-Hariri’s resignation from abroad,” he explained, and then asked: “Do the ministers’ resignations from Rabieh (President Aoun’s former residence when he was head of the Free Patriotic Movement) count as constitutional while Al-Hariri’s doesn’t?”
Zahra predicts that Hariri will be re-assigned upon forming the next government because “political powers have no other candidate to negotiate re-settlement on its original basis after the new mandate.”
According to a statement released by the media office at Baabda Palace, President Michel Aoun commented on remarks made by Hariri, which indicated that the political settlement still stands and that he has the option of retracting his resignation. “I am pleased that Al-Hariri will return soon to Lebanon and I’ll be waiting to discuss with him the reasons behind his resignation, the circumstances surrounding it and other topics of concern that need to be addressed,” he said.
Aoun also hailed the coherence between the Lebanese people, “which has protected national unity and proved to the rest of the world that Lebanon is a sovereign and independent country.”
Lebanon’s political authorities were quick to comment on Hariri’s statements through tweets that expressed how they eagerly anticipated his return to Lebanon.
Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament, said: “There is justice in the retraction of Hariri’s resignation.”
Walid Jumblatt, head of the Democratic Gathering bloc, said: “Despite all the difficulties, obstacles and pitfalls, Sheikh Saad will always be the man of the settlement, the man of dialogue, and the man of the state.”
Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces party, said the political settlement could still be saved if the government committed to its self-distancing policy and if Hezbollah withdrew from Syria and from regional conflicts.
The State Minister for Combating Corruption, Nicolas Tueni, said Al-Hariri’s praise of the president and his stances, his commitment to finding a constitutional solution with the president, including the possibility of retracting his resignation, and his firm stand for the political settlement were all evidence that national consensus and brotherly unity in Lebanon had triumphed.
Talal Arslan, leader of the Lebanese Democratic Party and an ally of Hezbollah, said: “Hariri’s interview boosted my belief in the necessity of insisting on his return to Lebanon. I salute him and would like to tell him that his protection and the protection of his family are as important as the protection of Lebanon, its people, its unity, and its dignity.”
MP Ibrahim Kanaan, secretary of the Change and Reform bloc, which is an ally of Hezbollah, described Hariri’s return as “the key to all political options and constitutional solutions.”
The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, continued to receive figures in solidarity with Hariri in Dar Al-Fatwa.
He told his visitors that he felt relieved after listening to Hariri’s live interview in his second country, Saudi Arabia, during which he refuted all rumors and interpretations that had spread in Lebanon and the world and said he was with his family and brothers in Riyadh.


Nile dam dispute spills onto social media

Updated 10 July 2020

Nile dam dispute spills onto social media

CAIRO: As Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan struggle to resolve a long-running dispute over Addis Ababa’s dam megaproject on the Nile, some of their citizens are sparring online over their rights to the mighty waterway.
For nearly a decade, multiple rounds of talks between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum have failed to produce a deal over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Anxiety has mounted in downstream Sudan and Egypt, which fear for their vital water supplies after upstream Ethiopia declared plans to start filling Africa’s largest dam reservoir in July.
As tensions have run high in the political arena, they have also amped up online.
In one widely viewed video originally shared on TikTok, an Ethiopian woman pours water from a pitcher into two cups representing Egypt and Sudan.
She fills Sudan’s cup to the brim but only pours a trickle of water into Egypt’s, before emptying the water back into the pitcher.
“This is my water. When I give you water, it’s my call, not yours,” she says.
In response, an Egyptian woman created a compilation of the video and one of her own in which she knocks down a dam-shaped block structure with the Ethiopian flag superimposed on it before triumphantly downing a cup of water.
The video had been viewed more than 55,000 times on Instagram by Wednesday.
Social media “platforms are powerful,” said Wubalem Fekade, communications head at the intergovernmental ENTRO-Nile Basin Initiative.
“People on the social media platforms aren’t accountable, so it’s easy to disseminate unverified, incorrect, false, even conspiracy theories,” he said.
But, he added hopefully, “when used creatively and judiciously, they can help defuse tensions.”
The online row over the dam has been particularly heated between Egyptian and Ethiopian social media users.
Egypt has long enjoyed the lion’s share of the Nile water under decades-old agreements that were largely viewed by other Nile basin countries as unfair.
On Twitter, Egyptians echoed authorities’ fears that Ethiopia’s dam would severely cut their country’s supply of water from the Nile, which provides 97 percent of the arid nation’s water needs.
“We will never allow any country to starve us” of water, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris wrote on Twitter.
“If Ethiopia doesn’t come to reason, we, the Egyptian people will be the first to call for war,” he threatened.
Egyptian cartoonist Ahmed Diab has weighed in with a drawing of an outsized Egyptian soldier, rifle slung over his shoulder, facing a diminutive Ethiopian man with the dam in the background.
“You idiot, try to understand that I care for you ... ever heard about the Bar Lev Line?” the soldier tells the Ethiopian, alluding to Egypt’s military strength in referring to the Egyptian destruction of an Israeli defense line along the Suez canal in 1973.
Diab called the cartoon part of a “psychological war.”
“Besides a show of military might and strong media discourse, arts can boost people’s morale,” he said.
For their part, Ethiopians have rallied behind their country’s mega project, set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric installation.
On social media, they have rejected any conditions of reaching a deal before filling the dam.
Filling the dam should not be held “hostage” to an agreement with Cairo, Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohamed wrote on Twitter.
“If agreement is reached before the filling begins in the coming days, it’s great. If not, the filling should begin and the negotiation shall continue,” he said.
Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, insists the dam will not affect the onward flow of water and sees the project as indispensible for its national development and electrification.
Khartoum hopes the dam will help regulate flooding, but in June it warned that millions of lives will be at “great risk” if Ethiopia unilaterally fills the dam.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Sudan raised concerns that water discharged from the GERD could “compromise the safety” of its own Roseires Dam by overwhelming it and causing flooding.
Omar Dafallah, a Sudanese artist, depicted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed overseeing the water flowing from the dam through a faucet to fill a jug held by Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
The drawing also shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with a large water container, waiting in line.
Last month, Egypt also appealed to the UNSC to intervene in the crisis — a move El-Sisi said underlined his country’s committment to a political solution.
Egyptian lawmaker Mohamed Fouad views the online debate as a way to “break the stalemate” in the diplomatic talks, “so long as they remain within the boundaries of healthy discussions.”