By Joseph El-Khoury
I remember in details the election of General Emile Lahoud to the Lebanese presidency nine years ago to the day. I had left the country the previous year and still suffering from acute nostalgia, a disease experienced by many fresh expatriates. One of my symptoms consisted of religiously following the latest developments in Lebanon through various news outlets and reporting back in real time to friends and family back home. Needless to say they were busy getting on with their lives and generally not impressed with this obsessive behaviour.
I received the news of his election with certain unease. I never felt strongly about the man and was anyway naturally suspicious of anyone in uniform. But at one point I probably believed he was the embodiment of the sincere and honest military leader: The type who had his country’s best interest at heart and would work to bring back law and order to our vulnerable nation. I phoned a friend who lived in Beirut and for her own reasons shared my scepticism. We had a long conversation while in the background the city was on fire with hundreds from all sects celebrating. They expressed their joy from the various neighbourhoods, from Ashrafieh to Tareek Jdide and Ouzai using fireworks, the occasional machine gun staccato and other ‘traditional’ celebratory rituals. The feelings were genuine and the sense of hope overwhelming. We felt like the two only people who did not share this enthusiasm with our compatriots.
Here I am thousands of miles away being a grumpy sod, time would prove me wrong! I thought… But it didn’t.
Nine years later, still abroad but less obsessive, I receive the news of his departure not with relief but with resentment and fear. It is true I will not have to suffer the eternally tanned vain general receiving minor celebrities from obscure village associations anymore but the future still appears grim with another general in the pipeline.
The picture is taken from www.rfi.fr