Lebanese leaders reach deal on rubbish amid protests

Thousands demonstrate in downtown Beirut braving sandstorm as cabinet approves proposal dealing with rubbish crisis.

Lebanon protests
Lebanese anti-government protesters threw eggs at convoys of Lebanese politicians arriving at the parliament building [AP]

Beirut – Thousands of protesters have taken over Martyrs Square here in Lebanon’s capital to protest against the government after political officials failed to produce any solutions following a national dialogue session.

At least 5,000 residents from across Lebanon poured into downtown Beirut on Wednesday evening following a fruitless meeting between political factions seeking to resolve issues that have caused the country to come to a political standstill for over a year now.

Lebanese factions held a dialogue session earlier on Wednesday as security forces put the downtown area under lockdown to prevent protesters from reaching the parliament building.

The officials, who sat round the dialogue table for three hours, announced they will be holding another session a week from today, much to the ire of the protesters.

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As the politicians arrived for the session and again when they left, activists pelted their cars with eggs.

Lebanon’s cabinet later approved the proposal for dealing with the rubbish crisis put forward by Agriculture Minister Akram Cheheyab after a 6-hour meeting.

The proposal includes allowing municipalities to manage their own waste management – one of the demands pushed forward by the protesters, giving the municipalities more autonomy over their own funds.

“These sessions are completely useless,” 42-year-old Mohammad, from the southern suburbs of Beirut, told Al Jazeera.

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“The same people who are taking part in the sessions are part of the problem; how are they supposed to be part of the solution?”

For Rudy Spiridon, a 26-year-old advertising executive from Beirut, the purpose behind attending today’s protest is to “reclaim our democracy”.

“Clearly if they keep postponing their sessions, they are not serious about trying to address our issues.”

Amid a sea of Lebanese flags, protesters braved the ongoing sandstorm that has swept across the country and carried signs calling for the downfall of the government, an end to corruption, and holding relevant authorities accountable.

Over a dozen protesters have so far been treated for heatstroke as a result of the high temperature and humidity that has enveloped the city.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s cabinet is holding an extraordinary session following the national dialogue to specifically address the rubbish issue, which spurred civil society activists and residents to take to the streets over a month and a half ago.

Source: Al Jazeera