BEIRUT: Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi said Wednesday the fear of a leadership vacuum in the military drove support for the decree to extend his term, as he pledged to commit to the country’s democratic process with his new time in his post.
“We reiterate today that we are committed to the Lebanese Constitution which is derived from the National Covenant including principles related to Lebanon's sovereignty, preserving democracy and respecting the Arab and International agreements,” Kahwagi said.
“Our respect to democracy permits us to say: Fear of paralysis has required a lot of decisions that would not have been taken if political life was active and not controlled by disputes among the parties,” he added during his speech ahead of National Army Day.
Kahwagi’s term which expires in late September is expected to be extended for two years by an administrative decree prepared and signed by caretaker Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn.
The decree is considered a last resort to avoid a vacuum in the top security post in a country that already is dealing with the impact of a resigned government and a paralyzed Parliament due to political disputes and the Syrian war.
During his speech, Kahwagi noted that the decree should be a “motivation” in order to distance political disputes from constitutional institutions and their continuity.
“We have committed and still commit ourselves to maintaining the democratic tradition through the continuation of the work of institutions not disrupting them as well as our commitment to the rule of law and for the Army to be up to par to its responsibilities,” he said.
The 68th Army anniversary come a month after the Army engaged in deadly clashes with Salafist gunmen in the coastal city of Sidon, leaving at least 18 soldiers dead.
Kahwagi saluted the soldiers deployed at checkpoints, in military barracks and those working with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon facing Israel.
“It is your anniversary, the officers, who have vowed to preserve your country's flag and defend Lebanon [only], not a party, sect or family as you commit to your leadership’s orders and its sole authority,” the Army commander said.
“[The Lebanese] stand beside you after you have prove that the army is a unified body and that it has a unilateral decision, and that it is worthy of carrying out the difficult tasks and that its legitimacy is derived from the people who have given them their confidence,” he added.
The Army celebrated its anniversary in its south Lebanon military barracks in Sidon, Tyre, Nabatieh and Marjeoun.