BEIRUT

Lubnan

Citing costs, Tripoli leaders reject development plan

  • People sweep up garbage from a street in impovrished Bab al-Tabbaneh neighbourhood in Tripoli. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim

BEIRUT: Tripoli leaders have rejected a development plan devised by General Security that aims to end the endemic violence in the city and revive its economy, arguing the cost was too high. The security apparatus designed the plan after studying in detail the security and development situation of the northern city. It was presented over a year ago to high-ranking officials and an important former Tripoli official in particular. The report details a development plan aimed at addressing the root causes of violence in north Lebanon, particularly in Tripoli.

According to the plan, establishing a fruit canning factory in Bab al-Tabbaneh would assuage the strain on farmers in the north, namely from Akkar and Dinnieh, who are no longer able to export their products due to closures of border crossings with Syria and who have suffered tremendous economic losses as a result.

The factory would also provide job opportunities for Bab al-Tabbaneh youths, veering them away from participation in armed clashes.

The plan was given to a senior Tripoli official who, after studying it, said the projected costs, estimated to be $8 million, were too high for the municipality.

In a bid to curb the cycle of violence, the government decided in December to put Tripoli under the command of the Army for a period of six months, but the plan has been undermined by new rounds of fighting this year.

Fighters in Jabal Mohsen, a predominately Alawite neighborhood, have engaged in repeated clashes with rival gunmen in the mostly Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh area since the Syrian uprising began.

Recent attacks against the Army and police forces in Tripoli coincided with a Cabinet decision to seize stockpiled arms and crack down on gunmen in the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli as part of a plan initiated last Thursday to end the violence.

Tripoli MPs Samir Jisr and Mohammad Kabbara have called for an investment of $100 million for the city’s development.

According to security sources, the cost of each night of clashes, from the perspective of the weapons used, varies from $300,000, if light weapons are used, to $500,000 for heavy arms, high for Tripoli’s dwindling economy. The numbers don’t reflect the cost of weapons still being delivered to the northern city.

Politicians and other officials who are supplying Tripoli gunmen with arms are being encouraged to stop and provide opportunities for employment, instead of issuing decisions and asking the security forces for their implementation.

Secret meetings between military and security officers have focused on the dynamics on the ground in Tripoli and the defects of the security plan. The meetings have also touched on the background of some of Tripoli’s gunmen who have been terrorizing the city for a long time, whether from Bab al-Tabbaneh or Jabal Mohsen.

Moreover, a number of high-ranking security officials in Tripoli believe that the deluge of foreign fighters into the city, such as members of the Nusra Front, will not help the security situation.

These fighters are considered military, and that makes them different from the typical gunmen of Jabal Mohsen or Bab al-Tabbaneh. Recent attacks targeting Army patrols in the city stoke fears that security will deteriorate further in the troubled northern city.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 31, 2014, on page 2.
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Summary

Tripoli leaders have rejected a development plan devised by General Security that aims to end the endemic violence in the city and revive its economy, arguing the cost was too high.

It was presented over a year ago to high-ranking officials and an important former Tripoli official in particular. The report details a development plan aimed at addressing the root causes of violence in north Lebanon, particularly in Tripoli.

Recent attacks against the Army and police forces in Tripoli coincided with a Cabinet decision to seize stockpiled arms and crack down on gunmen in the Bekaa Valley and Tripoli as part of a plan initiated last Thursday to end the violence.


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