On the eighth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination, it is imperative that this tragic day be used as an opportunity to reflect on his legacy for the whole of Lebanon, and not let it be manipulated as a political or partisan tool.
The gap that his death has left in Lebanon is as wide today as it ever has been. Yet the ongoing attempts by his opponents to discredit him as solely a Sunni prime minister continue to fall flat, as Hariri was never anything but a truly Lebanese leader.
Regardless of the attempts to belittle his legacy, it would be a difficult challenge for anyone to try and deny the positive benefits he afforded his country. His vision was one of a strong, united Lebanon, and before his death, he achieved remarkable gains toward that goal.
After the devastation that the Civil War wrought on Lebanon, Hariri did more to bring the country back into the international arena than anyone else. His presence and confidence in Lebanon saw the country cease being a state where banks scrambled for deposits and become one where lenders were overflowing with funds.
The statesman also worked to cast a positive light on the entire region, and despite the Syrian presence in Lebanon, many across the border even looked to him as their representative on a global level.
And while often slammed for being solely concerned with the country’s capital, his work on the construction of highways and bridges across the country, among myriad other projects, was just one testament to his commitment to rebuilding the entire nation.
Now eight years have passed since his death, and the Lebanese still want to know, and deserve to know, why and how he died. Implicated in the crime by the international court investigating it, Hezbollah now needs to cooperate. If it is indeed innocent, as it claims, its cooperation would be the best possible way for it to prove it played no part in Hariri’s death.
Like so many other politicians assassinated throughout Lebanese history, and indeed those who were also killed in 2005, Hariri did not die for his sect. He was a martyr for all of Lebanon, because it was Lebanon for which he lived and worked.
He was motivated by the principles of co-existence and national unity, advocacy of which undoubtedly led to his assassination. He would therefore be deeply troubled to see how his own death is being politicized and manipulated by people today. His death is not owned by one sect or one political grouping, but by all of Lebanon.
The anniversary of his death thus must be used as a time of political reflection by both those who supported him and those who opposed him. In a spirit of mutual respect and discussion, which Hariri himself always strived for, the political leaders of today, regardless of their sect, should be inspired by his legacy.