Displaced from reality

From right, MP Walid Jumblatt, President Michel Sleiman, Patriarch Beshara Rai and Druze Sheikh Naim Hasan attend a ceremony in the Chouf village of Brih, Saturday, May 17, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

Officials, politicians and senior religious figures gathered in the village of Brih in Lebanon’s Chouf region this weekend for a grand “reconciliation” between Christians and Druze residents, to heal the wounds of the Civil War.

The return of war-displaced residents to their villages and the securing of legal and financial rights to property and related matters are commendable actions, but officials are ignoring another, urgently needed form of reconciliation.

The Lebanese public is anxious to gain closure over a series of disturbing events. In places such as Europe after World War II, it only took a few years before millions of people were being repatriated and rebuilding. By contrast, after Lebanon’s Civil War, a few decades were needed to “close the page” on encouraging the repatriation of several hundred people to a single, tiny village.

Another disturbing matter is how government officials can speak solemnly about the need for accountability in politics, while conveniently ignoring it when it comes to the return of the displaced. A few billion dollars have been spent on the return, with little to nothing in the way of state oversight. This has meant huge levels of waste and squandering, with less-than-satisfactory results, because only one-fifth or so of the original residents and their children have been encouraged to return to their home villages in Mount Lebanon.

While there are many examples of corruption and mismanagement in Lebanon, the issue of returning the displaced should remind officials of the reconciliation that they require with the public and the notion of accountability if they ever hope to build any credibility.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 19, 2014, on page 7.




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