French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Lebanon on Thursday sparked controversy over the nature of the visit among social media users.
While some believed that this visit carried a message of support for Lebanon after the massive explosion that took place in the Port of Beirut, others believe that it was “not innocent”.
Macron visited Lebanon on Thursday and met with political leaders and toured Gemmayzeh Street, which is considered the most affected area in Beirut.
The French president spoke with citizens and assured them that France would provide aid to the people, not to politicians.
A devastating explosion occurred in the Port of Beirut on Tuesday, leaving at least 154 people dead, around 5,000 wounded and dozens of persons still missing under the rubble.
According to preliminary investigations, the explosion occurred in Ward 12 of the port, which the authorities confirmed contained about 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, stored since 2014.
The Iran-based Palestinian journalist Abdelkader Fayez stated that Macron: “Puts his internal crises and international failure aside, and acts as if Lebanon is a French colony, talking about regime change, a new political contract and a new Lebanon.”
Fayez added in a tweet: “As if France is investing in the Beirut disaster, in order to reposition itself in a region where its role has greatly declined.”
UK-based Palestinian historian Bashir Nafie tweeted: “France has not witnessed since a long time a president who is unable to curb his imperialist ambitions like Emmanuel Macron.”
“The man unashamedly announces that he is in the process of setting a new contract for the Lebanese political life, and he behaves during his short visit to the stricken Beirut as if Lebanon was still a French colony,” Nafie added.
Yemeni activist Yamani Bin Islam Al-Salmi tweeted: “We live in the 21st century, and the world has become a village. The era of colonialism has been long gone, except in the mentality of French President Macron.”
Al-Salmi asserted: “[Macron] is acting and declaring political, social, and economic changes in Lebanon, as if Lebanon is still a French colony or an estate that belongs to him.”
An Egyptian citizen named Noureddine tweeted: “Macron is talking about a new Lebanon and a better economy as if Lebanon is a French colony. The situation is calculated far beyond emotions.”
Some Twitter users also criticised the French president’s refusal to shake hands with his Lebanese counterpart Michel Aoun, while he mingled with the citizens in the streets and hugged a woman cleaning the streets.
On Wednesday, the Lebanese government announced a five-day investigation into the explosion. However, former party leaders, heads of previous governments and the grand mufti of Lebanon are calling for an international investigation.
This explosion has deepened the grievances of a country that has been suffering the repercussions of a harsh economic crisis and severe political polarisation for months, in a complicated scene where regional and international parties overlap.
France colonised Lebanon between 1920 and 1943 following World War I, in accordance with the divisions imposed by the Sykes-Picot Agreement that authorised the mandate system over the Ottoman-controlled regions.