The Berlin Wall and the Taif accords: 25 years later

The Berlin Wall and the Taif accords: 25 years later


A quarter of a century ago, two weeks apart, the Taif Accords were signed (22 October 1989) and the Berlin Wall fell (November 9, 1989): two founding events in Lebanese politics (the Accords, supposed to end fifteen years of civil war in Lebanon) and World politics (the fall of the wall ending an ideological struggle between East and West, which lasted a little over seventy years (1917 -1989) and peaked after the Second World War with the Cold War (1945-1989).

The coincidence of dates leads us to review the evolution of these two events and possible link between them.

First of all the fall of the Berlin Wall (1961-1989): since September 1989, thousands of east German fugitives had taken refuge in the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Prague, forcing the West and East German authorities after the intervention of the Russians, to enter into negotiations at the UN to evacuate them towards the free world.

There were fourteen trains baptized Liberty and multiple manifestations trains, triggering an irreversible process that will eventually lead to the fall of the Wall on November 9, 1989. Twenty-five years later, by following the documentaries of the time and current accounts of these ordinary heroes, it became possible to evaluate the process. This quest for freedom was successful, resulting in the end of the Cold War and the fall of the communist ideology that had turned almost from the start, into fierce and rigid dictatorships inevitably called one day to fall. Of course, there was the heaven-sent Mikhail Gorbachev and a burst of incredible solidarity in the West, that tried to seal the rupture after the Second World War and the Yalta partition. In their symbolic, these liberty trains had restored space, by crossing through the material and ideological boundaries of a reunited Europe. The Europe of democracy and human rights.

However twenty five years later, Vladimir Putin is trying through the Russian Federation to restore the lost empire. With the Ukrainian conflict, it is the return of a certain radicalism, on behalf of Russian nationalism that rebels against its own demise. If Gorbachev represented the humanist love of progress and freedom, Putin represents the nationalist who wants to defend his culture and his influence on the surrounding world. At the russian level, Gorbachev has been criticized, though he was hailed globally, unlike Putin who is celebrated on his own soil, while disparaged in the world and especially in the West.

A little more than two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was nearly four years, the Arab world has been shaken in turn, with a quest for freedom, against the dictatorships in place for more than four decades. That was to be called the Arab Spring.

After the fall of Saddam in 2003 in Iraq, the Arab world saw in 2011, the fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia, Gaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt. Only Assad the son is still in place in Syria, at the cost of more than 200,000 dead. How to explain this process of progress and freedom, which has been so successful in the former Soviet empire and partially in China, has so tragically failed in the Arab world and has evolved into a tragic succession of civil wars almost universal with the emergence of a new ideology, Islamic fundamentalism becomes transnational? We cannot unfortunately always imagine a human society without politics and therefore without ideological discourses. Why this liberal and Western ideological model, based on individual freedoms and human rights, could not emerge in patriarchal societies especially in the East and was replaced by new fundamentalist radical ideologies? There is identification with the Western model, which not only was not done but was replaced by a rejection and outright, almost archaic hostility. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict including the status of Jerusalem has poisoned for more than six decades this region of the world. Since the establishment in 1948 of the State of Israel, pending the creation of a viable Palestinian state, the West as a whole and particularly the United States, protectors of Israel, are perceived as an archaic enemy of the East. Certainly, this rupture does back to the first clash of cultures between East and West, from the clash between the Greeks and Persians, five hundred years before Jesus Christ (Persian Wars). But this rivalry has developed from the seventh century, during the wars between the two great monotheistic religions. Although there have been periods of confrontation and other of reconciliation, shock and dialogue being the two sides of the same coin. Moreover, even within each of these two great religions, there were ideological intra-religious conflicts, which bring us back to the question of cultural diversity, which should be considered as a matter of political anthropology (structural) and not just a matter of geopolitics (circumstantial). Cultures shock is still there, since the emergence of human societies and we are not able to rationalize it. We cannot but either deny it (in an utopian manner) or essentialize it to be exploited (pragmatically, even cynically). The Lebanese conflict, which should provide a successful example of a peaceful political management and a religious multicultural society is still, twenty-five years later, at a standstill. At the same time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Lebanese deputies who had lived through the Civil War (elected in 1972), met in Taif, from late September until 22 October 1989 to sign agreements intended to end the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). This meeting was necessitated after the vacancy in the presidency of the republic in September 1988 and the wars waged against the Syrian army and the Christian militias (Lebanese Forces) by the provisional government, appointed the last day of the presidential term and was primarily to ensure the election of the new president. We unfortunately had a martyr president (November 5, 1989) elected and murdered seventeen days later (November 22), on Independence Day. Then fifteen years of Syrian occupation (1990-2005), the assassination of a martyr Prime Minister, the forced departure of the Syrian army (April 2005) and internal and regional struggles by Lebanese interposed for nearly a decade.

Unfortunately, a quarter century after the Taif Agreement of 1989 (regardless of content) we are still at the same point again without president and the same four major candidates for the presidency (three still candidates and the grandson and namesake of the fourth) in a dysfunctional political system and communities pitched against each other and a suicidal Maronite community, divided into two (as it has almost always been). Although in the meantime alliances and political discourses are sometimes dramatically reversed. Personal political ambitions in Lebanon, regardless of the reversal, always end unfortunately justifying themselves at the community level.

Beyond any controversy or making partisan political position, it seems that Lebanon should do some work on itself and on the question of identity and the religious, cultural and political pluralism .This is not a political system accepted by arduous negotiation or coercion, but a clear and frank acceptance of this multicultural identity, which could develop a political system that reassures and persists. The Lebanese political system is interesting only if it unites the Lebanese, beyond their differences, while accepting these differences as a source of added value, complementarity and enrichment. The question of identity is a constant issue through its parameters (parameters of Herodotus) and varies according to their priority. Thus ideologues and militias of the Islamic State today persecute Kurds who are as Muslims and Sunni as they are.

25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the conclusion of the Taif Agreement (emblematic of the resolution political of multicultural conflicts), new radical and extremist ideologies have replaced the old in new areas of confrontation and Lebanon that still fails to define its internal identity space, continues to serve as a space for compromise or compromise of principles, mediation or transition, exchange or replacement.

Bahjat Rizk

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