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‘I lost everything I did in my life’: Beirut explosion aftermath | Lebanon

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Beirut, Lebanon – “This is greater than anything ever before.” 

It is not the first time I have heard this since we arrived in Beirut.

We are sitting with a government employee, his eyes are heavy, his usual, almost flirtatious energy, totally gone.

He looks tired. In fact, he looks completely broken.

He is broken. He tells us how, for the first time, he now wants his children to leave Lebanon – despite having put them through the best education to stay here. Nothing compared with this – not the years of civil war, assassinations, car bombs – this was different. It is different.

We have all been affected, he tells us. Family died, friends died, homes were blown up and businesses lost.

A sudden, violent blast that sucked the oxygen out of this city and its people.

It has left many gasping for air.

“It came into our homes and took our happiness, our souls,” another woman tells us. She lost her husband in the blast.

She was in the living room, he was in the kitchen. She still does not comprehend how she was unscathed, and he never made it.

“In a few seconds, I lost everything I did in my life, my house, my business. But all that can be fixed – but my love? For what? For nothing?”

The shops and restaurants are shuttered. Hamra, Mar Mikhail, Gemayzee – the few businesses that survived the economic crisis now blown to pieces.

‘Everything is gone’

A Lebanese friend, who had just returned after the explosion told me how depressed he was – he is of the civil war generation.

“Everything is gone – places, even people. There is nothing to be attached to any more.”

Many feel that way. They have lost family, friends, homes, businesses. Everyone has a story. Few people have much hope right now.

We visit a hospital where a forensic doctor has been busy identifying the bodies of those killed in the explosion. We discuss what state the bodies are in, what he has seen – how he feels.

“I’m taking it badly,” he tells us. 

“We were already struggling with corona,” he says, “and the economical situation, the political situation, too many things. This is very stressful for the Lebanese people – and then this explosion came.”

While we talk to him, bodies are carried back and forth behind us. One wrapped in black, one in white sheeting, and basic coffins.

Death hangs in the air.

He continues: “I think, until now, there is no real reaction. What you see is a stupor, people are still in stupor regarding their dead, regarding the country, regarding what is happening. And probably they are under stress syndrome, post-trauma stress syndrome – that will take some time, one year to appear.”

He tells us that usually when there is an explosion in Lebanon, people rush to hospital emergency rooms – mobbing them and they have to hire security to be able to do their jobs.

“Yes they came, of course – but they stayed outside by themselves. It’s as if they wanted to know the truth – but at the same time they didn’t.”

‘Feeling emptiness’

Denial or shock. The magnitude of what has happened here is difficult to comprehend.

Saleem is a diving instructor. He volunteered with the rescue in the early days. I ask him how he felt when he first approached the port from the sea, heading to look for survivors.

“I think the real feeling was…” he pauses to think of the right word. “The real feeling was emptiness, seeing all this.”

It was chaos in these early days – and the visibility in the crater was zero … They had to feel their way with their hands.

He contemplates the bigger picture. He, like many of his generation – fought in the civil war and is no stranger to violence, to death, to political chaos.

“What happened is very big.”

He too tells us that this is bigger than anything ever before.

“You know you have the capital of a country that is totally destroyed. I don’t know how many years we need. You know Lebanon is passing through an economical situation that is very hard. We have problems with the international bank, and we have problems with the exchange rate, and 60-70 percent of people are not working, nobody can eat, salaries are bad, we have to deal with corona, and we have the revolution. And now we have this?”

“Will Beirut recover?” I ask him.

“Yes, the buildings will recover. The people I don’t know. If they stay – maybe in like 20, 30, 40 years – because if you make a small calculation, nobody really recovered from the war of ’75 yet. If they are still living, and nobody recovered from the war of the ’80s and ’90s, and 2006. It’s hidden somewhere, you just need like a click and it will pop up. I don’t think it will be easy to recover. This is a big thing. It’s a big thing.”

I blame the whole state’

But there is strength. And there is humour. And there is incredible solidarity between people coming together to help each other.

Feeding each other, providing shelter, patching up this shattered city. Any real official help on the ground has been notably absent.

We interview a family who is still waiting for news of their husband, their father, more than two weeks on. He worked at the silos and was in the operation room at the time of the blast.

After speaking to his wife and his son, we finish filming. I talk to his daughter. She is 19, so eloquent, smart, and beautiful.

I tell her how amazingly strong she is and how I do not think I would have been able to keep it together if it were me in this situation.

She tells me she used to think that she could not either, but it is different when it happens to you, she says. You find the strength.

Later that night, the family gets word that their father and husband was identified.

“I blame the whole state, I blame the politicians,” his wife told us earlier.

We attend the funeral. It is unbearably sad. His elderly mother strokes his coffin, her face creased in pain.

We can see a picture of him on her chest, held in place by her jacket. Close to her heart. No mother should have to bury their child.

His son wants an independent investigation, he wants answers.

He stands stoic but his eyes burn with pain, as his mother and sisters shake with grief.

Many here say they want answers, but in the same breath, they add they believe the truth of what happened will never come out.

Justice is another thing they question. Most people we speak to blame the entire system. 

They say the explosion was the ultimate, incomprehensible symbol of decades of mismanagement, corruption and negligence – of power in the hands of a few – and admit it will be very difficult to change.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye

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The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.

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Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the race.here is the full statement:

MEDIA AND THE COFIT ENTERPRISE

By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”
AFRICAN PROVERB

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge

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Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

STATEMENT
Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.

ChangeYouCanTrust

CountryBeforeSelf

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