Rafik Hariri, a Prime Minister who went beyond his call of duty for his beloved Lebanon
Hariri headed five cabinets during his tenure, and dominated Lebanon's post-war political and business life and is widely credited with reconstructing Beirut after the 15-year civil war.
The assassination of Rafik Hariri the former Prime Minister of Lebanon who was killed with 22 others including his seven body guards on February 14, 2005 sent shock waves throughout the world. The late Lebanese leader had just left Parliament when his motorcade was targeted in an explosion on the Beirut waterfront. Hariri was a well loved Prime Minister who was called a martyr for the entire nation and the whole world was seen paying farewell to him and his bodyguards in a huge funeral procession that wound its way through the streets of Beirut to the Mohammed Al Amin Mosque where they were laid to rest. Who killed him? The investigation, by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, into his assassination is still ongoing. His popularity was evident from the vast number of dignitaries and eminent figures from around the world that attended the funeral and shared the grief of the family and the Lebanese people.
Hariri's killing led to massive political change in Lebanon, including the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
His Early Days and his Perseverance
Born to a modest family in the port city of Sidon, Lebanon in 1944, Hariri had his schooling in Sidon and completed University education at the Beirut Arab University where he majored in commerce. Very much a self made man, Hariri moved on to Saudi Arabia in search of a better life and worked as a school teacher before starting in the construction business.
Rise to Riches
Hariri worked with Oger to construct Taif Hotel for the KSA King Khaled in record time, which won him the King's grace. Hariri took over Oger and became the official construction company that undertakes all the Saudi Royal family construction work. Within a few years hariri became a multi millionaire, and Oger became an international company.
Harir was extremely hard working and he built his business based on his clear perceptions of honesty and credibility. To Hariri, trust was the most important thing in any venture be it personal or business.
After creating his wealth, Hariri became involved in humanitarian work and set up many charities where he built educational facilities in Lebanon, set up Hariri foundation which helps to educate Lebanese at home and abroad. In 1982, he donated $12 million to Lebanese victims of the 1978 South Lebanon conflict and helped clean up Beirut's streets with his company's money.
Rafik Hariri became involved in politics long before he became Prime Minister. While in Saudi, he became increasingly worried about the strife in Lebanon and played a behind the scene role, as an advisor to bring peace to his country. He laid the groundwork that led to the 1989 Taif Accord, which Saudi Arabia organised to bring the warring factions together. Taif put an end to the civil war and paved the way for Hariri to become prime minister.
Challenges faced as Prime Minister
By 1989, Hariri had become quite a powerful figure. Rafik Hariri returned to Lebanon in 1992 becoming prime minister under Syria's watchful military occupation of Lebanon, and started working towards emerging from the damages of a 15 year civil war that had left the economy in tatters and the country in ruins.
He shouldered the responsibility of rebuilding his motherland with a massive construction plan that transformed Lebanon into an internationally recognized player in six short years. Perhaps Hariri's most important achievement was redeveloping Beirut's downtown "Solidaire" and turning it into a new urban center in a very short time, as one aspect of the various infrastructure redevelopment plans that would be implemented during his time.
By 1993, Hariri was able to help thousands of displaced people to return to their villages. Trouble however did not end because Hariri had to call for support from Arab countries in the wake of a massive Israeli bombing campaign against Lebanon in 1996. Once again it was Hariri who was at the forefront launching a diplomatic campaign to focus attention on Israel occupation of South Lebanon that succeeded with the drawing up of a cease-fire agreement.
Transforming Lebanon in to a globally recognized Player
Hariri’s government went ahead with reopening its new International airport in Beirut and the very successful Premiere went on to form his fourth successive cabinet in October, 2000. Hariri, more than anyone else had gone beyond his call of duty and resurrected a dying economy and was responsible for attracting foreign investors back to the country after a long absence. Hariri however stepped back from his role of Prime Minister by forwarding his resignation in October 2004 amid the political crisis brought on by the illegal extension of President Émile Lahoud's term by the Syrians.
Rafik Hariri’s assassination was a big blow to a country that loved and revered him and indeed to the Arab community that expressed their grief and condolences for the irreplaceable loss of a friend and a great leader. The Hariri Foundation stands as a proud testimony to a leader that is held dear in the hearts of his countrymen and one that’s involved in educating the future generations which was a wish closest to his heart.