According to constitutional principles, a state is ruled by law. However, this is not the case in consensual democracies created by sectarian, factional, and tribal alliances. In this form of governance, state institutions recede to the background while local leaders, militias, and street thugs assume power. Applying the law becomes a sort of social luxury that the state coordinates with other de facto powers to achieve.
The notorious Roumieh Prison in Lebanon offers a typical example. The prison is controlled by the Fatah al-Islam group, which turned it into an Islamic emirate.
The place is supposed to be a secured facility in which drugs, weapons, and communication devices are not allowed, but this is not the case. The state needs mediators to access building “B” and arrest a murder suspect. Detainees demand the replacement of officers and prison administrators and the state complies while no minister takes any action.
We all remember the time when the interior minister visited Sidon to negotiate with Aseer himself asking him not to block roads and threaten others.
Yesterday, there were negotiations to open the Mirouba-Harajel road and partisan mediators interfered to make sure a murder suspect is peacefully turned in and to stop other criminals from terrorizing and threatening the lives of personal civilians. Before that, the state was negotiating with highwaymen to prevent Sheikh Ahmed al-Aseer from reaching skiing spots. We all remember the time when the interior minister visited Sidon to negotiate with Aseer himself asking him not to block roads and threaten others.
The airport road is another story. Tourism was dealt a fatal blow at the time and the army and security forces were not able to re-open the road except through mediation on the part of de facto powers in the Southern District.