Prestige issue 179, June 2008
Twelfth President of Lebanon
Who is Michel Sleiman?
Michel Sleiman was born in Amchit on November 21st, 1948, on the eve of Independence Day. He is the son of Josephine Ayoub Kallab, from Byblos, and Nohad, a former officer of the Internal Security Forces. General Sleiman has two brothers, Ghattas, Mayor of Amchit and Antoine Mohafez of the Bekaa and Mount Lebanon and Laudy his only sister. Graduated in Political and Administrative Sciences from the Lebanese University, he is fluent in French and English, knows Spanish and Italian. The large family of Sleiman in Amchit is descendant of the family Kallab, well known in the field of trade with Syria and Palestine from the Moutassarrifiah. His ancestors have gained great notoriety when they were glorious landowners, respectful of the values and laws. The Suleiman family inherited these virtues that it continues to preserve in its genes.
The quiet force
Those who knew General Michel Sleiman agree on his integrity, tolerance, accuracy in the performance of his duties. He is a man of dialogue, who takes time to listen to others, to obtain their views, discuss quietly, he doesn’t take thoughtless decision. His exceptional memory helps him to recognize every soldier who served under his guidance. In a spirit of encouragement and merit, he has established strict conditions in the military, to enter the military school, a mark of 12/20 is required at the Baccalaureate. General Sleiman also claims a percentage of elected officials at the military school based on their religious affiliation, excluding gifted ones which according to the commander of the army should not be subjected to the confessional balance.
His private life
President Michel Sleiman is married since 1973 with Wafa Sleiman, also from Amchit, who was the friend of his sister Laudy. From their union were born three children: Rita, dentist, is the wife of Wissam Baroudy and mother of two sons, Chawki and Cherif; Lara, architect engaged to Nabil Hawat and Charbel on his fifth year of medical studies at the Faculty of Balamand. Very loving father, General Sleiman keeps outstanding relationships with his children, despite his appearance of serious «military». He is serious in his obligations and duties. He was on a mission on the birth of his daughter Rita that he has seen only 24 days later! General Sleiman enjoys reading, walking that he does every day, classical music, Feyrouz songs, he particularly likes the cinema that he cannot attend very often for lack of time, he follows TV news. Who are his friends? The guys from the village, the childhood friends although few. It is with them that he sometimes goes out for dinner away from the protocol and the country’s tumultuous situation. However what the General never fails to attend are three events he cherishes: the evening of Amchit club, the evening with graduates of his promotion and their wives, and the evening with the officers of his class. General Sleiman is known for his faith as his entire family. He dedicates an adoration for St. Charbel. On his bedside table, a rosary and the book of Ste-Rafka. And when a wish is granted, he does not hesitate to go and thank St Charbel or St. Rafka even late at night. What makes him suffer is to see his soldiers, “his children”, as he says, falling in the battle, as martyrs. His biggest sorrow? The death of his companion of weapons, his right arm during operations, the General martyr Francois Hage cowardly assassinated on December 12th 2007.
Half an hour later, General Michel Sleiman will be sworn in Parliament. Just before leaving, he is surrounded by his family for a photo souvenir. Wissam Baroudy his son-in-law and his wife Rita, his wife Wafa, Charbel his son, his daughter Lara and her fiance Nabil Hawat.
It is a very united and strong family we met just before the election of Michel Sleiman, 12th President of the Lebanese Republic. The receptions of the villa in Fayadieh crawling with people. Parents and many friends came to congratulate the family and share the emotional moments before the election meeting at Parliament at 5 in the afternoon of this historic Sunday of May 25th. Wafa Sleiman elegant and distinguished in her white suit was attentive to all present and had a kind word for everyone. We have discovered a thoughtful woman, responsible and diplomat. In a few moments Wafa Sleiman will be the first lady of Lebanon.
Deeply touched, Wafa Sleiman gave us this sincere testimony.
You are now First Lady of Lebanon. Do you feel the weight of this new responsibility? The sense of responsibility is beyond that of joy, this position has its importance and its requirements. Being at the head of the Presidency of the Republic, especially in the critical current situation in Lebanon, is an extremely difficult and thorny mission. I hope all the intentions are good, and that the Lebanese people will unite their efforts to save our beautiful country, because President Sleiman cannot do anything alone. And here I would like to point out that the announcement of the Doha agreement and the election of Michel to the presidency of the Republic, coincided with the feast of St. Rita, to whom we dedicate a great devotion, also celebrated on May 22nd. I felt deep in myself a good omen for Lebanon.
Who is Wafa Sleiman? I am from the Sleiman family in Amchit, however there is no direct relationship to that of my husband. After graduating from the Normal School, I teached, continuing along my university studies in psychology. After my marriage, I continued to teach, before working in a department of the Ministry of Education in Baabda. I had to give my resignation, ten years later, when my husband was appointed commander in chief of the army.
How did you meet? I met my husband through his sister, Laudy, my classmate. I often went to their house in Amchit to study. With time, we became good friends. Michel, second lieutenant at the time, had not the right to marry before receiving a star. He nevertheless proposed to me and we got married later, while I was in the third academic year. We settled in Baalbek during our first year of marriage.
What are the main features of his personality? Michel is on one hand, very serious, and secondly, he has a very tender side. When seeing him wheedling his grandson, we can guess his limitless affection.
Hand in hand, General Michel Sleiman and his wife Wafa, shortly before his election, make the tour of the garden of the villa to greet all friends.
As a military, your husband spent much time away from home …This had led me to assume greater responsibility in the education of our three children. Michel is aware. He does not deny it. Imagine that it was only after twenty-four days of the birth of our first child, Rita, that he was able to come and see her!
Interview by MARCELLE NADIM