Photo: Volodymyr Yelchenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the UN and President of the Security Council for February, speaks to journalists following urgent closed-door consultations of the Council on the latest launch of a ballistic missile by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas - Photo: 2021

Volcano Forces the Congolese to Flee—Anti-Jihadist Military Brass Die in A Plane Crash—Filmmaker Ladebo Passes Away

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — While thousands in Congo flee to Rwanda because of an erupting volcano, anti-jihadist military brass have died in a Nigerian plane crash, and Ladi Ladebo, early film collaborator with Ossie Davis, has passed away.

An erupting mountain of fiery red flames from one of the world’s most active and dangerous volcanoes shook residents of the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, sparking a panicked exodus by thousands to neighbouring Rwanda.

A din of people and honking horns could be heard in videos taken early Sunday of the red-glowing eruption shared on social media. More than 3,500 Congolese people sought refuge across the border in Rwanda, officials said. 

Although the country’s government said that an evacuation plan had been activated, the official announcement came hours after the sky turned a fiery red on Saturday, the Associated Press reported after many had already taken it upon themselves to flee.

Fifteen deaths have been confirmed but the number is expected to rise as officials reach the hardest-hit areas. More than 170 children are feared missing and 150 separated from their families, according to Unicef.

Local journalists reported the still-smoking molten rock reached the city’s airport but stopped just short of the outskirts of Goma, a picturesque lakeside city that is eastern Congo’s hub for trade and transport, averting greater disaster. 

The last eruption in January 2002 with swift-moving lava and its accompanying carbon dioxide fumes left hundreds dead and more than 100,000 homeless. 

Back in March, increased volcanic activity and other indicators had experts at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG) worried that another eruption could be on the way. 

But after the World Bank declined to renew a four year, $2 million funding program saying the OVG “lacked experience” and amid embezzlement allegations, volcanologist Honore Ciraba and colleagues at the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG) said they were struggling to make even basic checks while lacking an internet connection. 

“If we don’t do regular measurements and announce the eruption a few days beforehand, the population won’t have time to evacuate and people will die,” said Ciraba, 65, who’s devoted his life to trudging up the 3,470m cone to study its activity. 

Volcano expert Robin George Andrews said one of the reasons Nyiragongo is so dangerous is that its lava is very fluid and fast, so fast that it can catch up to speeding cars. Volcanoes in this region also “belch out” a lot of carbon dioxide, he said, which sinks downslope and kills anyone engulfed by it, he said. 

Hundreds of houses have been destroyed and according to CNN, five schools have been decimated. At some sites, flames were three stories high, consuming large buildings and sending smoke into the sky. 

“There’s no doubt Nyiragongo is still the most dangerous volcano in the world,” said Dario Tedesco, an Italian volcanologist based in Goma. 

President Félix Tshisekedi, who has been in Europe since the beginning of the week, is expected back home Sunday.

Anti-Jihadist military brass die

Newly-appointed military brass assigned to fight the country’s jihadist insurgency died in a plane crash in bad weather near Kaduna International Airport in the country’s north.

Nigeria’s top-ranking army commander Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru and 10 other military officers who perished in the crash include Brigadier General M. Abdulkadir, Brigadier General S. Olayinka and Brigadier General A. Kuliya.

Chief of Army Staff Attahiru was appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari in January as part of a shakeup of the top military command to better fight surging violence and a more than decade-long jihadist insurgency.

The US diplomatic mission to Nigeria called Attahiru’s death “a tremendous loss to Nigeria” on Twitter, adding: “We join Nigerians in mourning the tragic loss of life from today’s plane crash.”

Nigeria’s military has been battling Boko Haram in the northeast since 2009 in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 and displaced some two million.

Attahiru died as reports emerged that the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, the fundamentalist warlord who turned Boko Haram from an obscure radical sect into a jihadist army whose war with the Nigerian state has left tens of thousands dead across four nations, has died.

The U.S. government’s $7 million rewards for his capture made Shekau Africa’s most wanted man.

In 2016, U.S. drones flown from Cameroon spotted his camp, but subsequent Nigerian airstrikes missed their target, accidentally killing at least 10 of the Chibok schoolgirls instead, according to Nigerian officials and several of the hostages who were later released.

Globally, he was known for kidnapping nearly 300 schoolgirls from the town of Chibok on the night before their final exams, an abduction that sparked the worldwide social-media movement #BringBackOurGirls.

His death, which Nigeria’s military has erroneously reported at least three times before, was confirmed by five Nigerian officials who detailed how he detonated a suicide vest during a confrontation with rival insurgents to avoid being taken alive.

According to media reports, two senior officials and two government mediators said Shekau’s killing was orchestrated by fighters from the breakaway Islamic State West Africa Province, or Iswap, who reached Shekau’s base on Wednesday in the Timbuktu region of the Sambisa Forest. To avoid being taken, Shekau reportedly detonated his suicide vest.

“We hope (Shekau’s death) brings down the senseless killings,” said Abba Modu, whose 6-year-old daughter was killed by the sect last year. “Especially the women and children.”

Ossie Davis‘ film collaborator passes

Ladi Ladebo, writer and collaborator with Ossie Davis in an early media project of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, has died in London. He was 78.

Ladebo, the holder of a marketing and business degree from New York University, offered a marketing plan to the Delta sorority for a novel film project. According to the Sorority’s 15th president, Lillian Pierce Benbow, the proposed film, Countdown at Kusini, would counter the cinema of  “Blaxploitation” and address negative images of Blacks in cinema.

“We saw that with movies, and any of the media, you have the usual stereotype presentation of Black women [. . .] either she’s got a handkerchief on her head, humming her song, ‘Jesus, I’ll be home by and by,’ or she’s somebody’s prostitute or in some other way dehumanized,” Benbow said in 1974.

“The [depiction] problem will begin to be solved when Blacks gain control over the making of their own  films”.

What eventually followed was a historic collaboration with Ossie Davis and his wife Ruby Dee on Countdown at Kusini, a film written by Ladebo.

Davis recalled his meeting with Delta: “They came to us … I happened to have a son-in-law (Ladi Ladebo, a Nigerian) at that time who was interested in filmmaking and he had rights to a story called Countdown at Kusini.”

The commitment to a pan-African effort had long been on Davis’ personal agenda, having assisted in the direction of Kongi’s Harvest, the first Nigerian feature film which starred Wole Soyinka.

But filming in Nigeria proved to be a significant, costly obstacle. Davis recalls: “When the crew arrived in Nigeria and saw the working conditions, they insisted on more pay.” Other costs began to mount.

Ultimately, the film industry backed away from the film. “They did not believe whites would be interested in Kusini and they weren’t going to tie up a screen on a Saturday and lose profits. So they put it on once, on one screen, on a Wednesday,” Ladebo recalled.

Reviews of the film also hurt its chances. Vincent Canby in the New York Times wrote: “it’s a movie that wants to be ‘serious’ about African political aspirations while also being entertaining. Though it tries hard, it’s neither [. . .]

Despite the failure of Countdown at Kusini, Delta believed the project fulfilled its mission of educational and political enlightenment, and economic empowerment and self-sufficiency.

Kusini was shown at the Diaspora Festival of Black and Independent Film in the US in 2018—its first screening in 30 years.

Other films by Ladebo are Cool Red, and Bisi, Daughter of the River, Heritage, Vendor, and The Silent Sufferer.  He also directed several serials for TV including Pariah and The Thrift Collector.

He is survived by his wife, Irene, three daughters and two grandchildren. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 May 2021]

Collage: Pictures of the DR Congo volcano, Nigerian anti-jihadist military brass and film-maker Ladebo. Sources: Internet

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