Last week, in the words of the English poet William Wordsworth, one of “Nature’s inscrutable workmanships,” took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Mount-Nyiragongo, one of the world’s most active volcanoes erupted. Seeing the red-hot molten lava thrown hundreds of feet into the sky from the belly of the earth, and then flowing at 60 km/hour was an amazing spectacle.
32 people died while thousands displaced crossed to Rwanda.
I have never seen hot lava flow from a volcano. But thanks to technology, television brought to me/us what our Geography master/teacher tried so hard to describe to us.
Goma is a beautiful town of about 700,000 inhabitants on the banks of Lake Kivu, only 8km from Gisenyi, Rwanda. Unfortunately, it is located about 15km from the active volcano Mount-Nyiragongo.
In Nigeria, a three-day national mourning was declared for eleven of my comrades-in-arms officers and men who died tragically in a plane crash while landing in bad-weather at Kaduna Airport. The Army Commander, Lt Gen Ibrahim Attahiru died. Brig Gen Olamide Olayinka, a Directing-Staff (lecturer) at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College in 2012-2014 was of the three Generals who perished.
An “act-of-God” is a natural hazard outside human control for which no one can be held responsible eg earthquake/tsunami. Act-of-God is synonymous with Force Majeure.
While the volcanic eruption in DRC can easily be called an “act-of-God,” to the extent that the Nigerian Air Force aircraft came down because of inclement weather, it could also be an act-of-God.
But, are accidents always “acts-of-God?” Certainly not!
Some can be said to be self-inflicted. For example, an accident while driving with one hand, and talking on mobile phone with the other, as appears fashionable these days, cannot be an act-of-God.
On 14 August 2017, a torrential rainfall caused a fatal mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone. A World Bank Report released a month after identified 1,141 dead/missing.
While state officials claimed the tragedy an act-of-God, many dismissed it as a convenient excuse to mask the state’s negligence in protecting individuals from themselves. The Sugarloaf Mountain had been systematically denuded of its luxuriant tropical vegetation for construction of buildings.
The first question asked after the event was how the owners got permits from the authorities to build on slopes so vulnerable to landslides. Indeed, in 2014 a resident wrote this about permits to house owners.
“Mr President, these areas (Sugarloaf Mountains) are prone to landslides. The Ministry officials don’t simply care! All they care about is the money they make……..When the disaster occurs, the death toll will be unprecedented!”
After the tragedy, President Ernest Bai Koroma stated:
“Many of our compatriots have lost their lives, many more gravely injured, and billions of leones worth of property destroyed in the flooding and landslide . . . With a heavy heart, I extend my profound condolences to the bereaved families.”
Was it not too little too late, after over one-thousand people had perished in an avoidable accident?
As a child, I was fascinated by the meandering road from Ayi-Mensah up Peduase to Aburi. Particularly pleasing to my eyes was the beautiful dense tropical forest that covered the hill. Today, I am uncomfortable using that road!
The hill has been stripped of the vegetation that binds the soil and gives protection from possible landslide, and replaced with posh houses built in a rather unplanned and cacophonic manner.
TV/newspaper reports have warned of the imminent danger if nothing is done immediately.
Are we waiting to replicate the Sierra Leonean tragedy followed by copious commiserations?
As far back as 1723, did British physician Dr Thomas Fuller not create the expression “a stitch in time saves nine?”
Weija is a disaster waiting to happen, if not checked now! It is amazing how people obtained permits to build houses directly downstream of the dam with the obvious flood risk. Meanwhile, sand-winning is going on there.
On the tragic “acts-of-God”/force majeure, my heartfelt condolences go to the families of my eleven colleagues-in-arms who died in the tragic air crash in Kaduna, Nigeria.
Similarly, I commiserate with those killed and displaced in Goma, DRC on the eruption of the volcano Nyiragongo.
On potential self-inflicted injuries, the stripping of Peduase/Aburi hills of their natural cover of vegetation which binds the soil together, for houses constitutes a ticking time-bomb, if nothing is done about it. So is the situation with the Weija Dam settlements. Are we waiting till they happen and declare them “acts-of-God?”
Commiserations after a tragedy serve no purpose.
Where is Leadership?
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association
Family Health University College
Source: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)/ [email protected]
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