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Volcano at the Heart of Africa

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 14, 2021 14:36

1 user

The African continental plate is torn by two rift valleys. The western rift ends in a deadly volcano and a lake that gives life, but may kill thousands. And there is a bigger eruption threatening.

In May 2021 alarms began to sound.

Panicking people began gathering possessions and fleeing as earth tremors grew. And then the volcano released deadly gas and lava.

Up to 400,000 people fled; at least 31 died.

Tensions remain high: Mount Nyiragongo has killed before. In 1977 lava rushed down its slopes at 37 miles per hour, killing up to 600 people. In a 2002 eruption more than 200 people died. The peak thrones over the peaceful and life-giving Lake Kivu, which hides a deadly secret beneath its placid waters - massive quantities of dissolved methane and carbon dioxide gas. A severe quake may trigger a limnic eruption, releasing deadly and flammable gas on to the surrounding population.

http://thelatest.com/uploads/tlt/1b164964288482828aaf3abda56d1842.jpg
Lava lake, Mount Nyiragongo. Photo Caitjeenk, Wikipedia. CC BY-SA 3.0

The volcano seems to have dozed off again. People are returning to farms on its fertile slopes. A few tourists straggle through the forests for a once-in-a-lifetime meeting with the dwindling number of mountain gorillas.

In the nearby mountain fortresses of the Rwenzori mountain range, a movement born from grievances engendered in the war against Idi Amin is steadily growing -- feeding on a democratic deficit, a lack of governance, political exploitation of ethnic differences, and suspect elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Uganda -- after decades of being ignored the Allied Democratic Forces, finding renewed vigor by aligning itself to ISIS.

Up to 50 were killed in attacks in the eastern DRC in May, and two United Nations peacekeepers paid the price for seeking to protect the people in the area.

Congolese troops. Photo MONUSCO/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Once again, this is not the first eruption of this nature. In 2003 a long drawn-out rebellion, fuelled by the trade in tin, tantalite, and gold, led to the M23 group declaring their de facto independence. By the time the countries of the region had surrendered to international pressure and had agreed to a peace enforcement framework an estimated $ 500 million in gold, often obtained by slavery or child labor, had been siphoned through the rebels and their patrons.

UN peacekeepers during the M23 rebellion. Photo Sylvain Liechty/MONUSCO/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

At that time the United Nations tried to establish some form of control. On the table was an international database of small arms, which would have made it difficult for states to set up proxy forces. At the same time a stricter control of gold, tantalite, cassiterite and cobalt was proposed, again to cut funding of rebel groups and criminal networks off. Sadly the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council did not feel that these measures would be in their interests.

Tranquil island in Lake Kivu. Photo Emmanuel Kwizera. Wikipedia CC BY_SA 4.0

Mount Nyiragongo slumbers. Rebellion smoulders in the forests. The international community squabbles. Life goes on. 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on June 14, 2021 14:36

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Source: Snopes.com

The volcano last erupted in 1979, and a previous eruption in 1902 killed some 1,600 people.

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